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TED: Yes to "Drying your Hands," No to "Income Inequality."
May 16, 2012 9:43 PM   Subscribe

"I can say with confidence that rich people don't create jobs, nor do businesses, large or small," said über-rich venture capitalist Nick Hanauer in a March 1st TEDx talk, which TED is refusing to put on its website.

When asked why, TED curator Chris Anderson stated that "We have a general policy to avoid talks that are overtly partisan, and to avoid talks that have received mediocre audience ratings."

Was it overly partisan or mediocre? When Geekwire asked, Hanauer stated that he got a standing ovation.

In a discussion on Reddit, user TEDChris, reportedly the TED curator Chris Anderson, states that "The trouble with this talk is that it tackled the issue in a way that was explicitly partisan, framing it as a critique of "an article of faith" for Republicans. TED is avowedly non-partisan. We want to share ideas in a way that brings people together, doesn't throw sand in their faces."

The National Journal has posted the full text of the speech here.
posted by blazingunicorn (98 comments total) 75 users marked this as a favorite

 
"We want to share ideas in a way that brings people together, doesn't throw sand in their faces."

Some ideas throw sand in people's faces, suck it up.
posted by Cosine at 9:50 PM on May 16, 2012 [90 favorites]


Awesome. Beautifully expressed.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 9:53 PM on May 16, 2012


Ah TED, the normative standard of a liberal economic ethos.
posted by kuatto at 9:54 PM on May 16, 2012 [14 favorites]


In other news, pope still catholic, smokey bear still shitting in the woods.

Did anyone believe TED was part of some sort of egalitarian socialist freedom party?

Peter Weyland did a talk! ;)
posted by temancl at 9:55 PM on May 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


If he excised the third paragraph which named Republicans and Democrats, would that have made the speech OK?
posted by wikipedia brown boy detective at 9:57 PM on May 16, 2012


Ha ha ha, this is the guy who co-wrote The True Patriot. This was an attempt to create a grassroots pro-Democratic Party viral phenomenon, following the then-popular thinking of Think Like An Elephant, which held that the key to democracy was for Democrats to rely on more manipulative Republican language about steely values and so on.

Hanauer's contention in The True Patriot was that steadfast, flag-waving centrist Democrats who believe America is the greatest country on Earth are better and prouder patriots than Republicans.

I know because we shared a common book publicist. He planted me in Hanauer's audience at a Barnes and Noble in the Village to try and make it look like anyone was interested. I am glad Hanauer has come up with a better message but I can see the origins of the "partisan" charge.
posted by steinsaltz at 10:03 PM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ted has jumped over the shark and into the Republican party?
posted by greenhornet at 10:04 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Did anyone believe TED was part of some sort of egalitarian socialist freedom party?

I did. I showed up to the party with two cans of 4Loko (vintage shit, before they took out the caffeine) and some uppers. Five hours later someone had apparently invited John Yoo. He spent the whole night huffing Dust Off and talking about Wolfowitz's noise hair. It was the best party I've ever been to.
posted by You Guys Like 2 Party? at 10:07 PM on May 16, 2012 [9 favorites]


From the speech:
Anyone who's ever run a business knows that hiring more people is a capitalists course of last resort, something we do only when increasing customer demand requires it. In this sense, calling ourselves job creators isn't just inaccurate, it's disingenuous.
Wow, a perfect enunciation of the problem.

This is the alleged partisan flavouring in the speech:
This idea is an article of faith for republicans and seldom challenged by democrats and has shaped much of today's economic landscape. (emphasis mine)
Seems like he was an equal-opportunity offender. TED should be ashamed of itself if it thinks this is being partisan.
posted by the cydonian at 10:07 PM on May 16, 2012 [48 favorites]


I just came here to give temancl a gold star for actually knowing the correct name for the woods-shitting bear.

Only you can prevent florist friars.
posted by hippybear at 10:07 PM on May 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


TED is most certainly jumping the shark, and that may have to be in past tense. There are a lot of good people involved, trying to do good things, but in the aggregate TED is an echo chamber, a Davos-esque club of connected and influential people, who don't have a lot of connection with 99% of working class folks. (Not that they are the one-percenters, necessarily, but there's some of that, too).

There's a lot more science going on at TED than anything else, but if there's gonna be a speech on economics, it's going to necessarily be political. Obviously someone at TED liked an approved this speech beforehand, but someone (else?) changed their mind afterwards, for fear of blowback from the Republican Party. TED, I expect better from you. When in the past decade has the Republican Party shown themselves to be worthy of that kind of consideration?
posted by zardoz at 10:07 PM on May 16, 2012 [16 favorites]


Has anyone started xTed yet?
posted by humanfont at 10:08 PM on May 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


I agree with the sentiment articulated in the speech, but it's really not up to the standard of the best TED talks, which are often summations of actual research, often original to the speaker.
posted by Western Infidels at 10:09 PM on May 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


Maybe TED didn't want to post the talk because it's incoherent. He says that business don't create jobs, but he can't seriously believe that. Of course businesses create jobs by hiring people, as he admits.

Anyone who's ever run a business knows that hiring more people is a capitalists course of last resort, something we do only when increasing customer demand requires it. In this sense, calling ourselves job creators isn't just inaccurate, it's disingenuous.

By the same token, you could say that customers buying products is a "course of last resort." You'd always prefer not to part with your money, but you'll spend money if you decide it's worth it. That applies to employers and consumers alike. This isn't a reason to deny that consumers buy stuff, or that businesses create jobs by hiring people.
posted by John Cohen at 10:10 PM on May 16, 2012 [18 favorites]


I agree with the sentiment articulated in the speech, but it's really not up to the standard of the best TED talks, which are often summations of actual research, often original to the speaker.

