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Morton Bast

editorial coordinator, TED


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Are markets equipped to solve our social problems?

At TEDGlobal 2013, Harvard professors Michael Sandel and Michael Porter faced off on a very big question: Should the fate of our social values -- healthcare, family, education and the like -- be left to the power of markets? Is business' potential for success and scalability the answer to a set of big problems that sometimes seem to be getting nowhere, year after year?

Porter believes that, in the long run, social good is the ultimate business interest. Sandel sees the care of our society as too important to be driven by an amoral system. What do you think?

Watch Sandel's and Porter's TED Talks, and then see the debate, hosted by Chris Anderson on the TEDGlobal stage (http://wp.me/p10512-lty).


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    Oct 8 2013: i finally watched both talks, and i must say, both are unconvincing, lacking in content, and badly structured. i warn everyone against trying to learn anything from any one of these. for a little more insight on social cooperation, i would suggest an older talk (and yes, it is my routine):

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      Oct 8 2013: Geez... They are Harvard Profs, cut them a little slack. I mean if a Jewish Rabbi could forgive his crucifiers some 2000 years ago, you can forgive these academics.
      But you are correct. It ain't easy.
      I have problems with having economic entities being involved in social issues. I mean do people faced with all the problems of today and are really concerned with the baker down the street selling bread?
      Now, that is not to say that there are not unscrupulous people creating "enterprises" to exploit social problems.
      And a pox on all their houses.
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      Oct 8 2013: Lets check your routine, if what is to learn from that was any better.

      And of course it isn't!

      Background check:

      According to wikipedia, the speaker Matt Ridley ' ... was chairman of Northern Rock from 2004 to 2007, which in September 2007 became the first British bank since 1878 to suffer a run on its finances at the start of the credit crunch... The failure of the bank eventually led to the nationalisation of Northern Rock.
      Matt Ridley resigned as chairman in October 2007, having been blamed by members of parliament for not recognising the risks of the bank's financial strategy and thereby harming the reputation of the British banking industry.'


      Regarding trade, markets and job division, Matt Ridley is definitely worth listen to ... :o)

      Yet what struck me most, is the fact, that all this wonderful achievements we made is due to the power of trade, markets and ideas which have sex alone. That much sex, that small little details such as the 'Energy Slave Equivalent' is not worth to mention over the course of the whole talk.

      The fact, that our whole world economy runs on the limited resource oil, worth in between 120 to 600 billion 'energy slaves', depending how you run the numbers, did not get mentioned in a single word.

      Remember, the current world population as of today is estimated to number 7.116 billion, which is 16 times less as the smallest estimate of the invisible labour force, we are using every single day in our economies.

      Yet its the market who does the magic and oil a renewable resource.

      Well, renewable it is, but if we compare the time scales, Hand axes truly become a blink of an eye.

      I don't think there is anything to take seriously in the proposed theory of the 'power of markets'.

      Markets are important, yet by far less powerful if it wasn't running on those energy slaves. Limited energy slaves, which makes the current market system even more questionable and unsustainable!

      to be continued ... :o)
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        Oct 8 2013: I like your points, your analsys is very deeply.I like it
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          Oct 8 2013: Thank you Wang. Actually, the analysis didn't take long, as once the neoliberal market ideology is identified, it's just a repetitive pattern of simple arguments. It typically focus on very small areas which are only market related, whereas any negative consequences get denied and no connection made to any social process within society whatsoever.

          I did not expect Matt Ridley to be such an archetype of this ideology, but it didn't surprised me either. He just fits the picture of this new breed of 'banksters' and such alike on global markets.
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          Oct 9 2013: Since I can't reply directly on your other comment concerning my skype ID and e-mail address, here is how you can get in touch with me in 'private'.

          If you click on my picture or name in any of my comments, you will be redirected to my TED profile page. On this page, in the upper right corner you should find a red text-link to send me an e-mail. You won't get to see my real e-mail address, as TED is 'hiding' it to keep the privacy of their user, but anything you write there will directly go into my private e-mail account.

          It might well be, that in order to use this function, your own e-mail address was to be registered in your own TED profile and I would like to suggest, that you delete your private e-mail you posted to me in the other comment to protect your privacy as well.

          The good thing about TED-Mail is, that even though we write each other directly, TED keeps both of us anonymous regarding our real e-mail addresses.

