You can attribute just about everything you have touched, eaten or worn today to capitalism. But you can also blame it for some of the world’s worst problems. Is it broken? Or an urgent need to reinvent?
Session 2 of TED2022 featured five thought-provoking talks that brought us to some interesting aspects of the capitalism debate — from sweeping rethinkings of the role of government in financial systems to rejuvenation projects in the South Bronx, New York, going through the world of crypto. It also featured follow-up questions from former TED speakers Shari Davis, Maja Bosnic, Michael Tubbs and many others, who challenged session speakers after their presentations.
The event: TED2022 Talks and Performances, Session 2: Capitalism, moderated by TED’s Chris Anderson and Whitney Pennington Rodgers
When and where: Monday, April 11, 2022, at the Vancouver Convention Center in Vancouver, BC, Canada
Speakers: Katherine Mangu-Ward, Aaron Bastani, Majora Carter, Michael Novogratz, Manish Bhardwaj
The interviews in brief:
Katherine Mangu Wardlibertarian journalist
great idea: Government interference makes capitalism less efficient.
How? Capitalism is not a designed system; it’s an emerging problem, says Katherine Mangu-Ward, editor-in-chief of Reason magazine. Just as random mutations in a species produce successful new traits, “weirds” with insane ideas solve problems that drive capitalism – and society. Mangu-Ward credits capitalism with the material progress of mankind over the past two centuries; it was free markets, after all, that encouraged and rewarded the risky schemes that led to cheap artificial fertilizers, electric light, vaccines, personal cell phones, and commercial aviation. She admits that capitalism has also produced a lot of bad ideas and failed projects, but she argues that failure is a necessary evolutionary process. Big governments tend to disagree with Mangu-Ward and often interfere with markets to keep big and powerful corporations from going bankrupt. She asks us to reconsider our qualms about the failure, death of corporations and capitalism, using General Motors (which she says should have been sold for parts years ago) and Facebook (which shrewdly downsized their business to avoid regulation) as examples of companies whose fate might have been better decided by markets than by government intervention.
Aaron Bastani, journalist
Big idea: We need state action – especially universal basic services – to enable our self-determination in the face of technological change.
How? “We live in a world where capitalism has completely prevailed,” says journalist Aaron Bastani. But the current state of economic liberalism simply does not work; what we call the pursuit of happiness and the freedom of self-determination is severely limited for most of the world’s population. Its solution lies in free and universal public services financed by progressive taxation. In the face of dizzying technological change and a worsening climate crisis, Bastani identifies housing, transport, education and health care as the four key areas where governments must install such programs. He argues for leveraging the technological revolution to address global challenges, but only with intervention in the interest of the public good. And he envisions a world after capitalism, with reseeded forests, free schooling and self-driving electric buses. “Liberal ends of self-authorship, of determining how your life should unfold, require socialist means,” he says. “The state must get involved”
Majora Carter, urban revitalization strategist
Big idea: Economic growth and development in low-status communities can be enhanced by using tools of capitalism, like talent retention, to ensure people don’t have to leave their neighborhoods to live in better neighborhoods .
How? In communities like the South Bronx, New York, where urban revitalization strategist Majora Carter grew up, there is an urgent need for inclusive local development – a need highlighted by the fact that many basic needs like schools , hospitals and career opportunities are worse in some parts of the city than others. Carter explains that the strategies employed to improve the livelihoods in these communities (gentrification and the maintenance of poverty among them) perpetuate the idea that they cannot be improved or that they require outside intervention for any development to take place. produce. She analyzes this dilemma through a historical lens, highlighting the trillion-dollar racial wealth gap in the United States that results from the exploitative practices of slavery and the destruction of black wealth. Under the weight of these trends, many people have left their neighborhoods in search of greener pastures, but it doesn’t have to be. Carter believes that through the restorative economy, policymakers could encourage more people and talent to stay in the places they call home by building lifestyle infrastructure (think: cafes, bars, restaurants) that promote positive community interaction, encourage real estate and business ownership, and educate ownership. owners on the real value of their assets. “It makes no sense to rebuild the wheel,” she says. “The same tools of capitalism that were used to create white wealth can be used to create black wealth.”
Big idea: Cryptocurrency is a decentralized and transparent revolution that can help restore trust within a failing financial system.
How? Since the financial crash of 2008, distrust of the system has grown significantly, as once-trustworthy institutions have been tarnished by their contributions to the climate crisis, inequality and the opacity of economic markets. Michael Novogratz believes the decentralized and empowering nature of cryptocurrency can restore that lost trust globally. By liberating access to digital private property, these assets can expand to all markets, in a transparent and inclusive way. NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, can take this radical expansion of value even further, says Novogratz, making ownership of virtually any property on the web possible. Artists have used it as a means of explosive creativity, believing that their work cannot be stolen thanks to each piece having its own unique code on the blockchain. Novogratz points to decentralized platforms like Uniswap that are subverting capitalism by redistributing power among people and rewarding them for everything they own, trade, and stake. He paints a liberating vision that detaches value from the material world.
Manish Bhardwajmoral leader
Big idea: In order to repair the damage that capitalism has done to the world, we need to embed morality into business frameworks at the fundamental level.
How? Capitalist lifestyles and commerce have wreaked havoc around the world, exacerbating oppression and injustice. Although models like stakeholder capitalism seek to rectify these inequalities, it is simply not enough. Manish Bhardwaj believes that we need to invest in developing and embedding moral clarity in our business structures. Moral clarity, he says, is about doing the right thing because it’s right, not out of fear of repercussions or expectation of reward. While stakeholder capitalism seeks diverse workplaces for employee retention, higher profit margins and innovation, moral clarity allows us to see that diverse workplaces are needed because they are morally righteous. Importantly, Bhardwaj clarifies that moral clarity is not moral perfection – rather it is an awareness and willingness to create space for moral language and argument in business. The good news is that moral clarity works: Bhardwaj’s organization for neonatal and maternal health in rural India has been able to halve neonatal mortality rates by centering the most vulnerable in all of its work. While it’s not easy, moral clarity forces us to change perspective: our business goals should never replace the moral responsibilities we have to each other, to ourselves, and to the world.