Yeah, I thought so too. Interesting hypothesis, but he presented absolutely no data to back it up.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:12 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is amazingly telling, completely symptomatic of the rot at the heart of American political culture: even for TED, which we could easily take as representative of the saner wing of the ruling class, and even from a venture capitalist (hardly some dyed-in-the-wool radical), talking openly about economic inequality is simply anathema. Simple Keynesianism is now perceived as threateningly revolutionary. Has there been a ruling class this self-destructively short-sighted since the last days of Rome?
posted by RogerB at 10:13 PM on May 16, 2012 [17 favorites]


it's really not up to the standard of the best TED talks, which are often summations of actual research, often original to the speaker.

That's entirely untrue. Some of the best TED talks aren't about research at all, but instead are art pieces or reflections by artists on what they do, or are in fact performances themselves.

I don't know how many TED talks are op-ed pieces like this one, because I haven't watched them all and haven't bothered to fully categorize the ones I have watched. But I know I've seen some really great TED talks which have nothing to do with research but have left me breathless and amazed and full of wonder at the end of them. That's a pretty good summation of what makes a >20minute talk by anyone good, no matter what the subject matter.
posted by hippybear at 10:14 PM on May 16, 2012 [9 favorites]


I suppose the Teddites aren't going to have Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein on either. That'll be of a piece with the stodgy, old-fashioned Sunday morning network talk shows, even though their book is one of the most talked-about out there right now.

"TED is avowedly non-partisan. We want to share ideas in a way that brings people together, doesn't throw sand in their faces."

Then you'll quickly become irrelevant. The common currency these days are ideas that drive us further and further apart and that throw as much sand in each other's faces as possible.
posted by blucevalo at 10:15 PM on May 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


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.

Didn't Henry Ford advocate something similar with his $5 day? And we all know he was a pinko-commie at heart.
posted by Chekhovian at 10:15 PM on May 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Can you find an example of a TED talk covering the same ground, but better? It's not like Hanauer is saying anything new here,

No, TED can't handle the truth.
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:16 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Businesses that create jobs are artifacts of a system that fosters a consumer landscape where more jobs are needed. This is nearly a tautology, since businesses will always resist adding costs (employees) that are not needed. With this understanding in place, it is the system that creates jobs by creating the need for them, not businesses (which avoid creating jobs as much as they are able).

The system can either hurt the consumer landscape to benefit businesses in the short term (hurting both consumers and businesses in the long term), or it can tax businesses to make the consumer environment (and therefore businesses themselves) more robust.

It's a perfectly sane argument, John Cohen. It may be wrong, sure. But if the premises are true, the conclusion is true. And the premises are not far-fetched.
posted by jsturgill at 10:18 PM on May 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


I don't think I've ever read the transcript of a TED talk before. Distilled down to text its about 2.5 minutes of reading. Somehow seems to take the wind out of their sails doesn't it? That all "their great ideas worth spreading" could be blurbs on the back of a paperback novel?
posted by Chekhovian at 10:18 PM on May 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


He should have booed off the stage. Not for having a bad idea. No, actually, I agree with whole-heartedly.

But for just being a generalized dumb-ass. For example:

... we don't buy hundreds or thousands of times more stuff. My family owns three cars, not 3,000. I buy a few pairs of pants and a few shirts a year, just like most American men.

So, all your money is stuffed in a mattress? Got it. Stuffed in a mattress. Not, say, in a savings account that allows a bank to loan it out so I can get a car loan?

Whatever, bud. Get off the stage and let someone else make salient, useful points instead of fulminating about nothing of real weight. Take your mattress and go Occupy something.

Shirts. Jesus. Fuck. He's talking about pants and shirts.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:21 PM on May 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


I think it's important to live in a world where the rich have their share of bad speeches.
posted by michaelh at 10:21 PM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


By the same token, you could say that customers buying products is a "course of last resort." You'd always prefer not to part with your money, but you'll spend money if you decide it's worth it.

I just bought a new bike today. My old one worked just fine, I just wanted a better one, and I could afford it. And I tend to be pretty frugal. Have you ever known a company to hire more people even though they can get the work done with the amount they currently have?
posted by valrus at 10:21 PM on May 16, 2012 [35 favorites]


I don't think I've ever read the transcript of a TED talk before. Distilled down to text its about 2.5 minutes of reading. Somehow seems to take the wind out of their sails doesn't it? That all "their great ideas worth spreading" could be blurbs on the back of a paperback novel?

Well, the MAXIMUM time for a TED talk is 20 minutes. Many of them don't run that long.

I seem to remember during junior high speech class learning that a single page of double spaced pica type (yes, I'm old enough that typing was done on a machine which had two choices, pica and elite... what of it?) would yield around a minute of spoken word.

So, I have no idea how long this would be if actually given as a talk. I'm betting around 10 minutes, but that's just a hunch, not based on anything other than reading it through once.

(Also, if it takes you 2.5 minutes to read the blurbs on the back of a paperback, you really need some help.)
posted by hippybear at 10:23 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hanauer & Liu presenting the topic on Charlie Rose.
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 10:23 PM on May 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


> Has there been a ruling class this self-destructively short-sighted since the last days of Rome?

This is kind of a silly question. I am not a historian and I can tell you about the Bourbons in France that got guillotined and American Confederate plantation owners to name two just off the top of my head. I could take a guess that the Russian Romanovs in 1916 weren't looking too far into the future.
posted by bukvich at 10:24 PM on May 16, 2012 [18 favorites]


Just for one example, Facebook has an estimated market cap of 100 billion USD, yet only employs 3,500 people (directly.) That's a lot of money and scant few jobs.

The fact is that companies need fewer people to run day to day operations than ever before. Our tax policy is rooted in the last century, where in order to produce goods and services a company had to hire people.

Today, companies have developed strategies to avoid hiring at any cost and have been rewarded with higher profits and lower tax rates. Let's at least be realistic about the motivations of "job creators." It's profit, not people.
posted by elwoodwiles at 10:25 PM on May 16, 2012 [16 favorites]


p.s. creepy. /bleeding heart liberal.
posted by steinsaltz at 10:27 PM on May 16, 2012


This is kind of a silly question.

