Is Capitalism Saving or Destroying Us? | Davis Smith | TEDxSaltLakeCity



so I want to share a story with you and it's a story that no matter how many times I tell it it's still difficult for me to share this is a story about a nine-year-old shoe-shining boy in Cusco Peru that changed my life in 2001 I was actually a university student doing an internship in Peru and I first met Edgar as I sat on a park bench eating lunch and he came up to me insisting to shine my shoes and this little kitty was persistent and it took me a while to convince him that it actually wasn't possible to shine my tennis shoes so he was just the cutest little kid and I ended up sharing my lunch with him that afternoon and the way he ate the food shocked me I never remember seeing someone eat food like that so that night as I eat dinner I saved some of my food and I went back out to look for Edgar and when I found him and gave him the food he took the food back and started sharing it with his little friends which to me was like such a touching gesture so this became a daily ritual and finding that ogre became the highlight of my day every day my last night in Cusco as I was walking home I stumbled upon Edgar sleeping in the street he had his sweater pulled over his knees trying to stay warm someone is stolen a shoeshine II kid and he told me he was too afraid to go home because he knew his father depended on him to help provide for his family I just can't imagine what that would feel like is a nine year old to have that weight on you so I gave him the little cash that I had but that night I could hardly sleep I was so worried about this little boy and the next day I got on a bus to leave Cusco for the last time when I looked out the window and I saw Edgar and I had just enough time where I slid open the window of this bus and he ran next to me waving goodbye and he had one arm wrapped around this big bag of candy that he was now selling in the streets he was a true entrepreneur which I now love so I returned to university determined to better understand why inequality existed why some children got to spend their days learning and playing while others like Edgar didn't have that chance I wanted to understand what we could do collectively to close that gap it was actually in an economics class that I first started learning about something that was pulling people out of poverty at an unprecedented scale it was the opening of markets India in China and the early 2000s were experiencing record economic growth literally hundreds of millions of people were being pulled out of poverty so I want everyone right now to close the rice and I want you to imagine that it's the Year 1820 and I want you to put a number in your head it's going to be a number from 1 to 100 that represents the percentage of the world's population living in poverty does everyone have that number in their head ok you can open up your eyes the answer is 94 94% of the world was living in poverty in the year 1820 84 % of them were living in extreme poverty now fast-forward about 160 years to the year I was born in 1978 this had been reduced about 50% by 1981 it was 44% by the year 1990 37 percent by 2010 16 percent last year for the first time in human history less than 10% of the world was living in extreme poverty it's amazing to think that since I was in high school literally a billion people have been pulled out of poverty and at the same time this amazing tale of capitalism conflicted with some of my own personal experiences when I was four years old my family moved to the developing world this is where I began seen disturbing wealth inequality one of my first memories as a four-year-old was seeing children that were my age three or four years old that we're standing on the streets completely naked you can't see something like that as a child that not have it change you inside and here in the United States we also see this wealth inequality when I was born in 1978 the top 1% controlled 10% of the share of income today that top 1% controls 20% of the share of income the rich continue to get richer but the poorest of the poor are often left behind and these shortcomings of capitalism extend beyond people they sent to our environments as well nothing has been more damaging to the earth than capitalism I've been in Brazil and Thailand and seen rivers that were slowed to a crawl with black sludge I've been in streets in China where I couldn't see more than a few blocks ahead of me because the air pollution was so thick I've been on beautiful beaches in the Philippines where the sands and the Seas were covered in garbage unfortunately capitalism is often seeing people and the earth as commodities that we can simply consume and then discard just to maximize profit so the question is is capitalism good or is it bad I have questioned this so many times myself and I'm sure you have as well the answer is that it's actually up to us when my grandparents were born there were children in the United States as young as seven years old working in factories up to 12 and 14 hours a day six days a week because they were less expensive to employ than an adult fortunately there was a movement of people that saw this injustice and they demanded a change they made sure that children went to school and not to work so capitalism has evolved tremendously over the last hundred years over the last century what do we want capitalism to look like over the next hundred years we are the ones that get to decide so when I graduated I ended up spending the next ten years building businesses and I built two successful businesses as an entrepreneur but I never forgot Edgar and I never forgot the promise that I made on that bus as I left that I was going to dedicate my life to making the world a better place so I started exploring what I could do to make a difference and I believe that capitalism could help me do it I believe that businesses had a responsibility to do good in the world and I also believe that a business through a business I could do more good than I could on my own because the business could inspire hundreds thousands