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 18 2013: One solution that hasn't been discussed is a voter's action. If voters would all band together and vote out the incumbents at each of the next two or three federal elections, Politicians may get the idea that the citizens are not happy. Now. some voters may lament that the new guy has really divergent views but, the voters will have to remember that in some other election that voter will be facing the same issue. But all voters will have to vote out the incumbent regardless of politics. It's politics that have created our problems. About the third or forth time, voters in masse will have to inform their elected officials to play nice or they're back home in two years or so.
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      Mar 19 2013: I agree that politics creates our problems. But our politics is led by the controlling forces of a political party, thus we must cut off support for any political party. We must push for candidates free from the shackles of the party system and promote independent candidates who represent the very constituencies that elect them.
      You could have the independent candidate sign a contract with the constituency and if the candidate breaks that contract ...recall him or her.

      As I like to say, political party's are nothing more than vehicles used to hijack ...what should be the "people's" system of governing.
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        Mar 19 2013: I think the inherent hurdle is that most of the country's voters have basically a two party mentality. I think I read statistics is that independents comprise less then 25% of the population and some of them described them selves as not affiliated but have conservative or liberal views. To make matters worse, in this age of social media, very "young" sters are developing political conscientious at a very early age. That is why, I proposed the "vote the incumbents out" concept. Where in effect, the voters were not voting so much for a political posture, as they were voting to get the politicians attention, then maybe the voters can get something done.
    • Mar 20 2013: What are your views on a mass scale Civil Disobedience in the States? I>E> what if people got together and refused to pay taxes to the government for say a year?

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