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 7 2013: The Venus Project (Google it) shows an idea of what society could be like without capitalism. Eventually humanity will realize for its own sake that something like the Venus project will be needed if we are to survive as a race.

    Yes capitalism is fully entrenched at this moment especially in the western world, but with much effort it could be changed if humanity had enough desire to do so.

    We forget nothing on this earth is lasting or etched in stone as the be all system or thing. However humans resist change and with limited time facing so many people just trying to survive, change would be very hard at this point.

    Still, The Venus project gives us all a glimpse of what is so far the closest vision so far that seems workable for all.
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      Mar 7 2013: and here we go again
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      Mar 8 2013: Technocracy, that old chestnut. My question. "Why are there so many people out there that feel they need someone to tell them how to live their lives. Didn't Plato start it all? Go back and read them all. Every one of them has the same song. "If I or people like me were in charge, the world would be full of peace and tranquility.
      There would be no want or disease." All we have to do is exactly what they say and when they say it.
      Why would anyone want to live without the freedom to live their lives, make their mistakes and relish their success.
      PS. the few times those who claimed social superiority and came to lead their societies... it didn't turn out so well. You can google that.
      • Mar 15 2013: Mike,
        I'm a TV & Satellite distribution engineer. Most of my customers aren't aware of the choices they have at their disposal. They trust me with the advice that I give and the work that I do. Most of my work is repeat work or recommendations. I am a specialist, they can trust me to do the right thing for them. My customers don't need to understand bit error rates, modulation and carrier to noise ratios.
        That is what is needed by our politicians, the problem is they are all capitalists and think that their positions merit reward, not always for actions.

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