Yeah, what was I thinking with that historically overgeneralizing handwaving — in a TED thread, of all places? (Of course you're right, though.)
posted by RogerB at 10:29 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just for one example, Facebook has an estimated market cap of 100 billion USD, yet only employs 3,500 people (directly.) That's a lot of money and scant few jobs.

Directly, which you said. As a point of comparison, Zynga employs about 3,500 people, too, and Zynga is highly, highly reliant on Facebook's platform. And while Zynga is certainly the most famous, if not literally the largest, there are hundreds of other similar businesses.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:30 PM on May 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


He says that business don't create jobs, but he can't seriously believe that.
"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."
His point is that businesses don't exist without customers and when there's mass unemployment or underemployment there are many fewer customers. Businesses don't hire people because they have got a tax break, they hire people because there's increased demand for their products or services.

Tax breaks for businesses and rich people just means a few more coins stacked in their Scrooge McDuck money rooms.. and maybe a new pair of pants.

This should be obvious, but... like many common sense ideas these days it needs to be spelled out for some people.
posted by j03 at 10:33 PM on May 16, 2012 [29 favorites]


So, all your money is stuffed in a mattress? Got it. Stuffed in a mattress. Not, say, in a savings account that allows a bank to loan it out so I can get a car loan?

A glut of money held by elites turned into leveraged loans to the middle class by banks - what could possibly go wrong?
posted by crayz at 10:34 PM on May 16, 2012 [18 favorites]


So this seems like an exercise in sloppy thinking aimed - perhaps rightfully - at any equally sloppy claim of the rich to be 'job creators.' His anti-point touts the middle class but then ends up with sensible talk of the feedback ecosystem between capital and consumers.

Any VC will tell you "the customer" is the right answer without hesitation to most any job creator's challenge. Nor have I ever heard of an interesting start-up that couldn't use a bit of capital to get started.

You need a chicken. You need an egg. O.k.?

Most institutional VC's are actually just spending the middle classes' cash anyways. It's capital that gets allocated from your pension fund or - even more circumspectly - it is from sovereign funds in China or the Middle East that are just conduits of middle class spend on plastics and oil. So really even Venture Capitalist Jobs are created by the middle class... if you look at it that way... wait! no! You see, VC's funded the companies that turned oil into plastic... so Chicken! No egg!

It's like someone marching around a room and declaring "THIS" point of view to be the REAL view. It isn't helpful. There is a real point about efficient markets bla bla bla but polemics like these (from either side of the circuit) just get people angry and drown out the less explosive policy and technical considerations that actually change information and capital asymmetries in the political landscape. Luckily there does seem to have been some changes on that front recently.

I would be curious to know if his portfolio has his money following his mouth. I keep thinking I'll see some crowdsourced exchange platform arise from the JOBs act aimed at making it easier for the public to invest in start-ups.. I've seen a few companies that look like that from afar but are not when you look closer..
posted by astrobiophysican at 10:42 PM on May 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Well, either way they have suddenly massively increased the audience of Nick Hanauer. It would probably have been another random talk on TED; now it's the message TED are trying to suppress because it appears to challenge The System too much. I'm sure he can crank out another speech that is recorded in front of a live audience and get X times more viewers than he would have had previously.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 10:42 PM on May 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


"TED is avowedly non-partisan. We want to share ideas in a way that brings people together, doesn't throw sand in their faces."
Then you'll quickly become irrelevant. The common currency these days are ideas that drive us further and further apart and that throw as much sand in each other's faces as possible.


TED has been around and following this policy for quite a while now. There are plenty of venues for shouting at each other; it seems there's room for at least one where people just talk.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:43 PM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sponsored by BMW.
posted by Arthur Phillips Jones Jr at 10:48 PM on May 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Some ideas throw sand in people's faces, suck it up.
posted by Cosine at 5:50 AM on May 17


Precisely. I despise the sort of "liberalism" or "open-mindedness" that refuses to recognise that not only some ideas but also some plain facts irritate the hell out of some people, and which is so weak and gutless it runs and hides from the slightest sniff of such things. Not that I'm saying that this particular idea is a plain fact, but that the principle of avoiding provocative or challenging ideas for fear of conflict - political or otherwise - is craven and weak.

There are plenty of venues for shouting at each other; it seems there's room for at least one where people just talk.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 6:43 AM on May 17


So long as they don't say anything to upset the vicar and dear old granny, eh? TED's motto is "Ideas Worth Spreading". Perhaps they should change it to "Ideas Worth spreading So Long as They Don't Make Anyone Feel At All Uncomfortable".
posted by Decani at 10:49 PM on May 16, 2012 [29 favorites]


"He says that business don't create jobs, but he can't seriously believe that. Of course businesses create jobs by hiring people, as he admits."

Businesses create jobs to satisfy demand; the customer's demand is prior, and this is obvious because you can have the best pet rock business in the world with an infinite monopoly on the supply of pet rocks, but unless someone wants to buy pet rocks, you are going to go out of business and jobs will be lost.

Capitalists and businesspeople like to believe that everything is supply-driven, and it's incredibly self-serving of them to believe this. Such people basically imagine that an advanced economy is pretty much just like an undeveloped subsistence economy where there's a lot of unmet demand and a huge amount of economic potential that is being neglected due to the absence of capital investment and development. So, in their minds, when they open up their management consulting firm, they're heroes because they're risking their capital to help dirt farmers. Most of the time, though, they're selling pet rocks. Or another fast-food burger with a different branding. Very, very occasionally they're Apple making iPods or Henry Ford making automobiles.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:53 PM on May 16, 2012 [13 favorites]


So, all your money is stuffed in a mattress? Got it. Stuffed in a mattress. Not, say, in a savings account that allows a bank to loan it out so I can get a car loan?

Apparently you are unfamiliar with the concept of velocity of money. GDP is directly related to the velocity of money, which is how quickly money is turned over from person to person in spending for goods and services. Particularly in the current economic liquidity trap, putting your money in the bank does nothing to help when there is a shortage of demand. He is exactly right that rich people don't spend enough. Banks are full of more money than they know what to do with right now.
posted by JackFlash at 10:55 PM on May 16, 2012 [10 favorites]


He is right, although he explains it inadequately (astrobiophysician does much better above). But he's not really aiming to convince through explanation, he's aiming to persuade through rhetoric.

