May 17, 2012
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It is astounding how significantly one idea can shape a society and its policies. Consider this one.

If taxes on the rich go up, job creation will go down.

This idea is an article of faith for Republicans and seldom challenged by Democrats and has shaped much of today’s economic landscape.

But sometimes the ideas that we know to be true are dead wrong. For thousands of years people were sure that earth was at the center of the universe. It’s not, and an astronomer who still believed that it was, would do some lousy astronomy.

In the same way, a policy maker who believed that the rich and businesses are “job creators” and therefore should not be taxed, would make equally bad policy.

I have started or helped start, dozens of businesses and initially hired lots of people. But if no one could have afforded to buy what we had to sell, my businesses would all have failed and all those jobs would have evaporated.

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 a “circle of life” like feedback loop between customers and businesses. And only consumers can set in motion this virtuous cycle of increasing demand and hiring. In this sense, an ordinary middle-class consumer is far more of a job creator than a capitalist like me.

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Nick Hanauer, a venture capitalist whose TED talk about inequality was deemed “too political controversial” to publish.

March 6, 2012

How TED Makes Ideas Smaller

TED’s notion of “ideas worth spreading” — the implication being that spreading is itself a work of hierarchy and curation — has its origins in a print-based world of bylines and copyrights. It insists that ideas are, in the digital world, what they have been in the analog: packagable and ownable and claimable.

A TED talk, at this point, is the cultural equivalent of a patent: a private claim to a public concept. With the speaker, himself, becoming the manifestation of the idea. And so: In the name of spreading a concept, the talk ends up narrowing it. Pariser’s filter bubble. Anderson’s long tail. We talk often about the need for narrative in making abstract concepts relatable and impactful to mass audiences; what TED has done so elegantly, though, is to replace narrative in that equation with personality. The relatable idea, TED insists, is the personal idea. It is the performative idea. It is the idea that strides onstage and into a spotlight, ready to become a star.

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