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: Joanne,
    A chimp is aware of comfort and leisure the difference is it doesn't get charged for it. Why do you think the lottery is so popular, folk dreaming of what they could do with their winnings.
    Exploitation or taking advantage of a person/situation is deemed as fairplay in our current system. Being ripped off is a norm in the UK. The banks, insurance companies, supermarkets, mobile phone and energy companies are all doing their upmost to take as much as they can from us without any notion of quality, value or respect, even our politicians only take notice when an election is looming.
    With all the new technology now at our disposal we can be mugged in the comfort of our homes.
    Despite the fact that "I'm ok" I find it depressing that we can't find a better way of doing things.
    I'm not looking forward to being looked after in retirement homes were minimal standards are the norm all in the name of profit.
    "sad testiment to the propaganda fed to you by the control group in your own society"
    That could apply to a lot that is being said on these forums.
    I know very little other than the fact that there is something quite disturbing going on out there, but I don't blame any individuals for that, it's the system that is bad.
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      Mar 15 2013: I suspect that all systems are flawed, but that individuals who are actively exploiting the system and exploiting others are at fault for this calamity.

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