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Luke Hutchison

TED Fellow, Google

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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 5 2013: One of the biggest obstacles to equality is the irrational hatred of taxation. Redistribution of wealth will be a necessity as long as greed is such a dominant personality trait among humans. This isn't even debatable, there are thousands of years of history repeating itself showing what the ultimate result of greed really is. Libertarians believe in self regulating systems, and I fear it's mostly due to naivety and being surrounded by likeminded people with little input from the world around them. Almost subculture-like in nature. It's unreasonable to think that a totally free system would be free of people who would do anything to become the most powerful force in the world. So that's never going to work, I've heard all the arguments and they're all pointing to a world that never existed. A world where everyone is keen to share and everyone stays informed about everything so that their every dollar (every dollar is a vote in an unregulated government-less system) is spent promoting your idea of positive change. The problem here is that once money becomes the only measure of democracy the votes shift DRAMATICALLY.

    Poor people will have substantially less power than the middle class, and nothing is going to touch the rich, they have the power to say "ok, don't like it, buy from someone else." And you can, you can buy from some other corporation whose business practices are equally bad.

    You see examples of this even today, people who are outraged by the factory conditions at Foxconn where the apple products are made, they get all fussy and go out and buy an android phone. That's all nice and wonderful, but they're also made at Foxconn or similar factories. And the people who bash apple only to turn around and buy a product made under the exact same conditions are people who believe themselves to be informed consumers. I would say that 95% of the worlds population couldn't give a crap where stuff is made. They look at the prices and go "I'll have that."
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      Mar 5 2013: wait a second here. you are saying that i'm irrational thinking 50% tax is ridiculous and immoral. i'm also greedy, and the real problem is that i don't give away 50% of my income willfully. i'm also naive pointing out that even in dark the middle ages, taxes never went over 20%, and the most prosperous times in europe and US coincided with taxes one tenth of that amount.

      with such a start, i doubt there can be any reasonable discussion. normally, civilized people don't start a debate with declaring the other side irrational, greedy and naive. also we rarely start with declaring the issue undebatable.

      btw you are right in that last claim. the question is indeed undebatable. as of now, majority simply votes on taxation, and they ask the state to forcefully collect taxes disregarding any opposing arguments, let them be moral, economical or practical.
      • Mar 15 2013: Taxation is a community pot to provide things we need. It's the way it is spent and by whom that is debatable.
        Money is an unquestionable thirst. Care to tell me how much is enough?
        There's a lot of people out there that would prefer the problem of earning the amount you would need to pay the higher rate than go hungry.

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