As readers here will know, I like TED talks. TED provides a great forum for lively, pithy presentations on “ideas worth spreading.”
Apparently, the organizers of TED have decided that the idea that widening income inequality is harming America is not an idea worth spreading.
National Journal reports: TED organizers invited a multimillionaire Seattle venture capitalist named Nick Hanauer – the first nonfamily investor in Amazon.com – to give a speech on March 1 at their TED University conference. Inequality was the topic – specifically, Hanauer’s contention that the middle class, and not wealthy innovators like himself, are America’s true “job creators.”
“We’ve had it backward for the last 30 years,” he said. “Rich businesspeople like me don’t create jobs. Rather they are a consequence of an ecosystemic feedback loop animated by middle-class consumers, and when they thrive, businesses grow and hire, and owners profit. That’s why taxing the rich to pay for investments that benefit all is a great deal for both the middle class and the rich.”
You can’t find that speech online. TED officials told Hanauer initially they were eager to distribute it. “I want to put this talk out into the world!” one of them wrote him in an e-mail in late April. But early this month they changed course, telling Hanauer that his remarks were too “political” and too controversial for posting.
Not only was this decision dumb — it was also bizarre.
Just six months ago TED posted Richard Wilkinson’s talk: “How economic inequality harms societies.”
Wilkinson is the co-author of The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger which documents in great detail how inequality worsens social problems and equality promotes social health — ideas worth spreading in 2011 but not 2012?
Hopefully TED will review their decision on Hanauer’s talk and acknowledge that what they did was dumb — that would be the smart thing to do. After all, Hanauer just appeared on Charlie Rose and he’s been on NPR, neither of which can be described as venues for political radicalism.
Hanauer was interviewed on NPR’s Weekend Edition in December: