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 8 2013: Ugh. Why is it so hard for you people to understand that wealth is not a zero-sum game? Capitalism is the only system that allows people to improve their socio-economic standing. Economic freedom is not about allowing the super wealthy to run the show and make the rules. Economic freedom is about allowing the little guy the CHANCE to be part of the game and become successful and wealthy.

    Each person takes a different path in life. Some decide to spend every cent as soon as they get it, some save as much as they can. Some people just want to come home and watch TV and others spend time working harder and educating more. Each decision has an opportunity cost and those who sacrifice certain things and obtain better results because of it should not be punished because other people choose to live differently. Poverty in Africa has nothing to do with Capitalism, it has everything to do with STATISM. People like Mugabe STEAL from the people, they are not Capitalists, they are thieves!
    • Mar 15 2013: Where is this meritocracy you're talking about.
      Should those without ambition live a life of poverty in retirement. Not everyone wants to be a millionaire, warm and comfortable will do.
      Some capitalists deal With the devil. Where do you think Mugabe's money is ?

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