TED Conversations

Luke Hutchison

TED Fellow,


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Is capitalism sustainable?

Bono stated in his TED2013 talk that the numbers show that we can eradicate all poverty worldwide by 2030. While I really hope that is true, it begs the question: Is capitalism sustainable? Is it possible to have a rich and middle class without a poor class? The sad reality of capitalism is that if there is an exponentially small number of people with exponentially large wealth, there has to be an exponentially long tail of much poorer people who are each contributing to that wealth. Not that we necessarily need an exponentially small number of people with exponentially large wealth, but would the world keep running without capitalistic incentives that increase the separation between rich and poor? Can we eradicate all poverty without the rich sharing their riches? What happens to civilization when nobody is willing to work in the factories and orchards, or build roads?

(Please don't take this question the wrong way! Personally I wish that nobody had to work menial jobs. I just don't understand how we can eradicate poverty when so many jobs will always translate into low-paid labor.)


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  • Mar 7 2013: Capital is the currency for comfort and leisure. Thus the object of some is to accumulate wealth by any means. That's why there are wars, famines and shortages, someone is making a profit.
    We've tried the individualist route and unless I'm mistaken, it only works for a few. So a collectivist approach should be looked at.
    Unfortunately the debate about alternatives is stifled at best or completely ignored at its worst by the media.
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      Mar 7 2013: the core of all collectivist approaches is beating dissenters into submission. are you fully aware of this burden? are you ready to take responsibility of destroying dreams and lives, in the name of the collective? or you dismiss that and you look the other way instead?
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      Mar 15 2013: Lol. Craig! 'Capital is the currency of comfort and leisure'??? So a chimp in the wild never knows comfort or leisure? Are you trying to say,you think exploitation is the only means by which we can attain happiness? I think we could find many communities on the planet, even today, who would provide witness to the fact, your statement is a sad testiment to the propaganda fed to you by the control group in your own society.

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