TED Conversations

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

CEO, Water Charity

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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.

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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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  • Dec 4 2011: Capitalism can be made to perform quite well provided that it is properly regulated and taxed. Corporate cultures must be made to evolve such that the welfare of employees, customers, and the planet as a whole is seen as essential for the corporation to survive and thrive. Wages, in the U.S. at least, need to be radically adjusted upward to make up for decades of stagnation. Corporate lobbying, a big part of the problem for the U.S., shouldn't be declared illegal, but only with the proviso that ALL lobbying efforts are recorded and made part of the public record. Americans should probably begin the process of forbidding Lawyers from holding elected positions in government where they are tasked with passing laws. It seems to me to be a glaring conflict of interest to have the Lawyers making the laws.
    There would need to be strengthening of many laws already on the books as well as many new laws and regulations that would, hopefully, serve to prevent another financial catastrophe caused by blatant greed. Another example of new law would be the rapid shift away from private health insurance to the single payer model. This alone would save many billions of dollars in wasted money paid out as insurance premiums. Some laws should be eliminated. The criminalization of cannabis has resulted in an unconscionable loss of life in Mexico and elsewhere, a shameful incarceration rate for non-violent crime, and a phenomenal waste of tax dollars. All this because the Republicans and other right wing extremists operate under the delusion that they are somehow morally superior to everyone else in the population to the point that they have the right to force their way of living upon us. Another requirement for capitalism to succeed is the existence of a large pool of well educated potential employees. We should therefore de-corporatize higher education and provide a college education free to all that seek it. In the K-12 grades classroom sizes need to be cut by 50% to 75%. And more.
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      Dec 4 2011: While I agree with most of what you say in principle, I think there are a few important things you are not factoring in to your analysis.

      1) Corporations are already jumping ship and setting up in China, Indonesia, India and anywhere they can get people to work for pennies on the dollar. Raising wages without a fundamental change in the corporatism that underlies our system will only result in even more jobs being sent overseas.

      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 tends to prove disastrous. Unilateral actions and heavy handed moves in one nation's interest should become a thing of the past as people wake up and 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.

      2) Corporate lobbying is more of a blight and causes more problems than simply letting people who have studied law become lawmakers. There is nothing inherently wrong with being a lawyer. Being a shill for a rapacious corporation results in incidents like the Deep Water Horizon poisoning the entire Gulf.

      3) Single payer is fine... as long as we get rid of the insurance companies, any system will be better. Middle men always raise prices, and the value they add is often negative. (watering down the commodity)

      4) Cannabis prohibition is a form of criminal insanity. We have spent more money and time fighting that plant than we have fighting terrorism, or even Communism. And, it is a blatant lie that it was illegalized to protect people from themselves or enforce some ridiculous morality. The reason it was made illegal in 1938 is the same reason they had to re-legalize it in WWII... its amazing industrial properties.

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      Dec 4 2011: Marijuana (Hemp) was gotten rid of by a consortium of interests in the corporate world. The timber (and nascent tree paper) industry as headed by the richest man in the world at the time, William Randolph Hearst, got together with the petro-chemical industry (typified by his drinking buddies Dow & DuPont), and managed to convince other interested parties in the cotton, tobacco, and pharmaceutical industries to perpetrate what may be one of the greatest cons ever conceived.

      They used the racism and fear of black jazzmen and Mexicans who used reefer to push the law through, but they were all about getting rid of the single largest competition for their new wave of industrial products. Nylon was going to be the new linen (most linens at the time were hemp, as well as all waterproof canvas), hempseed oil (which was the hydrocarbon source of choice for the first plastics and the fuel for the first internal combustion engine) was going to be replaced by fossil fuels. Kimberly Clarke Co. had just patented the process of making paper from trees (owned by Hearst), and this new paper was being used for Hearst's epic newspaper empire because he had bought much of the forested land of the northwest.

      The only group to speak on behalf of cannabis in the hearings was the AMA, because no one told the doctors that the plant which comprised nearly 2/3ds of the patent medicines used at the time was going to be shanghaied. They made out like bandits in the end with the introduction of patented drugs and chemicals rather than the old patented formulas of natural plants and extracts.

      So you see, our modern corporate economic system (including many of the largest corporations in the world) built this current system (at great cost to the biosphere) on the back of cannabis prohibition.

      Personally, I think prohibition of any kind is foolhardy. It only creates a dangerous and uncontrollable black market. Alcohol prohibition should have taught us all we need to know about this.

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