The infamous TED talk about inequality that was “too political” has finally been released… and for all the fanfare surrounding it, I was expecting a talk that was a little more, well, politically charged.
Instead, Nick Hanauer offers a predictable line about the economic benefits of increasing taxes on the rich, arguing that middle class consumers who purchase goods are the real power behind our capitalist economic engine.
As far as the reasoning goes, I’m inclined to agree. But here’s the thing. Hanauer never once questions the viability of our consumption-fueled economy, or whether such an economy is, in fact, the best way to achieve long-term economic prosperity.
I would hardly use the words “too political” to describe a talk that reinforces one of the most fundamental tenets of our economic system: that continued prosperity (and presumably, the best way to address inequality) depends on continued consumption.
The bigger problem with this tempest in a teapot is that inequality isn’t, ultimately, a political issue, any more than civil rights is a political issue. It is a human issue, and we should not let politics inform our national discourse around a problem this serious, a problem that, if allowed to fester long enough, has the potential to undo nations.
And rather than offer radical, empowering, and innovative ways to address inequality, this talk has all the depth and originality of a politician’s stump speech.
Maybe that’s what TED’s founders really meant when they said it was “too political”.