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: Part3.
    Update the progressive Tax system.
    Differentiated and increase VAT taxation and updated scheme of direct taxation.
    1: Introduce a progressive VAT tax system.
    Divide products and services in 5 groups.
    1:1Group 1 will pay 0% VAT.
    Basic living products, babies and school utilities, materials and services, public transportation, bicycles.
    1.2-Group 2 will pay 2-6% VAT.
    A group of defined products and services and Electricity, Gas, Water per cap allocation. apartments up 3 living rooms, low fuel consumption cars.
    1.3-Group 3 will pay 7-12%VAT
    A group of defined products and Electricity, Gas, Water over per cap allocation, apartments up 5 living rooms, medium fuel consumption cars/
    1.4-Group 4 will pay 17-22%
    Luxury products and services ,Energy consuming cars-air conditioning systems, Luxury houses and cars, 5 star hotels, Yachts.
    ** 1.5: Addition 5% VAT if within 3 years the car, apartment owner and other commodities defined in this category will either buy or change his commodity to another product within the same or higher VAT group.
    2: Update the scheme of direct taxation.
    Young people are played less however they have initial high expenses to build a family.
    Combine the progressive tax system with an age depending tax system.
    2.1; A married couple will be entitled to 20 to 50% salary tax reduction for 5 years after marriage, pending income.
    2.2: A tax reduction of 5 to 10% per child for 13 years pending income.
    2.3: Change the progressive income tax system.
    For incomes up 7 times the average income use the current system.
    Increase the incoming tax by 5 to 20% per income increase step.
    Example: average income*7=x tax
    Income above average income of 7 to 8= x+5% tax.
    Income above average income of 8 to 9 = X+10% tax.
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      Nov 27 2011: Thank you Mordechay for you well thought out, specific & detailed contribution to this conversation. In 3 parts no less.

      I am hoping some of our other contributors will give your proposals some serious thought and discuss the minutia and fine points here. I myself have a number of comments and questions that I will get around to posting when I am not quite so busy with other demands on my time.

      I really appreciate your emphasis on social justice and opportunity for all. There are some elements that I might quibble with once I clarify exactly how you imagine this to be carried out, but I applaud you for your ability to do what many progressives and idealists forget to... namely lay out a clear alternative.

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      Nov 29 2011: For purposes of this conversation, I would take a different tact in outlining a strategy for the harnessing of capitalism/free market economy. (Yes, I am pro-capitalism/free market - but not the brand I see here in the USA. I call that brand "Lethal" capitalism).

      I have learned a lot from the ideas shared here by Jah, Mordechay, Thomas, Lara, Orlando, Frans, Christophe and others. Although "detailed" thoughts such as Mordechay's are useful, I think the first step is to broadly outline principles and objectives for creating an economic system that is fair(er) and provides a better pathway for all people to gain personal happiness. If we can agree on those things broadly and philosophically, then we can dive into the details. In other words, collectively author a "declaration" of sorts. (Personally that's what I think the Occupy moverment is missing - along with leadership)

      Like Jah, I, too have a day job I must get back to, but will make every effort in the next day or so to continue with my thoughts on constructing a platform/declaration that we can all stand on/behind :)
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        Dec 3 2011: Well Jim... it appears that what started with a bang is going out with a whimper.

        The conversation ends in a bit over a day, and everyone has kind of jumped ship. I am still quite curious as to what you were going to say, though. So feel free to come back and post whatever you want.

        I will go through this forum and assimilate all of the good ideas and comments for the future. It is likely I will start a similarly themed conversation in the coming weeks to start where this one left off, and discuss the various ideas that got tossed around here and on a few other forums as well.
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      Dec 1 2011: Your updated tax system.

      Obviously, the tax system could use an update and an overhaul. However, I don't think that VAT and consumption taxes are the way to go. The problem with this is that is shifts the burden to those with the least amount of money to afford it. Such taxes are inherently anti-progressive and amount to wealth redistribution upward. They always seem to reduce the amount of taxes paid by the wealthy, and make the cost of living for the poor higher. (see another discussion on this subject here in this very debate)

      Your system is more compassionate than most. I like the idea of a 0% bracket for basic living expenses. And the idea of rather steep taxes on luxury goods is probably appropriate... At first glance, this might even seem to be a way around the anti-progressive assumptions of consumption taxes.

      However, in practice, if you are not talking about shrinking government and expect to keep revenues the same, the new system must be able to raise the same amount of money as the old. The question then becomes only, who will pay more and who will pay less (assuming you change the demographic division of burden).

      When looked at objectively, consumption taxes (no matter how high or weighted) always favor the rich. This is because rich people only spend a tiny portion of their wealth in any given year. The bulk of their money is invested, saved, or otherwise taken out of liquid circulation. Whereas, poor people spend every last cent they have every single month, and are often in the red. Therefore, even if the only expenditures that poor people make are in the 0% and the 2-6% brackets, all of their wealth will be subject to one or the other and ANY taxation of the poor will be paid for by the state in the form of welfare in the long run.
      • Dec 3 2011: Ms Jah Sun
        Following my comments to some of your points related to VAT-Tax
        You said:
        1:'If you are not talking about shrinking government and expect to keep revenues the same, the new system must be able to raise the same amount of money as the old"
        2:" consumption taxes (no matter how high or weighted) always favor the rich. This is because rich people only spend a tiny portion of their wealth in any given year"
        I agree that government activity should be balanced. The money raised should support government activities. The proposal is independent of government's efficiency.

        The proposed change of Tax is a combination of both the total direct income from all types of incomes and not only salaries (including deposit interests, share gains, house rentals and so on) and the VAT indirect taxation.
        I believe that this proposal will contribute to decrease the income inequality.

        The rich will pay more, the middle class less.
        People consuming more resources (Example energy) will pay more for their usage.

        Overall taxation should:
        From one hands the keep inequality to a point acceptable by the middle class.
        From second hand it should encourage and reward people for initiatives, good performances, risk taking
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      Dec 1 2011: The portion of the wealth that profits the most from the stability of any state, and is the least needed for actual living expenses... is also paradoxically the area subject to the lowest taxes currently

      I am speaking, of course, of Capital Gains. (US capital gains tax stands at a record low of 15%)

      I linked earlier to a Forbes article showing that 0.1% of the population makes 50% of the capital gains. If anyone thinks this is fair or justified in a supposed democracy... please explain this to me.

      All the best Mordechay. Thanks for your contribution.

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