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 15 2013: i find it interesting that the more sense it starts to make sense, the more you create an even more dire situation. "Computer programers...Game Creators..." But then you go all the way back to the beginning (so to speak) to prove your point. Completely ignoring the "reality' of where we are! This is what "fear" can do when anyone questions Capitalism. While there may have been many necessary processes to implement in the 1600-1800's, we are in a very very different time. And again, your fears make you ignore this fact. You also ignore the fact that it was the same Capitalization (Industrialism) that spurred the immigration to this country by millions looking for jobs, which took poverty to an new scale. And what happens to a company and more importantly, to its workers when the doors close for whatever reason? They are now the needy. For the past 5 years the poverty levels have risen. At over 15%, 46.2mil people live in poverty. In the world I see, with so many other interesting things to pursue and how children will be educated on the essence of being responsible (do you disagree with that too?), to what is important to others as well as personal pursuits, people will do much more and be happier doing it. The only thing they have to respect is, they will have to be productive. No sitting on the couch, cause this will never be a situation we will Culture anymore. You have to look way beyond what you think will work or not work based on very different times with a completely different knowledge base. The Dust Bowl, was an Ecological Disaster. But few really know that. When wheat became Gold, the frenzy to make the money, caused a Tragedy. Lack of information was key! So when you choose to make points based on something necessary in the 1600's, as to what we are doing today when we have 46mil folks living impoverished, stop and ask...is this really working for everyone? The only thing I agree with the comparison is....."they changed something that didn't work...then!
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      Mar 15 2013: I used those illustrations to show that human nature has been the same from the earliest times where we have records. In all ages there have been many who chose to survive on the eforts of others. Whether that be kings and subjects, congressmen, or people who sit on the couch. The crux was this: What if everyone in this new order decides to do something other than provide food, clothing and shelter? It would require some encouragement to do those tasks.

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