TED Conversations

Russell Richard

Piping Stress Analyst, Piping Stress Inc.

This conversation is closed.

How would an economic system not based on the acquisition of material wealth work?

The internet is essentially a machine that duplicates products without expending resources. It is a literal cornucopia of content products. The SOPA discussions are demonstrating that the old style economics of one-way distribution will not work for content companies in the present and future. But, what about everything else?

As we gather knowledge about the universe, we are able to create things with greater and greater ease. In the case of just about all content, we have gathered enough information to create a system that effectively generates product for no cost. There is also, usually, no profit - people make things because they want to.

Physical objects are more difficult to generate in this manner. We know this because it still takes effort and resources to make them. However, there may come a time when physical objects are created just as easily as content is created through the internet. What happens then?

What happens when we can no longer rely on profit from making things? How do we create an economic system that isn't based on acquiring material wealth?


Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb

    R B

    • +1
    Jan 21 2012: Capitalism creates nothing. Human's create inequality. Capitalism is nothing more than an economic system that allows for the individual's acquisition of private capital. Greed is as natural as breathing. As stated earlier, we want what is best for us and hope for something better for future generations. As far as a society that has moved beyond material wealth, well the only way I see this happening is if technology removes the worry of basic needs of survival (pavlovs hierarchy of peronsal needs). Assuming we have food, water, safety, shelter etc in the can via technology, I can see moving forward from a material wealth ie: gold, silver, platinum, etc paying for basic needs to knowledge/understanding and the collective forward movement of humanity as the currency. Task A. is done so for a knowledge B. The basic economic structure is there however we are trading material wealth for intellectual wealth - intellectual wealth that furthers the species.
    • Jan 21 2012: Actually, the richest societies that are making all these great improvements are the capitalist ones. So when you say all these new improvements will allow us to get rid of capitalism, in reality that's not true: these new inventions were produced by capitalists, and new inventions will always continue to come out, until you end capitalism. Besides, greed isn't all that drives capitalism: legitimate desire for improvement also drives it. If people want a better life for their kids, or if they want to make some great invention for the betterment of all, that also drives people to produce in capitalism, but in communism, which you seem to like as you echo Karl Marx, stifles these legitimate desires for improvement. Same goes for McCarthy's statement.
      • thumb
        Jan 21 2012: @Scott.
        Capitalism worked just fine . but it had a problem - it uses a thing called "currency" currency assumes that it represents redeamable value .. but the value rots while the coin endures. After a while, the currency is no longer current - the value has expired. Expired value is what we call "capital". THe value is replenished by exploitation (taking value for no return).
        It can only be sustained by what the bankers call "growth" - sort of like a desparate "leap-frog" to get away from the cascading debt you leave behind - the difference between the currency and the value.
        But now - all the growth is curtailed - there is no new continent to exploit, there is no new race to enslave, there is no more sea or air to poison. And the Global debt collector is on our doorstep.
        We must fix our currency as a matter of urgency - instead of linking it to gold - link it to grain - and let it wax and wain according to the grain - it then becomes currency again. and all that has expired will be seen to be gone, the gap will be seen and draw real value from the community - not more derivative schemes.
        Ultimately, we must question why sheer trust is not enough - you think that's a utopian dream? I assure you it is not - I live it and I see it in many places that few get to see. It works, but you have to see it to beleive it. And once you see it - you will not ever turn back.
        • Jan 21 2012: There's no such thing as taking value without return in capitalism. All transactions are two way - both members give something - except for charity, which helps the poor who have nothing to give. In addition, you seem to believe that slavery is capitalist, but I don't see how it could be, as it takes away somebodies' natural rights.
          Also, this debt you keep complaining about was created by government regulation: the Federal Reserve regulators strictly enforced the Equal Lending Act, which caused banks to make subprime loans.
          Also, the value of gold is fairly constant, and ideal for currency: I direct you to http://www.321gold.com/fed/greenspan/1966.html. However, grain is hardly ideal: it rots easily, is constantly consumed (in your system, that would be eating money!) is unsplittable, and - unlike gold - has decreased in price throughout history. So your baseless accusation that gold loses value, actually applies more to grain, which you choose as a substitute.
          Although you seem confused, we haven't really been on a gold currency for a hundred years: all the inflation since 1913 was caused by the fed. So if you have a problem with currency devaluation, debasement, and destruction, the solution is to end the fed, not capitalism.
    • thumb
      Jan 21 2012: Greed can drive an individual, but capitalism isn't about getting all that you can as quickly as you can. Capitalism is about being rewarded for work that society deems good and needed. The more work you put into a good idea, and the better that idea is, the more you make.

      So, if you have a terrible idea, you probably won't make any money (and we can't always assume what ideas will be terrible, some people once considered pet rocks to be a great idea and hey were proved right)

      And if you never do work, you also won't be rewarded.

      And some people will make it big! They don't stash that money away in some huge vault as physical currency. If a person has made it big, that person and their descendants will have the ability to fund people with great ideas in the future.

      Relating to the original topic, perhaps if we don't have to worry about physical needs, then the currency in which we will deal will be recognition for good ideas. The difference being here that descendants probably won't reap the benefit of the parent's creation as much as in a money and resource based system.
      • thumb
        Jan 21 2012: Scott, Russel, Yes, I understand all this. And I have followed the sub-prime and greenback and gold issues very closely for some time. But the concept of currency itself is flawed, no matter what you pin it to. Gold is practically useless - it is only used to underpin a currency because it is rare and impossible to conterfeit. Because it has only cosmetic value, it cannot be a true representative of current value. In fact, the flaw of currency is in the representation because it mis-represents value. Let me explain - there are 3 primary types of value: Current value, expired value and potential value. All things traded eventually return to the Earth - their value expires, but the gold does not expire - what it seeks to represent diminishes, such that the gold is perpetually inflated. This does not matter so much while people continue to make up the loss of value through the production of present value, however, if this shortfall of value is not serviced through creative means, destructive means are used - shortfalls of real present value artificially inflate the value invested in the gold unless it is proportionally removed from circulation - which it never is. The result is that most of our capital used for investment represents expired value that exists only in the currency and not in the real world .. that's not so bad whilever the value sought is potential - neither the capital nor the potential exist .. but all draw on present value. This means that people must labor, not just for present value, but also to recover expired value and fund potential value. It cannot continue. On top of this, I was helping a friend in Greece to design a new local currency to supplant the Euro .. I got the design done, but never delivered it because I realised how much power the new currency would exert on the participants - the issuers of currency gain absolute power because the natural rights of the participants are ceded to make it work - it enslaves them.
    • thumb
      Jan 21 2012: I like your model RB. What we need is a transitional economy. The flaw in the concept of currency is that it excludes the Earth - to which all things return. The new economy/currency must bring Earth back into the transaction. The most obvious factor is how we manage our waste - the evidence of our ommission is all around us, and time is short to get it fixed. Consider: a currency must apply to everything we throw away - recovered present value should be paid less cost of recovery. We should get paid for our feces and urine - and it must be returned to the Earth in dignity. WE must stop heaping our waste in landfills and we must start paying the Earth for the minerals we rip from her. Once the bank of the Earth is honoured, then we can start looking at replacing currency with true present value. Then the bank of Earth can begin to fund our intellectual wealth. AS it stands, money is a con-job that fills our attention - we are asleep at the wheel.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.