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.


Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    Nov 11 2011: I still feel that free market economics is good provided we can maintain transparency and competitiveness and respect the basic tenants of democracy . We are failing consistently on these accounts. The fact that monopolies and oligiopolies have hijacked the system and the system is malfunctioning also shows that it will be rigged as long as the monopolies are not weakened and dismantled. We can only think of implementing alternatives after the present system crumbles again....possibly after.... another market crash !
    • thumb
      Nov 12 2011: Well, you may be right... but I would like to think that intelligent, progressive, futurists could come up with ways to get from here to there without having to be subjected to chaos, confusion and regression that are the natural by-products of such scenarios.

      We don't have to succumb to defeatist notions.

      I watched South Africa overcome Apartheid almost overnight when no one thought it could be done... the fall of the Berlin Wall. Positive change doesn't have to come hand in hand with catastrophe and suffering. IMO
      • thumb
        Nov 12 2011: You are right. It could easily happen witthout chaos. However the measures taken after the 2008 crash shows that we are working to build a bigger pack of cards,hoping that it will stayup. I am not defeatist but an optimist in thinking that a second crash is close because one of the biggest strength of free markets is that it mercilessly does away with the inefficient system and brings about a more efficient mechanism. Only this time I hope there will not be appetite for a make shift repair job , it will be a rebuilding work from ground zero.
        • thumb
          Nov 15 2011: We can only hope.

          ... or perhaps we can do more than that.

          If enough of us start going beyond merely protesting or being anti, and begin to work on, perfect and implement alternative ideas, we can come up with something workable. If a clearly superior solution exists, and is known to be practicable... people tend to gravitate towards it.

          Not always, of course, and especially not when the forces opposing progress are entrenched, resourceful, and amoral. But, in time, inferior practices tend to always get replaced.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.