millions of people to go out and do good so I started looking at examples I look at Warby Parker an amazing company that was started by some classmates of mine in business school that has literally helped millions of people get access to health care I care I look at TOMS shoes another amazing company that injected its do-good mission into the core of its brand and I started exploring what I could do I was living in Brazil at the time when I came up with an idea and this idea was something that I believe could change the world so I moved back to the United States and I incorporated this business as a benefit corporation this is a business entity similar to an LLC or an S corp or a C Corp it's a new type of entity where a business makes a commitment a legal commitment in its Articles of Incorporation to look beyond its bottom line to make decisions based on people and plan it as well and I want to tell you a little bit about this business it's two years old and I believe we that we've discovered something revolutionary and I want to share with you how we are changing the world with the hope that it can inspire some of you to go out and do good and find your own ways of having an impact so there's four things that we do the first is that we use profits that we get from selling our outdoor gear our packs our sleeping bags our tents our jackets and we use these profits to sustainably give back to nonprofits in the world that are having an impact so we go find nonprofits that work in some of the poorest countries of the world one of them that I want to share about is called proximity designs and they work in Myanmar with rural farmers and I want to tell you the story about the man at the bottom right nemco Tartu as you can see he was born with no hands and when asked what his biggest hindrance was to becoming a successful farmer he said the lack of water in the summer months to water my crops so proximity designs had heard the same thing from many farmers and had developed a foot powered water pump a treadle pump that extracted water from the ground and allowed farmers to have access to year-round to water coat who was able to increase his family's income by $200 that year a life-changing amount of money in rural Myanmar the second way we have an impact with our business is through our supply chain through purchasing power we understood that thousands of people were involved in our supply chain and so we started digging back and trying to discover how we could have an impact and I want to share two examples the first is here in the Philippines where we saw an incredible amount of waste that was being generated in the manufacturing process and we went to our sewers and we told them hey we want to use this material we've developed this design of a pack but we want to give you guys the sewers creative license to choose materials and colors and there's only one rule to make no bag a lake and as you can see the products beautiful it's fun it's funky the straps don't match and you can see the personality of every single sower in that bag the second story is especially touching for me because I used to live in Bolivia and we've gone to some of the most remote corners of Bolivia and started working with farmers and communities that farm llamas and we're sourcing this llama wool and using it as insulation in some of our jackets it's been so fun for two reasons the first because we get to work with these amazing people and see the impact we can have on them the second reason is because who doesn't love a jacket that's full of llama wool the third way we have impact is actually by empowering our employees so one of our employees came up with the idea of employing refugees teen refugees here in Salt Lake City where we were based and we give them their first job we teach them how to create a resume how to do a job interview how to open up a bank account and how to budget and then we have them write thank-you cards and we include these thank-you cards in all of our customer orders another one of our employees came up with the idea of teaching coding classes to refugees so we started teaching a 20-week coding class on saturdays where our team would come and help teach refugees these important skills the last way we have impact is through events where we inspire others to go out and do good alongside us we do this through an event we call the quest of all and it's this 24-hour race where we get Millennials out in the outdoors and giving service in the community collectively they've donated tens of thousands of pounds of food to local food banks they've donated thousands of hours of community service they've cleaned up local parks and trails and as a business this costs us nothing all we have to do is ask what would the world look like if every business looked for a way that it could positively impact its community and the world what if every single employee was empowered by its organization to go do good what I've discovered is the capitalism can be a force for good in the world if done right and can put us on a path to end extreme poverty some of you may have wondered what happened to Edgar I've wondered the same thing what became of his life did he have a chance to go to school well about a year ago I decided to go find out and I went back to Peru in search of Edgar just as I had every day 13 years earlier and through a series of small miracles I was able to find him it was one of the most emotional experiences of my life he was still working in the streets of Cusco he'd been orphaned just a few years after I first met him and it was now raising his two younger siblings we spent the day together embracing and sharing he took me to the home where he lived a home that he built made of mud with a hole in the ground for a latrine there was a piece of me that was discouraged as I saw how he lived at the same time he was so hopeful he was so proud and I was proud for him Edgar changed my life he put me on a new path a path where I started looking for ways that I could do good who is your Edgar and what can you do today to make the world a better place thank you




