What follows is testimony submitted from Evan Baehr, Able cofounder, to the House Budget Committee of the US House of Representatives for the hearing, “Restoring the Trust for Young Americans,” September 9, 2015.
For years, I wanted to be you. I ran for city council (but lost). I worked at DC think tanks and as a legislative aide in Congress. I believed that public policy was the best avenue for social change. I no longer believe that. Thank you to Chairman Price for inviting me here to share why.
I met a man named Peter Thiel, who taught me it is precisely the people who want to “change the world” that should start companies instead of working for government or nonprofits. Peter brought this spirit to bear on many major public problems — and for each he created a company.
- Wrangle in the Fed? PayPal.
- Get to Mars? Space-X.
- Combat terrorism? Palantir.
The good news is that this spirit is alive among my generation. According to the Reason-Rupe Millennial Survey, 55 percent of millennials want to start a business — and not merely for financial gain, but also to improve the world around them.
When we are asked what factors lead to our ability to pull this off, we respond: hard work (61 percent), ambition (39 percent), and self-discipline (36 percent). At the bottom of that list — literally the lowest ranked option — is government programs. In fact, 53 percent say Social Security is unlikely to even exist when we retire.
So largely this means we are a go-it-alone generation. AngelList, LegalZoom, Amazon Web Services, Codecademy, and others have all democratized innovation in important ways. But here’s the problem: it isn’t just that government doesn’t get it; it’s that government stops many of us who do.
There are burgeoning tech industries such as genomics, mobile health, the quantified self, bitcoin, 3-D pri…