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 17 2013: Tyler,
    The people selected by lot for various positions will not be some kind of dictators, y'know. They'll be part of our society and will have to work with other managers and workers involved in the work of managing society. Part of a group. One thing I'd suggest is that we select our next crop of managers a year ahead of time and sit them beside the present managers for a year. That way they'd learn the job from the inside and not be taking over cold when their time came. Then they'd have a year of being on their own followed by a year of teaching the next citizen just as they were taught themselves. I'd think it hard for them to get away with any nonsense in those circumstances. I admit that it might happen but again compare the rare time when some doofus tried to do it wrong with our present situation where they all are corrupt and always do it wrong!
    • Mar 17 2013: Ok, I like that. Now I'm mad that we don't have that! I really can't find another big hole in it. I wonder if something close to this has been tried? doubtful. Anyways, thank you for the very interesting convo, but now I have to get back to working on my thesis! Thanks again!
      • Mar 17 2013: You will find many holes in it in the days to come as you think it over. I've been thinking about this for over 40 years and still find holes in it occasionally. But when you do, just ask yourself,"If I were designing it how would I solve that problem?" You'll be amazed at how easy it is to find ways to solve all the problems. And keep in mind that there are many very bright people out there who could be involved in designing this system or one that could do the same job for our society. We just need to keep on challenging people to get involved in the design of a workable system to carry our society on into the future. Ours has run its course and is dying in agony and disruption. We can no longer just let a system spring up by itself. We need to design the next one
        using the knowledge we have of this one and all previous ones. We can do it. We must do it - or die. ;-)

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