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 27 2011: Part2
    2:**** Create a new company's values evaluations standard and report****.
    It will replace the current method of quarter and a year companies reports based only on income and revenues..
    It will be used by investors.
    The values of companies with high scores on the followings will be higher and they will get priority on government and public bids.
    Include factors such as:
    * Equality level of employs salaries and bonus.
    *Percentage of employs with personal limited capabilities.
    *Bonuses played on 4 years delay- valued on the company achievement during this long period and not quarter income.
    3: Differentiation between the higher and lower Salary and bonus of government and public companies should be limited to the scale of 1 to 7.
    4: Create a new type of companies- social companies –that will be rewarded by governments and public sector.
    Creativity and investment on human being life improvement should be encouraged.
    Not only direct money making.
    A company that find and implement a idea that reduced the crime rate in a area by 20% should get 50% of the governmental savings from the budget
    • thumb
      Dec 1 2011: #2

      I like this. It will be difficult to enforce, and will never voluntarily replace the current fiscal quarter bottom line. I don't see how shareholders can be convinced to accept such valuation over actual profits. They will simply move their money over to companies that don't bother with social conscience or other bleeding heart concerns.


      This seems like an arbitrary number. But I suppose it as good a place as any to start. It could simply cause an exodus of talent to private companies who will easily be able to out-pay the hamstrung public endeavors. The brain drain could be extreme and even more detrimental than it already is.

      Nice in theory, but it would have to be part of a much larger overhaul of the economic system to stand any chance of working.

      # 4

      Social companies already exist... we are called non-profits.

      Sadly, many of them are ineffective and inefficient. Such setups often attract unscrupulous sorts who want to take advantage of some loophole or another. We have seen too much abuse here, and whether Wyclef is personally responsible or not... this debacle with his Haiti charity is only the latest shameful example. (say it isn't so)

      My 501 c3 does amazing work, is 100% transparent, and has never paid anyone a single dime in salary or benefits, but we also are somewhat small and have troubles raising funds. Nearly 750 water projects under our belts and not one failed project in 70 nations.

      But I think you mean something a bit more business oriented than a purely charity organization?

      I dig the idea that we could reward businesses for their societal benefits... perhaps some extra incentives for environmental stewardship as well.

      Sadly, though, if a company can profit more from polluting and paying off any fees they accrue thereby, the chances of them behaving responsibly are slim.
      • Dec 3 2011: Ms Jah Sun
        Pls find my comments relative to your points.

        " It will be difficult to enforce, and will never voluntarily replace the current fiscal quarter bottom line. They will simply move their money over to companies that don't bother with social conscience or other bleeding heart concerns."
        It should be a governmental requirement enforced by law, applicable to all companies and not voluntarily.

        " It could simply cause an exodus of talent to private companies who will easily be able to out-pay the hamstrung public endeavors. The brain drain could be extreme and even more detrimental than it already is"
        The new combine progressive Tax scheme will be applicable to all citizens.
        The net income above a define point will be marginal.
        Imagine an exponential income line.

        # 4
        "Social companies already exist... we are called non-profits."
        The proposed social companies are not non-profit.
        They are profit companies and their revenues will be based on the budged savings to the government and public sector.
        However their products will not be in creating new products or services.
        They will create money measurable social products.
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          Dec 3 2011: My comments to a few of your points address the reality that corporations are trans-national and will not be bound by any single nation's laws.

          Even if you can get a lot of major nations to sign on to this model... there will still be many nations that won't adopt these ideas (however good they are). Thus, given a choice of conforming to these strictures, many corporations will simply choose to move their operations to looser climes.

          This is already the case, even when the countries are fairly well pro-business and anti-social justice as it is. This isn't so much a critique of your concept as it is a recognition that companies already prefer to set up shop in places like the Philipines where they can better exploit the workforce.

          Thanks again for participating Mordechay. Your input is very much appreciated.

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