          And once we know each other better we may then connect via skype.

          I am looking forward to hear from you!
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      Oct 8 2013: Dissection part II

      Matt Ridley begins his talk in an humorous way, saying that none of the following became true during his lifetime:

      - Population explosion unstoppable
      - Global famines inevitable
      - Cancer epidemics due to chemicals shorten our lives
      - Acid rain were falling on our forests
      - Desertification would advance by a mile or two per year
      - Oil was running out
      - Nuclear winter would finish us off

      I don't know to which planet he is referring to in this universe, yet what is for sure, it isn't Earth!

      Besides Nuclear winter to which we have been very close multiple times in the past, and the thread isn't over yet, any other single point of his list did become reality and continues ever since!
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      Oct 8 2013: - Population explosion unstoppable


      No decline whatsoever, yet I understand, that exponential growth isn't intuitive and does need some math ...
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      Oct 8 2013: - Global famines inevitable

      In fact, they don't seem to be. Not technically, as there is enough food to feed the worlds population, but politically there is no will to do so.

      Quote: 'nearly 870 million people of the 7.1 billion people in the world, or one in eight, were suffering from chronic undernourishment in 2010-2012'.

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      Oct 8 2013: - Cancer epidemics due to chemicals shorten our lives

      'WHO Refuses to Publish Report on Cancers and Birth Defects in Iraq Caused by Depleted Uranium Ammunition' ... Guess why, and the WHO is not alone ...


      Well, if they keep suppressing data, of course everything looks just beautiful.

      Erin Brockovich, directed by Steven Soderbergh

      'The film is a dramatization of the true story of Erin Brockovich, portrayed by Julia Roberts, who fought against the US West Coast energy corporation Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E).'

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      Oct 8 2013: - Acid rain were falling on our forests

      Acid rain has not just damaged large forest areas all over the world before counter measures became effective, we are now facing an increasing Ocean acidification 'caused by the uptake of anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere'. This endangers marine life-forms and its cause is man-made as well.:

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      Oct 8 2013: - Desertification would advance by a mile or two per year

      April 2013: 'Severe land degradation is now affecting 168 countries across the world, according to new research released by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

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      Oct 8 2013: - Oil was running out

      Can there be any denial, that it is?


      Hydraulic fracturing? Thats a method to harvest formerly inefficient oil reservoirs. It does not produce oil itself!

      The USA is going to become the leading oil exporting nation in the near future. So, and then? Whats coming next once that got squeezed out? Any other planet at hand, lately?
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      Oct 8 2013: - Nuclear winter would finish us off

      This threat isn't over yet!

      'The exact number of nuclear weapons in global arsenals is not known, yet estimated up to 17.225 nuclear warheads.


      Numbers may vary, depending on the source.
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      Oct 8 2013: Given this large numbers of false claims, it becomes obvious what agenda gets presented here.

      It is the neoliberal market ideology, or capitalism, which is known for its denial about environmental or health related side effects yet super-elevates the positive effects of free markets and still believes in invisible hands who regulate the market just fine.

      Well, as I said, markets are important, yet those can neither be separated from their local societies, nor should it be seen from just cherry-picked positions, yet illuminated from all 360° there is.

      What was funny to notice was, that this ancient stone-axe, dating back 0.5 million years in time of its production, still works today! Wow, what a quality standard that is! Planned obsolescence hasn't been invented at that time I suppose ... :o)

      In comparison, the 5 year life-span of the computer mouse didn't seem to disturb Matt Ridley at all ...

      Ok, one could argue, that someone who flushes the 'reputation of the British banking industry' down the drain in just 3 years couldn't care less for a $2 plastic mouse, but actually he should have.

      Almost none of all products produced today are designed for recycling. They become trash and waste year by year precious and limited resources. Not a single word about that... no further questions!

      At the very end of all of these false and distorted information, even Matt Ridley had figured out, that ideas are combinable ... wow, what a true genius!

      For all of you who are interested in more substantial information about ideas and the dangers of intellectual propperty righs and patents may take a look at this documentation by Kirby Ferguson as one video out of a series of four on that topic:

      Everything is a Remix Part 4 - System Failure


      Everyone should of course make up his/her own mind about Matt Ridley's talk, I for my part found nothing of true substance, worth spreading ... :o)

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