TED Conversations

Luke Hutchison

TED Fellow,

TEDCRED 50+

This conversation is closed.

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.)

Share:

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • Mar 16 2013: I say there is NO "true" Capitalism. Anne Rynd was a novelist, i enjoyed the bit about the guy diving into the pool, but her philosophy is fictional. There is ALWAYS corruption of the market when you have a market with rich players, its impossible to avoid . Look around you. Who regulates banks? Bankers. Who regulates the Nuclear Industry. Nuclear Engineers. There is little or no room for Democracy in Government because advanced technical systems demand a high degree of expertise to understand.

    So we agree that Capitalism US style is not a Free Market? (Careful - If you do agree I'm going to ask you for an example of a free market economy....)

    I'm sorry, but the world sees the US as a Capitalist country, there is no way I can personally agree that it is not, though I do know what you are trying to say. I also recognise the profit motive as a driver in a market system, but it is just one of many motivators and should not be given undue weight.
    • Mar 17 2013: haha, ok, I'm not sure what I think of Ayn rand specifically, but putting that aside. I would agree with you that there is no true capitalism as in a free market. And I agree that I can't give you an example of a pure free market. I admit my ideas are fairly rare and not enough people agree with me for us to have an example worth talking about. I agree that the world does see us as capitalists and we've done very little to make them impressed with capitalism, altough we are a very strong nation in many respects despite our stupidity. I also agree that there is more to the economic world than the profit motive. I said earlier that a true capitalist is the one who works hard to achieve his dream with his own resources, I didn't mean to imply that those dreams were all monetary. For example I dream about starting a non profit school, but I don't want to force other people to help me do it

      I also agree there's a lot of corruption and capitalism (even the kind that i want) has problems. But then again most governments are. What do you think about establishing a more...I'm not sure how to put this...effective court system where people who have been wronged can receive justice?

      I didn't mean to imply that I want to throw out the book of regulations (it's actually a pile), We need a lot for sure, I would just like to see them become easier to understand so that one man businesses and lay people can follow them. I know that's not possible in every sense but would you agree we could simplify things? I believe that would give smaller outfits a fighting chance to compete

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.