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Nick Hanauer: Beware, fellow plutocrats, the pitchforks are coming

Nick Hanauer · TED · 12 HN points · 10 HN comments
HN Theater has aggregated all Hacker News stories and comments that mention Nick Hanauer's video "Nick Hanauer: Beware, fellow plutocrats, the pitchforks are coming".
TED Summary
Nick Hanauer is a rich guy, an unrepentant capitalist — and he has something to say to his fellow plutocrats: Wake up! Growing inequality is about to push our societies into conditions resembling pre-revolutionary France. Hear his argument about why a dramatic increase in minimum wage could grow the middle class, deliver economic prosperity ... and prevent a revolution.
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Let me be frank. If you are a plutocrat, you are at fault.

You are at fault because you have the ability to redistribute your wealth which you know was unfairly gained. No amount of work by a single person can generate the wealth possessed by the top 0.1%, for someone to be that rich you had to have people work for you and you have to exploit their work and take an unfair share. That is reality.

The people who benefit from corruption and theft didn't invent theft or corruption. You don't need to invent something to be morally unjustified in exploiting it.

"Many economists would have you believe that their field is an objective science. I disagree, and I think that it is equally a tool that humans use to enforce and encode our social and moral preferences and prejudices about status and power, which is why plutocrats like me have always needed to find persuasive stories to tell everyone else about why our relative positions are morally righteous and good for everyone: like, we are indispensable, the job creators, and you are not; like, tax cuts for us create growth, but investments in you will balloon our debt and bankrupt our great country; that we matter; that you don't. For thousands of years, these stories were called divine right. Today, we have trickle-down economics. How obviously, transparently self-serving all of this is. We plutocrats need to see that the United States of America made us, not the other way around; that a thriving middle class is the source of prosperity in capitalist economies, not a consequence of it. And we should never forget that even the best of us in the worst of circumstances are barefoot by the side of a dirt road selling fruit."

For your first part, define "unfairly". A billionaire or multimillionaire might be benefitting from many advantages in life that others didn't get but this does not negate their capacity to organize capital and labor in a way that creates a business which otherwise wouldn't exist in the first place to give jobs to all those workers. This is not something just anyone or some collective of workers can pull out of a hat or easily continue to run in most situations. A single factory employee might work very hard but their marginal utility will make little difference to that company's survival. The CEO or founder simply ceasing work definitely could ruin the business as a whole though. So again, define unfair and why you have your definition.

Furthermore, Wealthy people in most developed modern economies didn't simply steal most of their wealth out of some giant pie that someone else created They instead organized capital and labor to create something others wanted to exchange value for. For this same reason again, I'd love to see you define how you measure "fair" and "unfair" share in a business or society.

As for the second part in italics, the idea that a middle class somehow can exist at all before a capitalist economy developed is absurd. Other parts of that quote are emotional dreck and as for said "plutocrats" being job creators, well, in many cases this is exactly what they are, whether you like it or not. This doesn't mean they're above criticism, but cheap, populist class warfare arguments are no good solution to anything economic or social.

>As for the second part in italics, the idea that a middle class somehow can exist at all before a capitalist economy developed is absurd. Other parts of that quote are emotional dreck and as for said "plutocrats" being job creators, well, in many cases this is exactly what they are, whether you like it or not. This doesn't mean they're above criticism, but cheap, populist class warfare arguments are no good solution to anything economic or social.

It is emotional dreck, I'll give you that but that's not the important part of the quote and that's not why I posted it.

The important part of the quote is that the person saying it, is a plutocrat himself.

Watch the video.

You can tell it is unfair just by the outcome. It doesn't matter how clever you are or how hard you work, you are not personally creating 10,000 times as much value as the next bozo. You lucked into a good deal, and the only moral behavior is to spread the good luck around.

You cannot manage a big income without creating or supporting some number of jobs, so there is no virtue on it.

Even when they "lucked" into it, you have to think about the actual physical creation of that wealth and the fact that it cannot be created by one man.

Taking unclaimed gold sitting on the ground untouched by anyone is luck.

Taking 10 billion dollars sitting on the ground is not just luck. Other people had to create that wealth with their work and for you to own it means you are taking it from them.

10 billion dollars compared to the amount of work a human can output in his lifetime is obscene in scale. Anyone who owns that much money might as well have "taken" it from the ground as no amount of work from one man can justify that much wealth.

Yes. Besides blinding amounts of luck, billions also need a heavy admixture of coercion. Microsoft didn't just luck into its monopoly, it also maintained it through decades of strong-arm anti-competitive abuses. Amazon has driven tens of thousands of small, local businesses into the ground, and continues abusing its employees. It would be very easy for Amazon to treat its employees well, but it chooses not to. It would be somewhat less easy to root out counterfeit merchandise, but it instead participates in deceiving its customers. Is that luck? Hard work?
Jul 19, 2019 · 3 points, 3 comments · submitted by cryptozeus
This is from 2014, but it's equally relevant today. I'm unsure if I agree with the premise. Today is very unlike 18th century France. We have television and cheap food. It seems unlikely that inequality will become so bad that pitchforks become the only option for large swaths of society.

The point about about a thriving middle class being able wealthy enough to afford consumer products, which then drives business to grow, is spot on. We need growing wages and a healthy middle class to maintain America's standing in the world. It is perplexing that plutocrats or even average Americans wouldn't want it -- we should all value our country's future.

Don’t you think it has already started to happen since 2016 ? Not talking about politics but there have been so many eiots in Streets over things like election, murder, minimum wage, occupy wall street etc
It really depends on what the Ted presenter means by 'pitchforks'. Yes, there have been protests, that more or less fall within the Overton window: they're orderly, and peaceful -- they fall within the confines of how we make change in a Democracy.

However, the Ted speaker seems purposefully vague. Does he mean that people will resort to more extreme or not peaceful forms of protest? I'm not certain.

Well, it worked for Nazi Germany. Loads of them ended up in South America after their Third Reich collapsed; which from their point of view was probably a doomsday scenario. Many of them had been hoarding their riches there for years before that and lived out their lives in luxury after the war. I think the key thing to look for though would be extradition laws. From that point of view, New Zealand looks a lot less attractive.

Reminds me of a ted talk a few years ago: "The pitchforks are coming":

>The wealthy only care when the pitchforks come out. I can't find the link right now, but there was a TedX talk by a multi-millionaire arguing that he wants to be taxed more.


Jan 04, 2018 · 1 points, 0 comments · submitted by DyslexicAtheist

Here's a guy that consciously believes he doesn't deserve his wealth.

Dec 02, 2016 · 3 points, 0 comments · submitted by patrickk
The talk wasn't 'banned'.

Many of the talks from TED never make it online. They only post one a day, and have a huge back-log of great talks to post.

Nick's original talk just didn't make the cut. I genuinely believe that was an editorial decision, not a political one. To that point, he gave an improved version of the talk a few years later which TED gladly posted online here:

Reminds me of this Ted Talk from 2014

Nick Hanauer: Beware, fellow plutocrats, the pitchforks are coming

Calling rich people "wisest custodians" of wealth really got to me. What a self serving statement.

I urge you to watch this video, your comment compelled me to find it:

I'm getting voted down. But if you got time please watch (or read the transcript) this:

This person elucidates my views completely and in a way that may be easier to understand.

Dec 17, 2014 · 1 points, 0 comments · submitted by FD3SA
This relates

I agree with the overall statement but not necessarily all of the analysis. I believe "stakeholder capitalism" is a better corporate structure.

Corporate bylaws would need to be changed to accommodate this.

Oct 12, 2014 · 4 points, 0 comments · submitted by based2
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