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Posted at 05:31 PM ET, 05/24/2012

About Nick Hanauer’s TED talk: Eric Ries on why rich people are not ‘job creators’ (Flashback)


People looking for jobs wait in line to speak with potential employers at the Brooklyn Job Fair on April 13, 2011 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (N.Y. job fair / Getty Images)

There was a bit of a dust-up last week over a TED talk — a dust-up that has carried well into this week.

The talk was delivered by Seattle venture capitalist Nick Hanauer and ran contrary to the conventional wisdom/political talking point (depending on how you want to look at it) that the rich are “job creators.”

In a November column for Bloomberg View, Hanauer, after describing his own path to wealth as a venture capitalist and entrepreneur, wrote:

“That’s why I can say with confidence that rich people don’t create jobs, nor do businesses, large or small. What does lead to more employment is the feedback loop between customers and businesses. And only consumers can set in motion a virtuous cycle that allows companies to survive and thrive and business owners to hire. An ordinary middle-class consumer is far more of a job creator than I ever have been or ever will be.”

In March, Hanauer delivered a TED talk along those same lines. The talk was not featured on the TED Web site. And the story of its not being included was originally reported on by National Journal’s Jim Tankersley on May 16. The Post’s Ezra Klein wrote his analysis shortly thereafter, and TED has come under fire pretty consistently since — mostly from the left side of the political aisle — with one of the more blistering critique’s of the conference penned by Alex Pareene for Salon on May 21.

You can watch Hanauer’s talk online, just not on the TED Web site, which is updated and maintained by TED Talk curator Chris Anderson:

Anderson offers his own explanation for why the talk was not posted on the TED Web site, including that “it would be unquestionably regarded as out and out political.”

Well, it certainly is now.

I will leave the political debate to others, but in digging through our video archives for an earlier piece on the death of “innovation” as a buzzword, I came across this gem (in terms of relevance) from an interview “The Lean Startup” author Eric Ries did with our own Michelle Williams in November:

During the interview, Ries says: “Rich people are not job creators. Entrepreneurs are job creators, and policies that are pro-enterpreneur are the ones that we need, not necessarily the ones that are just pro rich people or pro corporations.”

Okay, so which is it? Are the middle class job creators, or entrepreneurs? Or are the very rich job creators? Is it all of the above? Let us know what you think in the comments. But given the debate, Ries’s idea is one worth re-sharing.

Update 5:31 p.m.: In an e-mail message Thursday, Nick Hanauer responded to Ries’s quote, writing:

You raise a very important point but Riess is still locked in to the existing and bankrupt economic orthodoxy.  I sympathize with him because as an entrepreneur myself, it is awesome to think of ourselves as job creators.  It's very validating and gives us immense prestige and with that, privileges.  But it isn't true.  The economy creates jobs.  What we do is create ideas.

What do you think? Is Hanauer on target? Let us know in the comments below.

Read more news and ideas on Innovations:

Ezra Klein | The TED Talk TED doesn’t want you to hear

SpaceX capsule one step closer to ISS

Rob ‘CmdrTaco’ Malda | The secret to immortality

By  |  05:31 PM ET, 05/24/2012

Categories:  Video

 
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