Although I wholeheartedly agree with his underlying thesis, and would like to see it promoted a great deal more vehemently in a lot more venues, I don't think that it's appropriate for TED to be a venue for rhetorical speeches. It's for explanatory speeches.

Now, a rhetorician of great skill could craft a speech that explained societal money flow in such a way that it would be blatantly obvious, so that anyone but a complete fool or blinkered partisan would draw the conclusion from that speech that you need to pay people well so that they can spend money freely, and perhaps the listeners might go out and spread that message in turn in their various ways, and perhaps that speech would be welcome at TED. However this is not that speech.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 10:56 PM on May 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


"So, all your money is stuffed in a mattress? Got it. Stuffed in a mattress. Not, say, in a savings account that allows a bank to loan it out so I can get a car loan?"

All savings is not equal. If you don't understand this, then you should...and be silent until you do. For that matter, you should look into how actual banks work with regard to savings and lending, because you're wrong about that, too.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:57 PM on May 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


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.

We had low employment and plenty of consumers 10 years ago. So what happened to all the jobs? Maybe this idea that creating consumers can set in motion significant hiring is just another "article of faith." Or the idea that enough knowledge jobs will available for anyone who has the right education.

This doesn't seem like a well thought out talk. I'm sure there are economists like Stiglitz, Krugman, or Reich who could have provided a more convincing and detailed argument for what kinds of jobs can be created sustainably in today's economy and how.

Banks are full of more money than they know what to do with right now.

And a boat load of toxic assets from the real estate bubble and Euro crisis.
posted by Golden Eternity at 11:11 PM on May 16, 2012


A lot of the problems in the present monetary paradigm are due to the fact that the most money you can possibly make (or lose, sucks to be JP Morgan right now) is made in betting on the activities of real economic actors. It is far better to trade stock in a publicly-traded company, than it is to work in it, be a customer of it, or even lend money to it in the ordinary manner. The big money is in stock market volatility. I bet that stock X will go up, you bet it will go down; one of us wins and one of us loses.

If stock X gains much of its value from this exact activity, ie trading in stocks and derivatives, perhaps on a longer timeframe than the ordinary investor does, this amplifies the problem of the separation of real economic activity from betting on economic activity. The solution to this is supposed to be index funds, but given that index funds are drawn from the highest-value companies, and many of the highest-value companies are themselves stock traders, there is still a risk of cascading crashes (or cascading gains, which sounds great until we remember that they to actually get paid out they must be matched by losses on another side, and losses are limited).

Then there's brokerage, which is a "tax" of sorts on every transaction whether it wins or loses. This is part of the argument for transaction taxes, which is a separate issue entirely. (Many traders neither notice nor care about variations in brokerage; very few bother to do proper market comparisons and the major effect it has is to move the profit point. For this among many other reasons, brokers squealing about transaction taxes being an onerous imposition is just self-serving bullshit.)
posted by aeschenkarnos at 11:27 PM on May 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


The link from steinsaltz shows just how much research Hanauer did in order to hone his message. Amazing how thoroughly he misread his audience - or his medium - here.
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:32 PM on May 16, 2012


For that matter, you should look into how actual banks work with regard to savings and lending

Yes, please educate me on how banks print money and lend it to people. What's that? They don't print the money they lend? It comes from ... Wait for it ... Savings and investments made by others?

Who the hell are you? Ochocinco, is that you? 4:54 in the clip.

His point about how the rich don't buy things is poppycock, and your derision is equally foolish. He says the rich can't play an impactful role in an economy because they can't buy enough pants, ignoring the fact that money not spents on pants is saved in accounts, not stored in vaults. If you don't get the difference, I can't help you; there is no discussion to be had here because you're (willfully?) ignorant of something as fundamental as gravity.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:42 PM on May 16, 2012


Amazing how thoroughly he misread his audience - or his medium - here.

Really? We're here talking about it. Doesn't sound like the worst PR job the world has ever seen
posted by crayz at 11:46 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I dunno. The speech is kind of liberal boilerplate stuff, not particularly insightful, some of it verging on platitudes. I think TED should not shy away from partisan talks. But if it does do a partisan talk, it really needs to cut against the partisan opinion it seeks to cut, and not just be comfort food for its sympathizers.
posted by 2N2222 at 11:50 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


>Capitalists and businesspeople like to believe that everything is supply-driven, and it's incredibly self-serving of them to believe this.

This sounds like a just-so story. It's very convenient if one is trying to shore up a particular narrative that goes over well around here. But when I compare it to the capitalists and business people I actually know, it's kind of... fanciful.
posted by 2N2222 at 12:03 AM on May 17, 2012


I don't understand how money in the bank is any use when no one is buying. It goes right back to the original argument. Banks can no more create money than VCs can. Banks aren't buying consumables. Who are they going to lend that money to when there's high unemployment and businesses are going under? And, sure enough, banks are tightly holding on to their money ve right now. A lot of people are complaining that the banks policies are what is causing the recession.

But banks aren't going to lend money out when there are few customers for the businesses.
posted by eye of newt at 12:05 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


2N2222, one of the biggest platitudes of all, and very boilerplate too, is to label something a platitude and 'This is so old--we've heard all this before.' This argument itself is a very old and tired put-down.
posted by eye of newt at 12:09 AM on May 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


2N2222, one of the biggest platitudes of all, and very boilerplate too, is to label something a platitude and 'This is so old--we've heard all this before.' This argument itself is a very old and tired put-down.

But we have heard it all before. Almost every day here on Metafilter alone. This is a very old, tired, and applicable point.

What I like about TED talks is the tendency to hear something new. A new idea. A new twist on an old idea. Hanauer delivered to a lower standard.
posted by 2N2222 at 12:15 AM on May 17, 2012


I don't understand how money in the bank is any use when no one is buying.

