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Luke Hutchison

TED Fellow, Google

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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 21 2013: capitalism is about doing more with less, which cannot continue forever so i don't think that we can eradicate poverty without contribution from the rich and the wealthy.

    also, the rich have more power that governments in capitalism, which means that they decide who gets a chance to a decent life and who doesn't. i think a more realistic goal would be to try to reduce poverty as much as possible.
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      Mar 22 2013: That's the Army that has to do more with less.

      Poverty is more a state of mine. More about "coveting thy neighbors goods" ( A reference from the Torah) then really being without any resources.

      Rich ... not so rich ... everyone only gets one vote. Someone tries to buy more votes... put them on an iceburg, send them to a south sea island.
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        Mar 22 2013: @Mike Colera
        "Rich ... not so rich ... everyone only gets one vote"

        Theoretically this idea is flawless.

        But, are governments really doing what benefits people? [note: I assume voters want good for themselves hence they choose adequate candidate]

        As Questions First says: " the rich have more power that governments in capitalism". That's a proven fact which peoples are stopping to ignore!
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          Mar 22 2013: OK, I'd concede that only in a perfect world, voters would vote for the best overall outcome putting their personal concerns and greed aside.
          And I will also concede that there are voters who are bought, lack understanding, self indulgent. or simply do not exercise their vote.
          But if a nation's voters do not or can not vote the best they understand, then they become another historical footnote.
          Consider the great societies that began as republics, beginning with the Roman.
          And it really was not so much about wealth, but about the power that money can buy.
          I try to make the point that if voters do not exercise their power, all the bad things people have written in these conversations will become true.
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      Mar 22 2013: So, Kareem Fahim and Questions First , do you think that the self interest of politicians, even those well meaning socialist politicians, is somehow supperior to the self interest of the wealthy?
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        Mar 24 2013: First of all, I don't think there are a lot of 'real socialist politicians' around. At least not here where I live.

        To your question: ultimately it's all a freak show where corps/rich hire politicians who pave way for their interests.
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          Mar 24 2013: Okay, that happens in all systems, coruption seems to be ever present. The questions would be : Is there some type of human being existing somewhere on this planet that you would trust to run your economic and political system? Do you think Communist leaders are less corruptable than capitalist leaders? Would you consider political self interest to be better than economic self interest? I watched the video you linked. Still, the questions stand. What sort of of system would replace the current systems? What is in place to rid the world of greed and corruption?

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