Plutocrats, Here Come the Pitchforks! (Says a Plutocrat)

Billionaire entrepreneur Nick Hanauer has a message for his fellow plutocrats: Wake up before the pitchforks are at our gates.

In this stimulating TED talk, Hanauer urges his fellow 0.01 percenters to get behind a national $15 minimum wage because doing so is good for business and because if they don’t, a popular uprising is inevitable. The fundamental operating principle of capitalism, he argues, is that when the middle class has money, businesses have customers, which means demand, which means profits, which means more workers. It is not, he argues, capitalism’s raison d’etre to make sure a handful of people become excruciatingly wealthy.

This brief talk is filled with pithy observations and quotable quotes but, beyond that, it is powerful medicine that needs to be heeded if this country is to survive in anything resembling its present form. Early in the talk, Hanauer says, “If wealth, power, and income continue to concentrate at the very tippy top, our society will change from a capitalist democracy to a neo-feudalist rentier society like 18th-century France. That was France before the revolution and the mobs with the pitchforks.”

I encourage you to take 20 minutes to listen to Mr. Hanauer. He’s right. And the time he forecasts is fast approaching.

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