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 think instead of just saying no i might ask a question instead (just popped to my mind right now):
    Might it be that the fight of diffrent economic systems mightve lead to the argument that "people are greedy" which is just the ultimate argument as it touches our very foundation and thus lead to us believing that we are infact greedy which then made us confuse capitalism with the current culture in which capitalism is operating making us believe that capitalism in fact is unsustainable.

    Id describe myself as anticapitalist if it wasnt for the fact that i cant say im pro communist or pro "specific new economic system" so i like to ask any question no matter the potential answer :P
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      Mar 26 2013: Max, I think that gets to the crux of the matter. What is the nature of human kind. If it is always basic goodness, any system, or no system will work well, but if we have a tendency toward madness, selfishness, lust and greed, no system works perfectly. You have to settle on one that takes the human condition into account. Capitalism works better than the other systems in this regard. It may not always be a level playing field, but at least it offers the opportunity to get in the game, a chance for people to escape the forced equality of poverty offered by the alternatives.
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        Mar 26 2013: I think it is a matter of culture and media. 90% of 13-20 year olds in America could not give you an answer if you asked them, "what do you believe it?" or "what is right?" The Dalai Lama once said, "Too much energy in your country is spent developing the mind instead of the heart. Be compassionate, not just to your/ friends, but to everyone. Be compassionate. Work for peace in your heart and in the world.
        Work for peace." This is beyond true. I believe the quickest way to change all this is a complete reform of our British colonial military school-style education system. We need something with more positive reinforcement, something more self-driven, more open-ended and more up-to-date.

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