Comments
  1. Tom's Shoes! Hahahaha, that's some excellent research you've done schmuck. Love these 'entrepreneurs' talk about how business is the holy grail of doing everything right. The only solution is business! What BS. Business is good at making a profit, even, or losing money since profit is not guaranteed (much to the annoyance of business owners).
    Capitalism is a million losers and one winner, that's it's definition no matter how they want to spin it.

  2. Capitalism and Socialism are powerful tools that can be used by responsible people to do good things for a community, whether that community is local, national or world-wide. They can also be used by predators to do harmful things to a community for personal gain. Capitalism can be used to raise money to build an industry that will keep a community safely and sustainably employed for many generations. Or, it can be used by predators to buy up a community's resources so that those predators can harvest the community's resources as fast and cheap as possible, flip the leftovers to another predator, then disappear leaving the cleanup to a devastated community. Socialism is a tool that can be used to make sure all the members of a community are safely housed, fed, clothed and healthy in a nurturing society. Or, it can be used to take away all those things by powerful control-freak leaders.

  3. Tell capitalists the whole purpose of life is to save lives!! It's not about profits at all! It's about eventually equal wealth worldwide. Love your neighbor, the only commandment, now called the royal law. KJV James 2:8

  4. When people owns more goods/services than they can use and they want even more, what they are really seeking is power. Power to control others. They become small states themselves. I think he is a good guy but I don't believe in the system he seems to believe.

  5. At the heart of the debate over the merits of capitalism versus socialism is finding the right balance between protection of "human rights" and "property rights." We cannot even reach consensus over whether we have human rights, or whether all rights exist by contract with one another, by enforced agreed-upon laws. Then, there is a serious disagreement over what is and what is not private property. Is the planet and and what nature provides free of charge rightfully claimed as individual property? Or, is the planet our commons from which we produce tangible goods as our legitimate private property. Decades ago I discovered the writings of the American political economist Henry George. Anyone seeking a clear understanding of what our relationship with the planet is and ought to be under law should read Henry George.

  6. Capitalism doesn't make the world a better place. Individuals within it can, but capitalism is a system, not a person, and as a system in only encourages the worst kind of people.

  7. The graph of poverty rates is misleading. In 1820 the World population was about 1 billion so about 0.94 billion people were living in poverty. In 1990 the World population was about 6 billion so just over 3 billion people were living in poverty. Hence, the number of people living in poverty had increased by a factor of more than 3.

  8. eleven points to the solution!

    – upper financial limit for all! Everything above this limit is taxed at 100%. eg. at 300 million fr. to draw a limit for individuals. that would have far-reaching benefits.

    – insane basic income!
    that does not mean completely unconscious. a model in which everyone from 18 years onwards gets paid regardless of their salary. the reason for this is that nationality must be switzerland, one must pursue an activity and or do something for the common good. at least once a week. eg. collecting waste in the street, caring for someone, ect.

    – a money transfer tax!
    In the world of finance, billions of euros are pushed back and forth in fractions of a second via the internet every day. because of speculation on the stock exchange and so on. so the speculation is contained and incidentally, there are tax receipts in a gigantic amount of the general good. So the basic income can be easily financed.

    – absolute financial transferability for every politician! this ensures that the politician works for the benefit of the population. and not in the interest of a few less rich.

