TED Conversations

Luke Hutchison

TED Fellow,

TEDCRED 50+

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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 14 2013: What you are describing just does not happen James. No disrespect my friend, but a farmer cannot legally trade crops for meat. Money has indeed taken the place of bartering, in a legal sense. And as I have not been able to find the start of "token exchange" either, it still exists today. Token Exchange suggests that one has earned those tokens through some form of legal labor. But that is so not true today, nor has it been for many years. And there is no way to make that kind of system Sustain all human beings.
    I'll be back later, gotta go now. Love the dialogue!!!!
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      Mar 14 2013: Craig, that was merely an example, although it does occur I was using it to illustrate the point that money is nothing more than the labor it will purchase. Whether that labor is in barttered goods or coins.

      As a side note: Here in Texas, one can often find ranchers trading a side of beef for farm products.

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