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Luke Hutchison

TED Fellow, Google

TEDCRED 50+

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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 26 2013: Mike Colera, I do not see my life as a series of economic transactions. I hope you don't either. If we are to sustain capitalism, I believe we have much to fix. Corporations should pay appropriately for the damage they do to the environment. Most are uneducated about the environment and ecology. This, to me, is sad. The value, annually, of the ocean's goods and services is about equal to the United States' GDP. 80% of people live near coasts. Sophisticated computer models designed by climate scientists have estimated the sea will rise 3.2-5.2 feet between 2050 and 2100.

    Tropical rain forests host the majority of the worlds biodiversity, and it is there we have found the chemical formulas for many of medicine's most important drugs, drugs used by 80% of humanity, in rain forests; yet we are plowing over them at a rate of 16 to 54 football fields a minute. 40% of the world's forests could be gone in just 20 years.

    We use unsustainable, unhealthy agriculture processes -- monocultures, high-input agriculture, ect -- that are LESS cost effective than biodiverse polycultures. I believe spending MORE on good food means spending LESS on healthcare, and the bottom line is: you don't have to spend more to grow better food. The government, at this time, just happens to subsidize big, dirty farms.

    All of these problems are the sum result of a deregulated capitalist system, created by a small, SMALL percentage of human beings on Earth. The majority of human beings do not want this. A UMASS study showed income inequality perpetuated the propagation of dirty industries into environmentally "untouched" areas. Another UMASS study showed that increases in democracy were associated with across the board decreases in contaminant levels. Human beings do not want things the way they are. That is a fact. The populous has not spoken, but I am confident this is what they feel. They have not spoken because they have -- since the Industrial revolution -- become disengaged consumers.
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      Mar 26 2013: The value of biodiversity should not be underestimated. I am a capitalist, but also a conservationist. We need to be able to convince people that this is not a zero sum game, whether in commerce, or environment. We don't have to have just one winner.

      On the subject of environment, there is a great Ted video from Alan Savory that covers some of the global warming issues her: http://www.ted.com/talks/allan_savory_how_to_green_the_world_s_deserts_and_reverse_climate_change.html
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        Mar 26 2013: Much appreciated!
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        Mar 26 2013: James, saw the video, seems to make sense, I am just not sure how the herds in the hill country would work out going along the Guadalupe being herded along by ( I guess cowboys, since there aren't many predator cats left )... crossing I 35 will be a real challenge.
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          Mar 26 2013: It would improve the trasffic around Waco Mike. Be a great source of beef for the boys at Ft. Hood!

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