    – a sugar tax!

    By now, most foods contain sugar or other sweeteners that are harmful to your health and addictive. -a very strict ban on lobbyism! There are many interest groups in the government (banks, industries, large corporations) that steer politics in their favor.

    -minimum wage!
    a minimum hourly wage that is generally binding. you have to be able to live from your work.

    -A percentage of profit for each employee of a company at the end of the year!
    Every employee of a company has worked to make a company profitable. Without the work of a co-leader, there can be no profit in a company. By the way, the employees are also motivated.

    – Concrete regulations for affordable living space!
    There is less and less affordable living space. a flat is vital. and you can only choose limited where you want to live because of the work. every 5 years must be at least 10'000fr. be invested in a flat directly. otherwise the mietzins automatically drops by 50%. down to the pure maintenance costs of the apartment. which must be meticulously documented. to the maintenance costs without investment may not exceed 300fr. additional income per month.

    – a bank is liable as a whole for the assets entrusted
    a bank may only trade real money! Bank members can be expropriated in case of losses in order to pay back the people they saved. In this way, the general public is not liable for taxpayers' money losses. nor can the bank cadre still stuff his pockets with taxpayers' money.

    media law!
    division of the 4th violence. All media must inevitably be divided into at least 8 parties. There must be no connection between the respective parties. otherwise, this leads to the expropriation of the respective parties, the withdrawal of the media license and to a complete redistribution of the companies concerned.

  9. Capitalism is an excuse to prioritize jobs creation over the peoples interests. allowing us to work work work without concern of what we are actually work towards. A mind state of blindly building things for profit. it results in a world were only the achievers experience the best of what capitalism can offer. Nothing wrong with work but should it be 90% of our life?

  10. His interpretation of the statistics is counter intuitive to me. I don't think it's possible to say that the billion people who are not in poverty are the same people who were in poverty. The people who were impoverished back then could have died and then been replaced by people born into better off places/families. No?

  11. I smell B.S. if you want to help the poor teach them to be self sustain. Grow their own food. Build own home. Google Jon Jandai.

  12. Capitalism has run it's course. In Marx's manifesto he claims the capitalism was needed. It created these amazing powers of production that allowed finally for a surplus. It extended human lives. It gave us luxuries. Now there is a deficiency in the amount of work we can give out. Not everyone can have a job with such efficient means of production. And with the class system, and the distribution of wealth, the way it is it will create exploitation. So we either destroy all the technology that we created and go back in time and force all people to farm for their food and work to the bone, or we change the system.

  13. never trust him if he is making millions and millions because that simply means which use this so called helping people as a marketing tool , and have nothing to do with people its a cunning practice

  14. Market capitalism is so outdated and destructive that it's literally killing us. It's a system based on infinite growth and consumption. That should be enough to end the discussion right there. We're using up our resources faster than the planet can replenish. And the extreme corruption we see in government and business is simply inevitable in this game of competition and gaining advantage over others. Corruption, greed, endless wars for corporate profits – this is precisely what our system INHERENTLY produces. And now it's made us number one in murders, prisoners, inequality, mental illness, debt, drug use. How anyone can believe that capitalism is a viable option for a healthy, sustainable future is beyond me. We have to deal with reality now, folks. Take responsibility for our actions, clean up our home.

  15. Thank you. Your life experiences that you share with us in this video are very moving. Also, you have pleasant calm voice and appearance. I'm sure the audience will agree. I will be looking forward to the TED TALK You give in the future. 😊

  16. Socialism can not exist without Capitalism. Socialism only destroys entire countries while Capitalism can only make it better. For any of you that think Capitalism is a bad thing, well, just keep eating those Tide Pods.

  17. M8 you can't just patch capitalism by trying to create more ethical capitalistic companies. Unethical practices will always make a more successful company under capitalism, since it'll create more profit making the company more able to outcompete competitors. Capitalism will inevitably tend towards having unethical companies, it's like natural selection. The company that is most willing to exploit workers and consumers alike will be the one left standing.

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