This is an exciting time for the campaign. I appeared on Sam Harris’s podcast ‘Waking Up’ which led to hundreds of people donating and joining our campaign. Apparently everyone listens to Sam’s podcast. Sam is a voice of reason in a world that needs it and I appreciated the conversation a great deal.
I was also included in the Washington Post’s list of contenders for the Democratic nomination. I am less well-known than many others on this list, though that could change quickly.
Yesterday I was back in Providence, RI for an event with entrepreneurs Rajiv Kumar, Melissa Withers, Seth Goldenberg, and Charlie Kroll. The Providence Journal gave us a nice write-up. I spent the past six summers in Rhode Island in addition to my college years so it feels like home. They even play the same songs on the radio as they did in the 90s.
One big struggle in Rhode Island is that the young people often leave to seek opportunities in bigger markets like Boston or New York. Amelia Keane, the city councilwoman of Keene, New Hampshire commented on the same issue when I was there last week.
I’ve thought a lot about this. Here are the most common career paths for college graduates from top-ranked national schools:
This is a snooty elitist list but it illustrates the trends. College grads with lots of choices tend to pursue professional services or technology roles that congregate in a few cities: Boston, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, or Washington D.C. If you’re a high achiever from New Hampshire or Rhode Island and you get into a highly competitive school, the odds are that you’ll move to Boston or New York or San Francisco and your home state will never see you again.
The way that smaller communities have tried to combat this is by starting technology districts or incubators of their own. I supported this work with Venture for America and I believe in it very strongly. Yet the dynamics of winner-take-all industries like technology tend to reward those with access to the deepest pools of both talent and capital, and those tend to be in the big cities. Indeed, 75% of venture capital goes to just three states: New York, California, and Massachusetts.
This is one of the great challenges of this era — that so much money and human capital are converging in such a small number of places. For those who live in the coastal markets (“the bubble”), it shows up as elevated housing prices, a massive competition for school slots for your kids, and a race to win-at-all-costs just to survive. Those in other markets face the flipside of low rates of business formation and slow-growth opportunities. Right now, the divergence is higher than it has ever been. Since 2010, fewer than 1% of US counties generated half of the country’s new business establishments.
It’s dividing our society along fundamental economic lines. And the forces are getting stronger, not weaker.
This is one reason why I believe that Universal Basic Income is necessary. It would help rebalance our economy across regional lines.
Putting money into people’s hands independent of one’s employment would make everyone much more mobile. People who are getting priced out of New York or San Francisco could find moving to a more affordable region like New Hampshire or Colorado more appealing with an assured dividend that travels with them. And those seeking new opportunities could move to a more dynamic market without having a job lined up from day one, which is a very difficult proposition right now for most people. A $1,000 per month Freedom Dividend for adults would grow the regional economies of New Hampshire and Rhode Island by as much as 15% and create tens of thousands of new jobs in these states, making them more attractive places to live and work. More people would be able to start businesses around the things they value most with the security that their basic needs would be met. One can easily imagine a proliferation of bakeries, farm-to-table restaurants, and artisanal businesses in communities around the country.
Not every place will ever become Silicon Valley, nor should that be the goal.
I spent two years in New Hampshire and four years in Rhode Island. I look back very fondly at my times in both places. It’s natural for young people to want to spread their wings and explore new horizons. Yet for many communities, the choices that young people make as to where they want to build their careers and families will be some of the most impactful choices of all. If we succeed in giving them more appealing ways of life to choose from, we’ll all win.