If no one is buying, prices fall and interest rates fall until someone starts buying. If you have money, the best time to buy is when no one else is buying.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 12:17 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Yes, please educate me on how banks print money and lend it to people. What's that? They don't print the money they lend? It comes from ... Wait for it ... Savings and investments made by others?"

I'm not a MMT person, but they're right when they point out that in practice, banks don't lend from their savings. They lend for whatever reasons they choose, and the Fed (indirectly) accommodates that. It is, in a truer sense than you think, printing money. They have a reserve requirement they have to meet, and general regulation of soundness, and so in the longer term stuff converges roughly to the equivalency you're asserting. But you're asserting, both in macro terms and in banking terms, that an accounting identity is both how it really works in practice and, more importantly and wrongly, that the implications of it being a simple accounting identity correctly describe the macroeconomic effects of these transactions. And you're wrong.

All investments are not equal and some money literally sits in a vault. And a lot more money, especially under certain macroeconomic conditions, might as well be sitting in a vault. And you'd understand that this is necessarily true, and how this relates to the concept of the velocity of money, if you thought a moment about the implications that all investment is not equally risky and it's therefore not equally priced. If the extent of your knowledge and reasoning about these issues is that one person's savings is another person's debt, then you don't know enough to be writing about it because the oversimplification leads to some very false conclusions.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:17 AM on May 17, 2012 [17 favorites]


We want to share ideas in a way that brings people together, doesn't throw sand in their faces.

This is why we can't have nice ideas.
posted by JHarris at 12:22 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: This is why we can't have nice ideas.


I am sooo sorry...
posted by drfu at 12:24 AM on May 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


Hanauer delivered to a lower standard.

That would be relevant, if it had something to do with Chris Andersen's rationale for not publishing the video.
posted by AlsoMike at 12:29 AM on May 17, 2012


I'm not a MMT person, but they're right when they point out that in practice, banks don't lend from their savings.

What else would they lend from if not their savings?

They lend for whatever reasons they choose, and the Fed (indirectly) accommodates that. It is, in a truer sense than you think, printing money. They have a reserve requirement they have to meet…

The reserve requirement in America is only about ten percent, and in many other Western countries there's no reserve requirement at all.

All investments are not equal and some money literally sits in a vault. And a lot more money, especially under certain macroeconomic conditions, might as well be sitting in a vault.

What kind of money is "sitting in a vault"?
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 12:36 AM on May 17, 2012


> Yes, please educate me on how banks print money and lend it to people.

Sure, why not?
posted by Bangaioh at 12:40 AM on May 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


His basic point that lower taxes on businesses and rich people don't create jobs is backed up by the facts.

Federal Income Taxes and Corporate Taxes have been at their lowest rate in decades and yet unemployment and underemployment remain at historic highs.

I'm not sure how arguing that further cuts in taxes on the ultra rich and corporations that already pay next to nothing in taxes would in any way be a boost to the economy.
posted by j03 at 1:17 AM on May 17, 2012 [9 favorites]


By the same token, you could say that customers buying products is a "course of last resort." You'd always prefer not to part with your money, but you'll spend money if you decide it's worth it.

The savings rate is about 3.5%. I think most people think money is for spending.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 2:20 AM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Astounding to see just how craven and subservient to corporate power the people running TED actually turned out to be.

I guess when a totally mainstream rich dude is censored for even mentioning the word 'inequality' in some idle chat in a room, you have a real pre-fascist situation in the USA.
posted by colie at 2:24 AM on May 17, 2012 [11 favorites]


What else would they lend from if not their savings?
Their futures.

I mean, it's not like they have to actually give you printed dollars in the vast, vast majority of cases -- they just need to increment your account balance. They can do that ("digital printing", if you like) and then let things balance out later. Their savings don't even need to come into it at all. Perhaps you spend that money by paying for a mortgage to a seller who deposits it in the very same bank, for instance.

If then a lot of the debts go bad (the future disappears), or if a lot of the bank's creditors want their money in a hurry (the time window narrows), that might be a problem. Possibly a very big one if both happen at once (like we have now). Then the government needs to step in and sell its future to pay for the one the bank lost.

But, yeah, either way What's that? They don't print the money they lend? is pretty much exactly wrong. If one person's debt was exactly another person's credit we'd not be in anything like the situation we actually are in.
posted by fightorflight at 3:02 AM on May 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


The money sitting in a vault is a red herring. His point about the rich not buying consumables is a good one. While one of the functions of the modern banking system is to make money available instead of having it sit around in a vault, that must be part of a larger functioning system in order to do any good. Yes, as mentioned above, prices and interest rates can fall, but if you still don't have enough people employed, of if not enough people can qualify for a loan, or (as we are seeing more of now) no one wants to borrow, it doesn't matter how much rich people put in banks. In fact, you could make the argument that this directly backs up his main point, which is that economic stimulation does not work well from the top down, because the only way this works is if the middle class is secure and borrowing.

Someone asked above how we got here, since there was high employment ten years ago. I can't believe I have to say this, but the housing bubble happened, wiping out a lot of savings and removing a lot of money that would have otherwise been spent on consumer goods. Demand fell, and jobs were cut. This also backs up his main point.
posted by Nothing at 3:07 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Other TED talks posted online veer sharply into controversial and political territory, including... philanthropist Melinda Gates pushing for more access to contraception in the developing world.

Really? That's what counts as controversial at TED these days? The philanthropist wife of a billionaire suggesting that people should have some control over when they have children?

Honestly, Cracked, Reddit and Buzzfeed are spreading more controversial and political ideas than that.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 3:10 AM on May 17, 2012 [7 favorites]


Also steinsalz, why is this creepy?

To figure out which political arguments would appeal to different ideological groups, they hired digital marketing company Marketfish to send eight different versions of an email from their non-partisan think tank, the True Patriot Network, to two million voters in the under $100,000/year income range. Then they studied how their Republican, Democratic, and Independent guinea pigs responded to the messaging.

