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Nick Hanauer
Nick Hanauer

Seattle venture capitalist Nick Hanauer — an early investor in and aQuantive — certainly has strong opinions on economics and politics. And that’s one of the reasons why he was invited to give a TED talk a few months ago, sharing his pointed views on why the wealthiest Americans should pay more in taxes.

“Rich businesspeople like me don’t create jobs,” Hanauer said in his talk. “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.”

The remarks were similar to what we’ve reported on in the past, illuminating concepts that Hanauer hammered home during the debate over Initiative 1098, a failed measure that would have imposed an income tax on the wealthiest citizens of Washington state.

But now Hanauer’s TED talk is sparking controversy for other reasons. The National Journal reports that TED curator Chris Anderson recently backed away from distributing the video of it, saying it was too political in nature.

“Many of the talks given at the conference or at TED-U are not released,” Anderson wrote in an email to The National Journal. “We only release one a day on and there’s a backlog of amazing talks from all over the world. We do not comment publicly on reasons to release or not release [a] talk. It’s unfair on the speakers concerned. But we have a general policy to avoid talks that are overtly partisan, and to avoid talks that have received mediocre audience ratings.”

We asked Hanauer about the decision not to distribute his talk, and here’s what he had to say:

Although I am disappointed in Chris’s decision not to run my talk, I certainly accept his decision. He owns TED and it is up to him to decide what they share. I have great respect for him and the entire TED organization.

But I do disagree that my talk was too political or controversial to run. I got a sensational reaction to the talk at the conference itself, including a big standing ovation. Even the people who I spoke to who disagreed were intrigued and moved by the eco-systemic argument. And many of the talks at the conference and on the TED website are similarly controversial. That’s what makes them interesting.

Further, if it was too political, why have me do it in the first place? They knew months in advance what I would speak about and I gave the talk word for word.

My arguments threaten an economic orthodoxy and political structure that many powerful people have a huge stake in defending. They will not go easily.

The National Journal has posted the full text of the speech here.

FOLLOW UPTED curator shoots back at Hanauer, calls out Seattle VC and posts controversial talk


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