Andrew Yang: We Must Avoid Politicizing Crypto, Web3

Ensuring sensible regulation around crypto is crucial, former presidential and NYC mayoral candidate says


Andrew Yang | Source: Shutterstock


key takeaways

  • Perception of the digital asset space must move beyond “a bunch of crypto bros who are speculating,” according to Yang
  • The Forward Party, a political action committee that the former Democrat created in October, is seeking to become the movement that helps mainstream crypto technologies

Advocates of crypto and Web3 must get more politically involved to ensure innovation and growth are not impeded, according to former presidential candidate Andrew Yang.

Yang, who ran for president in 2020 and was a candidate for New York City mayor the following year, formed his own political organization in October.

Called the Forward Party, the political action committee focused on issues such as open primaries and ranked-choice voting. It is also looking to become the movement that helps mainstream crypto technologies, Yang explained.

Nearly four out of five voters would be more likely to support a candidate that supports expanding Web3, according to a December survey by venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz.

Politicians have been introducing legislation related to crypto in recent months. Two Democrats and two Republicans in Congress proposed a bill last week to make the daily use of digital assets more practical.

But Yang argues that many people still shrug when politicians speak in favor of, or against, crypto.

“What we have to do is activate the Web3 community to become a vital source of money, media and votes so that if a member of Congress takes a negative approach, then they pay a price at the polls,” Yang told Blockworks in an interview.

Though the Forward Party has not declared any endorsements or made any donations to candidates, it will look to support candidates that advocate for the growth of crypto, DeFi and Web3, according to a spokesperson. 

“Since democracy reform is our central issue, that carries more weight than their stance on these issues, so not all our endorsements will be of politicians who promote them,” the Forward Party representative added. “But it is a key consideration in every decision we make on that front.”

Check out more excerpts from Blockworks’ Ben Strack’s Q&A with Yang below:

Strack: What most excites you about the crypto space? 

Yang: The unprecedented wave of value creation and access to opportunity, where you have people who have been on the outside looking in all of a sudden in position to start exciting new businesses or driving new jobs.

The things I’m keeping track of are when creators have the ability to enjoy more of the value than they’re actually generating. In so many situations now, you have this entire network of toll takers and transaction costs and intermediaries, and Web3 has the potential to remove any barriers between creators and their supporters.

Strack: What are your takeaways from some of the recent Congressional hearings related to blockchain technologies?

Yang: On one hand, you can regard it as a good thing, because there’s some education going on. On the other hand, you can see that we’re in early days, because most members of Congress have only the most rudimentary familiarity with the space, the technology and the industry. 

This is a crucial time [when] we have to do everything we can to keep Web3 from being politicized.

If we can avoid that fate, then we can become an industry that continues to create billions of dollars of value and tens of thousands of jobs. So that’s something we have to be rushing towards as quickly as possible.

Strack: How might the industry seek to change the way it is perceived by some?

Yang: What has to happen is that the industry enjoys a broader perception.

Let’s say that we were to do a cryptocurrency pilot in a Black neighborhood in Ohio, and then the Democratic senator, Sherrod Brown, was to see that some of his constituents are able to access financial services in a way that they weren’t able to before. And then when he gets asked about the technology, he has a completely different perspective and outlook on it.

(Brown said, “There’s nothing democratic or transparent about a shady, diffuse network of online funny money,” during a hearing of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs in July. A spokesperson for the senator did not return a request for comment.) 

These are the kinds of things we have to be building so that the industry is not perceived frankly as a bunch of crypto bros who are speculating. We have to show that the real-life implementations can improve people’s lives.

Strack: How do you interpret the party divide around crypto?

Yang:  The Democrats represent the institutions, and right now they happen to have control of the government. So if you are a regulator in the [Securities and Exchange Commission] or an administrator in the Treasury Department…you’re going to want to regulate [Web3 and cryptocurrencies], and you’re probably going to have a fairly negative attitude about them.

In Republican circles, there’s a greater appetite for innovation and competition. There’s an overlap with libertarianism, so they would be more skeptical and dubious of regulation.

If we become a political football like so many other things in American life, then the outcome is likely to be like many other things we’ve seen where the pendulum swings, and that’s no way to build an industry. 

You can’t have it so that you have incredibly onerous regulations and then maybe one side is able to undo some of them, and then the other side comes back to power.

Strack: What are your thoughts on a US regulatory agency dedicated to crypto?

Yang: It’s a dream that should be a reality, but I’m going to say right now that it’s unlikely, because regulators like power.

This is a brand-new set of technologies and industry. It’s tough to categorize it as a security or a commodity or perhaps a currency, so you need a set of regulators who are dealing with this specifically who are more familiar and even expert in the technologies and different types of offerings. 

[They shouldn’t] just show up on the scene and treat everything like something else that they happen to be more familiar with.

Strack: How does the Forward Party plan on getting involved?

Yang: We are very pro-cryptocurrency as a means for immense value creation. The Forward Party wants to become the movement that helps mainstream these technologies.

I think the people in the cryptocurrency space don’t really fall into any conventional political ideology. Many of them are — like me — just focused and want to make the world better and make things more efficient.

Right now, it’s hard to find a political party that represents that. I want the Forward Party to represent that.

We need to get to work, because if we don’t, there are going to be some poorly thought-out regulations coming out of DC that have the potential to impede the growth and development of a trillion-dollar industry.

You hate politics — I get it. But let’s play and play to win. We’re smarter than these guys.

Strack: How should individuals be getting involved politically?

Yang: At present, the Web3 community is just starting to dip its toe into politics; it hasn’t regarded it as a top priority. This is a mistake, because there is a grave threat to the industry from overzealous regulation.

I’m the math guy, so let’s say that there is a 50% chance…that regulators do something stupid, and then let’s say that you think their approach has the potential to diminish the value of your current holdings by 40%. That’s essentially a 20% discount to your holdings that could conceivably already be baked in.

If you had a movement or a set of lobbyists or political organizations that you think reduce the threat by some proportion — let’s say by another 50% — you actually should be prepared to invest approximately 10% of your holdings in supporting Congressional candidates who are favorable to the industry, on lobbyists who can go to members of Congress, and say, ‘look, these regulations are unintelligent and will suppress innovation.’

No one likes to hear that you should probably be giving 10% of your holdings to these kinds of activities. It’s a drag…but it’s just math.

We’ve been allowed to grow, essentially left to our own devices, but that era is ending. At this point, I think the best approach is to expect some measure of regulation, and the goal has to be that it’s well thought out and intelligent and developed in connection with the leaders of the industry who want to continue to develop world-changing organizations and technologies.

Strack: Do you think you’ll run for office again?

Yang: Right now, I’m focused on doing what’s in front of me and trying to create or maintain as much value as I can. That includes preserving the potential of these technologies to improve the human condition.

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