Its long been standard practice for the private sector and political consultants to test market campaigns on "guinea pigs" through focus groups and polls and now being done on-line.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 3:17 AM on May 17, 2012


In a time of universal deceit - telling the truth is a revolutionary act.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 3:21 AM on May 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


Businesses create jobs to satisfy demand; the customer's demand is prior, and this is obvious because you can have the best pet rock business in the world with an infinite monopoly on the supply of pet rocks, but unless someone wants to buy pet rocks, you are going to go out of business and jobs will be lost.

Isn't that why we have advertising, for the creation of desire?
posted by dng at 3:36 AM on May 17, 2012


I suppose the Teddites

You're talking about the TEDdy boys.
posted by ersatz at 3:50 AM on May 17, 2012


Have you ever known a company to hire more people even though they can get the work done with the amount they currently have?

Yes, actually. Managers of a certain kind do exactly this to have more people reporting to them to make themselves look more important. It doesn't make the papers because there aren't good visuals, but believe me, it happens. (There's even a section on this phenom in Northcote Parkinson's In-law and Outlaws, I think, and I didn't believe it until I saw it with my own eyes.)
posted by IndigoJones at 4:19 AM on May 17, 2012


Businesses hire people as a form of growth and investment, before the customer has shown he cares, all the time. They also, and often, don't lay off as many people or as soon as they might when demand subsides, in a desire to maintain capacity to rebound with the market. To judge by LinkedIn, half the people in tech have made most of their 10- and 15-year careers through "on spec" hiring and retention.

Beyond this, the idea that first world consumers create change and innovation driven jobs is true only in the most trivial way. They live in satiated societies, and are perfectly happy to consume whatever they consumed the day before unless business make investments to take risks to put something different in front of them. Consumers are the judges who decide who gets the prize, but it is businesses who are the performers and create the event to begin with.
posted by MattD at 4:43 AM on May 17, 2012


You're not going to change the status quo if you're afraid of upsetting the status quo.
posted by Legomancer at 5:05 AM on May 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


Isn't that why we have advertising, for the creation of desire?

But the creation of desire is arguably both easier and more ethical among people who have disposable income to risk on new goods.

As I read the speech, he is not suggesting that businessmen be removed from the equation altogether - rather that you can have a fertile or an unfertile environment in which for the economy to grow, and that supporting the growth of a middle-class with disposable income makes for a much more fertile environment than providing tax cuts to the wealthy and larger businesses.

This is not necessarily an iron-clad thesis, but it is not an unreasonable idea at all. Nor is it particularly inherently partisan - Nixon conceded that "we are all Keynesians now", while Clinton drifted towards more tax-cut based policies than his democratic predecessors (I think). As a quirk of history, one party of the two major parties in the US is currently vehemently opposed to it. That is all.

And that seems to me very slender grounds for excluding it from a website about "ideas worth spreading". If there were some concern about its intellectual credentials, that would be one thing. But it seems like a decent enough idea with an intellectual pedigree - people should know about it, so that when legislators are urged to embrace tax cuts, they can think "well, hang on, perhaps we need to balance this tax cut demand against another point of view". And that seems to be a legitimate broadening of the public discourse.

So I can't say I really agree with TED's stance on this.
posted by lucien_reeve at 5:29 AM on May 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


IMO, the US economy prospered like no other because we created a middle class like no other. We had the largest economic engine with the most fuel - disposable income. Broad and strong. The most democratic version of "money talks".

The thing is this: the middle class was not created by the market. It was created and supported by political will. And it's being destroyed the same way. Along with the economy.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:45 AM on May 17, 2012 [8 favorites]


Please confine discussions of deletions and other moderation activity to MetaTED.
posted by Naberius at 6:13 AM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


TED - Richard Wilkinson: How economic inequality harms societies

"We feel instinctively that societies with huge income gaps are somehow going wrong. Richard Wilkinson charts the hard data on economic inequality, and shows what gets worse when rich and poor are too far apart: real effects on health, lifespan, even such basic values as trust.

In "The Spirit Level," Richard Wilkinson charts data that proves societies that are more equal are healthier, happier societies"


Well it certainly isn't income inequality per se that they object to covering.
posted by knapah at 6:42 AM on May 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


The easiest way to ensure that a book becomes a classic is to try to ban it.

TED has basically accomplished the same thing here. The full text of this speech is all over the interwebs.

As "V" so eloquently put it... "Ideas are bulletproof."
posted by prepmonkey at 8:13 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


TED considers this more controversial than Richard Dawkins?
posted by rocket88 at 8:22 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


By the same token, you could say that customers buying products is a "course of last resort." You'd always prefer not to part with your money, but you'll spend money if you decide it's worth it.

The savings rate is about 3.5%. I think most people think money is for spending.


Maybe you misunderstand. The rate of return on an ice cream cone or mp3 is -100%. I'm sure if there was a way to pirate ice cream online ice cream consumption we would all be in trouble.
posted by Winnemac at 9:04 AM on May 17, 2012


Perhaps they should change it to "Ideas Worth spreading So Long as They Don't Make Anyone Feel At All Uncomfortable".

It's a little hard to fit on a T-shirt, but why not?

There's no denying that controversy sells and there are no shortage of places you can go to get your fix. I'm not quite sure what's lost by TED deciding not to go that route.

The fact that an operation like TED continues to present new and useful ideas on a regular basis also presents a rather dizzying thought: perhaps there is a lot of progress to be made in the world that isnt particularly controversial. Perhaps in our obsessive focus on intractable partisan issues we are overlooking simple, straightforward things that can improve people's lives.

TED is the forum for those. It is the forum for ideas that get lost in the shuffle precisely because they are not controversial. And apparently quite a few people like it that way. I know I do.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:56 AM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


TED considers this more controversial than Richard Dawkins ?

That Dawkins clip: man is the dude ever smug. And he doesn't seem to know the definition of the word "triumphal" and hasn't learned to check his collar in the mirror before he goes out to speak to a large audience of people. Also, his main fashion influence seems to be "Miami Vice villain."
posted by alexoscar at 10:06 AM on May 17, 2012


his main fashion influence seems to be "Miami Vice villain."

