TED Conversations

Jah Sun
  • Jah Sun
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • United States

CEO, Water Charity


This conversation is closed.

What alternatives are there to the current economic system? Should global capitalism fail, what would be the best model to replace it?

There are a ton of people who are dissatisfied with how our current system operates. Quite a few people are coming to the conclusion that this system is endemically flawed.

The Occupy movement is merely the most obvious and vocal outgrowth of a sentiment that many feel very strongly... namely that our Capitalist model of resource and labor management is unfair, environmentally unsound, inefficient, and unsustainable.

The fact that the people who profit the most in our system are often people who do little or no actual work is fairly self-evident. The hardest work, like toilet cleaning, often garners the most minimal of recompense, while investing in abstract economic instruments like the S&P Index can net one millions of dollars in a 10 second phone call placed from a poolside lounge chair in a 5-star resort.

Given that any system, no matter how well designed, can be improved... this debate is an attempt to spark a rational conversation on what we could do to make the exchange of goods and services more just, more effective, and more healthy for the biosphere.

There are scant few models out there that even propose any clear alternative. Most of the writing on the subject amounts to either pure critique of the current system, or pie-in-the-sky Utopian idealism with no clear path to get from here to there.

So, brilliant TED lovers... anyone got any good ideas?

We can discuss the pros and cons of such extant alternative models as The Venus Project, the "Basic Income" (ala B.I.E.N.), some of the ideas presented in Pinchbeck's latest Evolver essay compendium "What Comes After Money?" or any other relevant topic that tickles your fancy. Feel free to defend global capitalism if that is how you feel.

Let's keep it civil and worthy of this esteemed venue. Logic, clarity, rationality, and respect are paramount.

It is worth pointing out that what is better or best, in this case, will be considered in light of all people and the biosphere we share.


Closing Statement from Jah Sun

It has been quite an interesting exploration.

Inspiring , frustrating, informative... but most of all, it has brought certain things into sharp focus.

The basic question of "what alternatives to the global economic system are there?" has been only cursorily addressed, because the answer is that there really AREN'T any that are ready for prime time. We've seen plenty of good fixes, adjustments & modifications... some quite striking & comprehensive... but nobody has been able to put forth a clear model of what we could actually do INSTEAD of the current status quo, should this model fail.

And, fail it could... make no mistake about that.

Also, I don't think the focus should be on what is best for US Citizens (or any single nation state or group of nations). The problem is already trans-national. National solutions to trans-national problems tend to prove disastrous. Unilateral actions & heavy handed moves in one nation's interest should become a thing of the past as people wake up & realize that we all share this one Earth, that national boundaries are imaginary lines drawn by people who often never even visited the place in question, and that humanity is going to have to work together if we want to solve the major issues of our time.

As far as short term fixes go, fractional reserve banking & debt based currency need to go. Lara posted this link: http://issuu.com/margritkennedy/docs/bue_eng_interest to an e-book which does a good job showing how this monetary system is crippling us.

The data that Richard Wilkinson put forth in his TED talk (linked in the intro) argues for us to recognize that economic inequality hurts everyone... even the ones at the top. The most equal societies are clearly the healthiest & most successful.

I think the Basic Income Guarantee is a good place to start in addressing the remorseless & uncivilized blight of abject poverty.

It is clear that we need to redress our priorities as a society.

Another conversation will follow.


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    Nov 6 2011: Like Communism that outlived its utilty some 30 years ago, capitalism is fading due to structural weaknesses of a concept that was designed 100 years ago. Things are radically different today due to the fact that 1) There are no real shortages for the humungous global population of 7 billion. Inequality remains but in a surplus world. 2) Technology has made everything easily accessable and easily distributable.
    Governance and a system that works today must be both transparent and accountable, and communism and capitalism fails on both counts. It is just that communism had far more shortcomings and took the hit earlier.
    The biggest problem that haunts the world of capitalism today is poor efficiency because global capitalism still preaches maximization not optimization.
    The solution is in creating a new world order that is based on high effeciency, better resource utilization, far reaching distribution, that spreads the global wealth and helps optimization of expenditure that is sustainable not merely for humans, but for animal and plant life too which share the planet earth.
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      Nov 7 2011: I am very curious as to workable ideas for the solution you suggest.

      Recognizing problems and envisioning general improvements is a first step, I suppose... but the real heavy lifting is coming up with practical actions we can take.

      Thanks for you comment Sandip.
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        Nov 7 2011: Workable ideas for the solution I am suggesting can be put into practice only once the decisionmakers have the will to optimize not maximize.The key roadblocks that lie in implementing the changes is in the decisionmaking process. If you have the right people to take decisions, they will take the right actions. Unfortunately decisionmaking is increasingly done by the banks be it in issues related to energy, education or development. In a UN subcomittee on energy the principal advisor is a BOA executive. Why is it not a GE employee ? Supposedly because bankers are fund raisers and have access to funds.I am new to the TED format which I find extremely engaging and educative . I have raised a new topic for debate today that raises this basic question of change in decision making. About who must lead the economic decision making process . I hope you give valuable insights from your experience Who will dominate economic decision making? Bankers or the People: http://www.ted.com/conversations/edit/6948

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