Two VCs from Union Square Ventures’ liked what they heard in Hillary Clinton’s economic policy speech yesterday.
USV managing partner Fred Wilson writes on his personal blog that he thinks it’s important that Clinton brought up the on-demand economy (companies like Uber that rely on independent contractors rather than employees for their services), and the need to think critically about how Silicon Valley is changing the larger economy.
My view on these comments is that Hillary is right. These companies are creating exciting new economies and unleashing innovation. And she is also right that these companies raise questions about work place protections and what a good job will look like in the future.
We should not be afraid of this discussion. We should embrace it and have it.
Another partner at USV, Albert Wenger, went even further with his reaction. He writes that we need to entirely rethink the economic paradigm that we live in. “We need to move past traditional concepts of work and jobs towards an era of economic freedom enabled by a universal basic income and something akin to what I have called the right to be represented by a bot.”
Universal Basic Income is when the government gives everyone enough money to cover their basic needs such as food, shelter, and healthcare.
If people have their basic needs taken care of, Wenger argues, then they are free to use their work time to do things that they really want to do. He goes further:
Empowering individuals economically through a Universal Basic Income is just the start though. We also need to give individuals informational freedom. This means that if I am a driver for Uber I should have the right to access Uber through a third party app that strictly represents me. In the open web era that was the browser (not by accident referred to as a “user agent” in the http protocol). We need the equivalent for apps.
So instead of union protection, laborers would have an app (or a bot) to represent them. Is this more efficient? Maybe, when coupled with an income covering basic needs that’s not tied to employment (which is a great idea!).
Regardless of the details of Wilson’s and Wenger’s arguments, it does seem important that both policy makers and the drivers of this economic change are both willing to come to the table and talk about how this labour model is totally upending the economy.
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