TED Conversations

Luke Hutchison

TED Fellow, Google

TEDCRED 50+

This conversation is closed. Start a new conversation
or join one »

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.)

+12
Share:

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    Mar 26 2013: I believe positive change could come with some sort of reinvigoration of the American political system. People need to become engaged again. People need someone to reintroduce true morality and meaning. We need to stop being so petty, and we need to stop thinking our pettiness is so important.
    • thumb
      Mar 26 2013: Mr. Hall,
      You had a great end of species scenario going there until you said "people need someone to".
      I am always nervous when "people need someone to...." There have been "someones" throughout history who
      people needed... It never has seemed to work out well.
      But, I digress, I have not been discussing the mess that the US finds itself in today. Let's see, we have a congress that acts like it was a coronation instead of an election, there is open bribery going on at the capital, a bureaucracy growing at an exponential rate, an administration that plans to adopt the population into a state caretaker system under the wisdom of an elitist academia who's stated goal is to drain the life blood of civilization... returning the world to that time when all world was pure and virginal and mankind was vegetarian.

      No, all I was saying is that capitalism as an economic system is sustainable if people won't mess with it.

      .
      • thumb
        Mar 26 2013: Mr. Colera, I absolutely agree that we must be wary of who we follow. Your assertion that the "someones" we follow, "...never seem to work out well," I think, is only half true. Evil men can posses strong leadership qualities, of course. Hitler, Stalin, Blankflein, and many today's elected "someones" have shown us that.

        But if you peruse the annals of history you will also find great men, who led by example, not by tricks and gimmicks. The first I can recall is Abraham, who lived in a society where human sacrifice and idol-worship was common. He is the first reported to feel God -- and what that means is the truth. Abraham, when called on to kill his son, for the first time in human history, felt that something is WRONG, and, more importantly, he discovered that what is right and wrong can be felt.

        Next was Jesus of Nazareth, who -- for the record -- NEVER BELIEVED IN GOD AS A MAN IN THE SKY. When he called himself the Son of God, he meant he was the son of truth. He meant that served something greater than materialism or hedonism. He laid down self-interest. His message is a message -- always be nice to everyone, even if they are mean to you -- that someone has always come and restored, and it will happen again.

        550 years before Jesus, Confucius told us to "Do unto others as you would want other to do unto you." Across the globe, these sentiments of truth have emerged independently. This philosophy of peace and nonviolence as the fastest, most effective way of change was the moral philosophy of Moses, Muhammad, Buddha. Descartes, Watts, Plato and Socrates enacted to become some of the most hallowed figures in human history, tthe philosophy that worked swiftly and viscerally -- in the hands of Mahatma Gandhi -- to liberate India from British Colonial rule, and the philosophy that drove American Civil rights in the 1960s.

        I do not believe the necessary revolution is economic or political. It spiritual. I have history -- and the truth -- on my side.
        • thumb
          Mar 26 2013: You have addressed righteous individuals in your belief of spiritual revolution. And I have no dispute with your fervor and in your identity of bad things happening. I have said the same about our current social/political system. I offer a recent news story of a mormon student who was asked to step in the word Jesus in his class. He refused and was expelled from his university class. Academic Elitism? Congressmen/Highest positioned Government officials receiving faraway vacation trips, insider trading tips, reelection funds, Board memberships after federal service. Bribery of Federal Officials? Swindlers contracting for worthless properties to unsuspecting buyers going unpunished. Influence peddling?
          That list goes on. None of this has to do with capitalism.
      • thumb
        Mar 26 2013: Mike, I agree wholeheartedly. Capitalism can be fixed!

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.