If you intend to start criticizing scientists for their fashion sense, this is going to be a very conversation. And usually the better you are as a scientist, the less able you are to dress yourself in a socially acceptable manner. I've seen talks from Nobel Laureates, who, by their clothing alone, would be hard to distinguish from homeless people.
posted by Chekhovian at 1:08 PM on May 17, 2012


*a very long and boring conversation
posted by Chekhovian at 1:09 PM on May 17, 2012


TED's Chris Anderson has posted a response and uploaded the video in question.
posted by parudox at 2:07 PM on May 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


his main fashion influence seems to be "Miami Vice villain."

You say that like it's a bad thing.
posted by dirigibleman at 2:36 PM on May 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


On the Youtube page. I just watched it, and I was viewer #303. Just noting 303 views in 2 hours nationwide and worldwide after all the controversy (although it may be embedded other places). From reading the speech text yesterday, I instantly saw that it was flawed and not up to (even a) TED standard - regardless of ideology. He does not know how to present his idea.
posted by caclwmr4 at 4:13 PM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Youtube view counts are often "stuck" for a while after reaching a few hundred, to allow the bots to figure out if they're actual views or being artificially inflated. Seems to happen around the 300 count for a lot of people.
posted by blazingunicorn at 4:58 PM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


yep, still 303. of course, you could theorize a TED/Google conspiracy...
posted by oneswellfoop at 5:01 PM on May 17, 2012


Yup, it's just a lousy talk. I got about two minutes into it before bailing.
posted by waldo at 8:04 PM on May 17, 2012


waldo: "Yup, it's just a lousy talk. I got about two minutes into it before bailing."

I'm not really sure why your lack of attention span makes this a bad talk?
posted by wierdo at 10:48 PM on May 17, 2012


wierdo, you say "lack of attention span"; I say "inability to capture his audience's attention".

Potayto, potahto.
posted by IAmBroom at 6:58 AM on May 18, 2012


Heh, I posted this as a dupe, apparently.
---
Ha ha ha, this is the guy who co-wrote The True Patriot. This was an attempt to create a grassroots pro-Democratic Party viral phenomenon, following the then-popular thinking of Think Like An Elephant, which held that the key to democracy was for Democrats to rely on more manipulative Republican language about steely values and so on. -- steinsaltz
Obviously, TED knew all of that when they booked him.

And the thing is, this is not a democratic party talking point. Other then a handful people like Elizabeth Warren and minor back benchers in the house no one talks about this stuff, no one pushes back on it. At least I don't hear it much. Because the major donors to the democratic party all believe it too.
I agree with the sentiment articulated in the speech, but it's really not up to the standard of the best TED talks, which are often summations of actual research, often original to the speaker. -- Western Infidels
First of all, it was a summation of actual research, in particular the statistics showing income inequality growing.

Second of all, there is tons of inane crap up on TED.com. Look at the actual index of videos, rather then what you see linked. The hands drying thing was a TEDx, but looking at their main list of links just for the recent "Real" TED we see stuff like:

*How to build your creative confidence
*404, the story of a page not found
*Feats of memory anyone can do.
*Music and emotion through time
* Tracking the trackers
*Sculpting waves in wood and time
*A 50 year plan for energy
*A giant bubble for debate (about architecture, literally about a giant bubble)
*Texting that saves lives
*The 4 commandments of the city
*How I beat a patent troll
*Half a million secrets (about postsecret)
*How can technology transform the human body (By a "body architect" who's training is as a ballerina)
*Building US-China relations … by banjo.
That's 14 out of the first 10.

The other six are

* How to look inside the brain
* The mathematics of history
* The optimism bias
* Is our universe the only universe?
* Tracking ancient diseases using ... plaque
* How do we heal medicine? (Atul Gawande)
If you actual take a sampling, not that many of them are "summations of actual research". Most of them are just a bunch of ridiculous nonsense.
I don't think I've ever read the transcript of a TED talk before. Distilled down to text its about 2.5 minutes of reading. Somehow seems to take the wind out of their sails doesn't it? That all "their great ideas worth spreading" could be blurbs on the back of a paperback novel? -- Chekhovian
If I actually have any interest in a TED talk, I'll read the transcript. They do have a cool "interactive transcript" thing on a lot of the talks that lets you click on a phrase, and zip to the part in the video where they say it. So really there's no reason to watch the videos at all.
The fact that an operation like TED continues to present new and useful ideas on a regular basis ... -- Tell Me No Lies
Is debatable.

---
We had low employment and plenty of consumers 10 years ago. So what happened to all the jobs? Maybe this idea that creating consumers can set in motion significant hiring is just another "article of faith." Or the idea that enough knowledge jobs will available for anyone who has the right education.
What happened to the jobs? Uh, have you not been following the news? They were cut in 2008. There was actually only a very short term liquidity problem, but companies all thought that the economy would go bad, so cut staff. This resulted in the economy going bad. It also meant less tax revenue for state and local governments, so they had to lay off more people. It meant that companies that didn't panic suddenly saw decreased demand, so they had to lay people off in turn. It was in part a self-fulfilling prophecy, and in part a feedback effect. And on top of that, individuals who have jobs decide they want to save more, rather then spend, because they become worried about their jobs.
By the same token, you could say that customers buying products is a "course of last resort." You'd always prefer not to part with your money, but you'll spend money if you decide it's worth it. -- Golden Eternity
That's actually what causes a depression: when people value money more then the "stuff" they could buy with it. So they don't spend it, and thus companies that make it go out of business or lay people off. It's called the "Paradox of thrift". If everyone decides to save at the same time, the economy craters.

But yeah, the vast majority of people buy stuff because they want it. No one need to pay $5 for a metafilter account, but clearly lots of people did.
On the Youtube page. I just watched it, and I was viewer #303. Just noting 303 views in 2 hours -- caclwmr4
Youtube's counter freezes on popular videos when it gets to around 300. Likely, that's when caching kicks in and getting an accurate individual count would be difficult, as you'd need collate the views from lots of servers, rather then just one.

