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Friday, September 11, 2015

Age of the Unicorn

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II In Milan
The Nation has a story about the surge of hugely valued venture capital funded start-ups. The huge value is totally pie-in-the-sky. Anything's value is determined by what someone is willing to pay for it, and while some people might claim to be willing to pony up a huge amount of cash to purchase this thing, if the thing is not for sale, does their offer even count? No, it doesn't.

What I see is a group of people with a great deal of money who are willing to bet on some long shots. No surprise there, that is what venture capital is all about.

The other thing I see is that they are doing some really trivial things (like order a taxi with a smart phone) that are taking advantage of the huge pool of underemployed young adults. Would you rather make $200 a day driving a cab for 12 hours, or spend 8 hours over a hot grill and make $100? This is stuff that could have been done 50 years ago, except everyone was busy making real money back then. These guys are finding niches in the existing market and exploiting them. Nothing wrong with that, but it is not going to cause a fundamental change in our society, which is what we really need.

What would make a huge, positive difference would be the negative income tax. If everybody was getting a subsistence allowance, we could eliminate:

  • welfare
  • minimum wage laws
  • unemployment compensation
and all the bureaucracies that go with them.

The Republicans would love to see the minimum wage laws go away. The pay for a lot of jobs would drop to $1 an hour, but if you add that to your weekly dole you'd at least be able to buy beer on the weekend.

Then again, it might be the end of civilization as we know it. But I kind of think we are on the road to hell now, so trying something radical might be a good idea.

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