The TED talk they won’t show

TED talks are well known to policy wonks and geeks. I find many of them quite interesting and have linked to them. But while many people know of them, not so many know that the audience at TED conferences tend to be the well-heeled because it is for members only and the cost of attending can be quite high.

Hence I was not too surprised to read that one talk by billionaire Nick Hanauer is not going to be released because it was deemed by TED to be ‘too political’.

I wrote about Hanauer before, about how he caused some consternation amongst his class by advocating higher taxes for the wealthy and saying that wealthy people like him were not ‘job creators’, that ordinary middle class consumers were the real source of jobs.

If you want to hear his talk, you can do so here. It recapitulates what I discussed in my post and is pretty good.


  1. jamessweet says

    I don’t think it’s really fair to say it’s “not going to be released”. Like many talks given at TED conferences, they had chosen not to feature this one on the site, but as soon as there was the slightest amount of public pressure to make it available, they did so.

    We can debate whether or not to believe their alleged reasons why it wasn’t going to be featured on the website, or if really it was an attempt to conceal a talk they thought would cause “consternation” among their donors. But I think it’s sort of unfair to paint it like TED is still trying to bury this. They were like, “Alright, people want to see it, fine, here it is.”

  2. Mano Singham says

    The background to the story (see here and here) suggests that the motives of the TED people were not that benign.

    Also, I cannot find the talk on the TED site though it has appeared elsewhere. I am not sure how these other places got the video.

  3. says

    Chris Anderson responded directly to these accusations:

    I have not yet read those National Journal articles specifically, but having been aware of the controversy, Chris’ response seems totally reasonable to me, and the reason for the talk’s omission completely mundane.

  4. Somite says

    It was released here

    It was fun reading @tedchris trying to explain himself only to be mercilessly rebuked in the comments.

    My favorite comment is “He got a standing ovation. Stop the bullshit” to @tedchris’s statement that it was only a mediocre talk.

    IMHO there was nothing partisan or inflammatory in that talk. It is only the illogical position of the GOP that makes it seem so.

  5. Somite says

    It is not reasonable at all because it was not partisan at all and it was as informative or more than other talks TED has posted.

  6. left0ver1under says

    Don’t you just love weasel words?

    “Hanauer’s assertion”? What assertion? The most wealthy people buy luxury items that create the fewest job in small sectors of the economy (e.g. luxury cars). There are so few wealthy people that the mundane products they buy (e.g. food) have little effect on job creation.

    The wealthy also pay the fewest taxes thanks to tax loopholes written for their benefit. More often than not, the wealthy are a net drain on society, benefitting from taxpayer funded services like road, police and fire departments without contributing to them.

    Small business has always been the source of growth and job creation. It affects the greatest number of people and leads to the greatest economic multiplier: large numbers of middle class people buy products made by the middle class people, creating the most jobs and recycling of wealth.

    Isn’t it funny that lessons taught in first year economics are forgotten by so-called “economic experts” after they get degrees?

  7. Bishop says

    Glade to hear people are making judgments on my behalf in determining what might be too controversial for the broader community. I hate the term slippery slope, but it might just apply here. Mr. Anderson needs to leave TED and associate himself with another organization whose charter is to filter information for fragile minds. Pathetic!

  8. astro says

    Yeah, it’s not like they have to set the type and print one page at a time. Just press “upload”…done

  9. tajparis says

    I’m wondering, how exactly is this speech considered partisan, and in what sense? Democrat versus Republican? That doesn’t wash. Yes the speaker mentions the Republicans in the beginning, but he also mentions the Democrats in the same sentence. He states that the lower-taxes-as-panacea ideology is an “article of faith for republicans and seldom challenged by democrats.” I interpreted this as a calling out of both parties for failing to rationally approach the matter of tax policy. That wasn’t a statement that was flattering toward one party while critical toward the other. It was critical of both parties’ handling of the issue without creating a false equivalency.

    If it is supposedly partisan on a rich->middle-class->poor continuum, then I fail to see a problem. How can you address radically increasing income disparity in any meaningful way without being partisan? These TED speeches are not supposed to be merely information lectures, they are supposed to be inspiring. Fence sitting or sterile clinical analysis is not very inspirational, giving an inspirational speech requires actually taking a position on a topic.

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