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 25 2013: I'm enjoying this conversation. I don't have much to add, except that, having both Cuban and Venezuelan relatives, I have seen the failure of those 2 systems. (Communism and what is masquerading as socialism). Can agree with most of the posters here that capitalism appears to be the most sustainable system, but it does need a bit of regulation.
    As my Dad was fond of saying when we were kids (and due to his interest in reading many world philosophies, was branded as a "communist" by my grandmother!), systems such as communism "work great on paper", just not in real life.
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      Mar 25 2013: except they don't work on paper either, as ludwig von mises explained back in 1920's why and how the soviet union is doomed to fail.
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      Mar 25 2013: What do you understand when talking about sustainability?

      I wouldnt dare to call capitalism sustainable if your talking about ecological sustainability if you talk about self sustainability (keeping itself alive) then yes it is sustainable.

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