The TED Conference is an annual event held where leading thinkers like Bill Gates and Malcolm Gladwell present “Ideas Worth Spreading” to an elite, curated audience that pays $6,000 to attend.The knock on TED is that it egregiously pats the backs of the elites in attendance, as the sub-text of every presentation is that its the rich tech elites that are saving the world through their endeavours (EG: this presentation about how mobile phones are a poverty fighting tool).
So it’s obviously prompted a lot of internet scoffing that a presentation by VC Nick Hanauer, wherein he explains that rich people are not “job creators” was not posted online because it’s too provocative and political, and because it would hurt people’s feelings.
Check out part of the letter that TED chief Chris Anderson wrote to Jim Tankersely at The National Journal:
“An ordinary consumer is more of a job creator than a capitalist.” …really? as an ex entrepreneur who agrees with your overall stance, I don’t think that statement is literally true. There are numerous jobs that exist because of the imagination, energy and risk-taking of individual capitalists or entrepreneurs such as you. An typical ordinary consumer might on average contribute to the creation of one job (but probably not more than one, because the numbers don’t then add up.) “hiring more people is a course of last resort, done if and only if rising consumer demand requires it”. …I launched numerous magazines for each of which, at time of their launch, there was zero consumer demand.
In each of those cases I hired teams before launching and before knowing whether anyone would buy. Businesses do this all the time. They imagine a product, and take a risk. You might say there must have been latent demand, and that in the short time period you had, you didn’t have time to fully flesh out the argument.. sure. But I think a lot of business managers and entrepreneurs would feel insulted by that statement as given.
How sad. Entrepreneurs might “feel insulted.”
So the internet is right to mock at this. But the REAL scandal is how un-provocative the presentation is.
Click through the slides. The gist is that strong end aggregate demand is what drives unemployment. Totally true and non-controversial, and even when you dig in, there’s nothing that even makes this particularly remarkable.
For example, this chart shows that while tax rates on millionaires have gone down, the unemployment rate has gone up.
It’s true, but one has to admit that it’s barely scratching the surface of the connection between taxation and job growth.
Photo: Nick Hanauer
This chart is may be an interesting conversation starter (maybe), but if you’re a highly educated TED attendee, or even one of the highly-literate people on the web that would be inclined to watch a TED talk, it should barely be eyebrow raising.
The rest of the presentation is similar.
There’s nothing provocative at this point about a chart showing that the 1% has left the rest of the economy in the dust.
Photo: Nick Hanauer
It’s not that you couldn’t ruffle feathers on this subject. For example, a lot of people freaked out when we pointed out how Apple has destroyed a ton of jobs along its path to domination.
So yes, it’s totally embarrassing that that TED doesn’t want to hurt people’s feelings, but it’s REALLY embarrassing that the presentation is so underwhelming.
If nobody had censored the talk, nobody would be talking about it.
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