Anyway, the counter reads 152,660 for me now.

---
Yes, please educate me on how banks print money and lend it to people. What's that? They don't print the money they lend? It comes from ... Wait for it ... Savings and investments made by others? -- Cool Papa Bell

Huh? Yeah.. they really do create money
When a commercial bank loan is extended, new commercial bank money is created. As a loan is paid back, more commercial bank money disappears from existence. Since loans are continually being issued in a normally functioning economy, the amount of broad money in the economy remains relatively stable. Because of this money creation process by the commercial banks, the money supply of a country is usually a multiple larger than the money issued by the central bank
This is econ 101 stuff here. Additionally, while they do need some money in a fractional reserve (which would increase when someone deposits) they can also increase their reserves by borrowing from the Federal Reserve, which can print money when it feels the economy could use it.

Again, this is the most basic stuff everyone should know.
So, all your money is stuffed in a mattress? Got it. Stuffed in a mattress. Not, say, in a savings account that allows a bank to loan it out so I can get a car loan? -- Cool Papa Bell
You think you know more about his life then you do? By the way, when I was doing my own FPP on this, I found this business insider article written by him as well. In it he says:
It’s true that we do spend a lot more than the average family. Yet the one truly expensive line item in our budget is our airplane (which, by the way, was manufactured in France by Dassault Aviation SA (AM)), and those annual costs are mostly for fuel (from the Middle East). It’s just crazy to believe that any of this is more beneficial to our economy than hiring more teachers or police officers or investing in our infrastructure.
So the stuff he does spend money on (airplanes and AV gas) does not help put Americans to work. And also, no one puts that kind of money in an ordinary savings account. We don't know what he actually does with his money, but many rich people will buy federal savings bonds, literally they are the ones who are financing the federal budget deficit, and rich Americans (and institutions) are where most of the money is owed, not china.

What that means in practice is, the government gets a slightly lower interest rate. But if they don't spend the money, it doesn't get spent.

Of course, Typically people will have money set asside in different investments with various risks. For a VC, I would guess some more of his money is invested in his own VC fund, since the return on those is far better then the stock market on average, and he'll know exactly how his own companies are doing, what products are in the pipeline, and so on.
posted by delmoi at 8:33 AM on May 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


I wonder what the average net worth of TED Talk presenters is.
posted by rocket88 at 9:13 AM on May 18, 2012


IAmBroom: "wierdo, you say "lack of attention span"; I say "inability to capture his audience's attention".

Potayto, potahto.
"

Strange. He captured my attention and made me aware of ideas I hadn't considered before. Go figure.
posted by wierdo at 9:36 AM on May 18, 2012


Not strange at all, wierdo.

If his speech was universally unappealing to all humans everywhere, this wouldn't be a topic on the Blue.

I'm just saying there's no need to disparage waldo because he didn't like what you liked.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:58 PM on May 18, 2012


I think it's actually debatable whether or not "everyone" has heard this. It's something that seems obvious to us but I actually do think that a lot of the "1%ers" really do believe their own hype, and a talk like this might blow their mind, if the evidence had been presented effectively. It sounds like, perhaps, it wasn't.

The other thing to remember, for actual entrepreneurs who build businesses, income inequality and wage stagnation is terrible. Rich people who are rich because they start a company that sells to middle class people get richer when wealth is redistributed, because it's redistributed to their customers.

But on the other hand "old money" actually does not benefit at all from redistribution. They're not doing anything, and they just want to hold on to their wealth with the least amount of risk. So inflation (particularly wage inflation) is terrible for them, while potentially being good for the middle class (as their wages go up) and thus good for the "dynamic" rich.

But my guess is that a lot of the "dynamic" rich don't actually realize what their situation is. They identify with the stodgy old wealth and want their taxes low. And in 'elite' society this kind of 'job creator' talk permeates. So there may actually be rich people who have never heard stuff like this and it might actually get through to them.
posted by delmoi at 7:28 PM on May 18, 2012


And only consumers can set in motion this virtuous cycle of increasing demand and hiring. An ordinary consumer is more of a job creator than a capitalist --Hanauer

We had low high employment and plenty of consumers 10 years ago. So what happened to all the jobs?.

They were cut in 2008. There was actually only a very short term liquidity problem, but companies all thought that the economy would go bad, so cut staff. This resulted in the economy going bad....It was in part a self-fulfilling prophecy, and in part a feedback effect. --delmoi

I agree with Hanauer that cutting taxes on the rich (along with big deficit spending on two wars, bailouts, and expanding "entitlements") hasn't done enough to stop the glut in unemployment in the U.S. However, his idea that consumers create (sustainable) jobs is way over-simplified and not very accurate in my small mind. There are plenty of examples throughout the history of booms and busts where (over) consumption has led to bubbles and subsequent crashes. The U.S. and Europe are just recent examples. On a global level the middle class has grown more than any time in history and that hasn't helped us much. At the end he mentions "Taxing the rich and making investments that make the middle class grow and thrive" as a seeming solution without any detail on how this would work. Doesn't mention the fact that we've supposedly already been making these investments with the stimulus package and have coming problems with the deficit and growing entitlement programs. He doesn't talk about how companies are growing their workforce more overseas than at home or the growing competition from China, India, and elsewhere. Even if we do succeed in taxing the rich more, this is only a tiny part of what should be done (IMO), and even then we are dealing with an "article of faith" as we always are with the global economy where the best economic models have probably not been very predictive of our future. On the other hand, the fact that this sort of thing has happened so often throughout history does make me hope we will somehow get through this and be on our way to the next bubble and crash within a few decades.

By the same token, you could say that customers buying products is a "course of last resort." You'd always prefer not to part with your money, but you'll spend money if you decide it's worth it. -- Golden Eternity John Cohen
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:45 PM on May 18, 2012


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