I had a discussion with Alexis Assadi, a financier and the CEO of Pacific Income Capital Corporation. He has experience as a real estate lender, but, as you will notice, is also happy to discuss policy, economics, and technology.
Alexis Assadi and I talked about his dream investment, his thoughts on automation and its potential impacts on the workforce. We also went into ride-hailing apps like Uber. You can follow Alexis Assadi on Twitter.
Imagine for a second that you have $1 million to invest in anything. You’re willing to lose it all because $1 million isn’t a lot of money to you. What would you buy? What’s your dream investment?
Well, to be clear, I am a long, long, long way from having that kind of money! But I think it would be fun to start a cigar and whiskey bar. I imagine it has an old, rustic feel to it with oak wood and leather chairs.
Members would have their own lockers where they can store their drinks. It would be a place to talk shop with business partners. There are a couple of similar places in New York City that I enjoy. I’d want to have something like that in Vancouver.
However, I’m sure the local regulations would be fairly prohibitive. I wonder how much of that $1 million would be allocated towards legal fees.
California is bringing legislation that would require ride-hailing apps, like Uber and Lyft, to treat their drivers as employees instead of as independent contractors. What do you think about that?
I am supportive of regulations when they protect people and make sense. But I can’t get behind this one. Being an Uber driver is not meant to be a full-time or traditional job. You work when you want to, for as long as you want to.
That’s the nature of the gig economy. The tradeoff, however, is that the company does not have to take care of you. You don’t get benefits or vacation time, for example.
If ride-hailing drivers are going to be classified as employees, then they should be treated as such. That means, for instance, working from 9 am to 5 pm with a 30-minute lunch break each day. That means no social media or meeting with friends during the workday.
That means accountability and hitting targets. That means reporting to a manager. I doubt many people will want that.
The furthest place I can get on the side of regulation here is to perhaps give drivers an option: Either become an employee or don’t. But even that doesn’t sit well with me because it can have other implications for the gig economy. Basically, California’s government is trying to force a type of business into something that it’s not.
Andrew Yang, a presidential candidate in the United States, wants to provide all Americans with a guaranteed income of $1,000 per month.
He calls this a “Freedom Dividend,” although it’s formally known as a Universal Basic Income. Mr. Yang believes that people will need it as more jobs are replaced by automation. What are your thoughts?
I think Andrew Yang has his finger on the pulse with respect to the impacts of technological development. Automation is and will continue to be a threat to human employment.
He gets that and is looking for a way to mitigate the downside, notwithstanding the benefits that come with automation.
I like the concept of a universal basic income. I believe that all people should be granted a minimum standard of living. Food, clean water, shelter, medicine, and toiletries must all be guaranteed. A universal basic income would help create a baseline.
To be clear, I don’t advocate for all people to have the same standard of living. I think the story of communism vs. capitalism in the 20th century showed us that it’s not realistic.
However, a person cannot be a productive member of society without the basics. How is one supposed to feel a sense of dignity, let alone work hard and contribute, if they can’t afford to brush their teeth or sleep in a bed?
I know I’ve had days where I felt down, depressed, doubtful and did not want to get out of bed in the morning. But I have the resources to battle my demons.
At the absolute least, I can rest and recharge in a comfortable home. I can’t imagine tackling my problems – which are comparatively tiny – in an environment where I couldn’t even make ends meet. In fact, I’m sure it would send me on a downward spiral.
A universal basic income would not just serve the impoverished. Rather, its greatest group of beneficiaries would be those who are strapped for cash.
That’s about 75% of the population in the West. It would give them a financial buffer so that they don’t have to live check-to-check. For example, for most people, losing one’s job would be a cataclysmic event. A universal basic income would offset some of that risk.
With all of that said, I am curious about the unintended economic effects that a universal basic income might produce. For example, would it lead to inflation?
Would companies raise their prices knowing that consumers have more cash to spare? I would like to hear what reputable economists think about it before I go all in.
Like most other ideas, I don’t think a universal basic income can be effective in a vacuum. It must be accompanied by sensible regulations, adequate social safety nets and substantial investments into health care and education.
You clearly follow politics. Would you ever be interested in running for elected office at the local level? Could there be an “Alexis Assadi for City Councillor” poster one day? Perhaps an even higher office?
No, never. I enjoy following politics and I think it’s important to be informed. But I have no desire to be part of it except as a voter. I think I would have a challenging time dealing with the back-biting, posturing, groveling and viciousness inherent in it.
Politics is also, by definition, public. You are held to account for everything, including your personal life, and it can be embarrassing. An egregious example of unwanted exposure occurred recently in Canada.
A photo was released of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wearing brown face paint almost 20 years ago. That triggered a pretty big scandal. It may well affect his chances for re-election.
I value my privacy. I don’t need people picking apart everything I’ve said and done since I was ten years old. I don’t want to be afraid to say something because it might not poll well.
I believe that government service is honorable and I’m grateful for those who do it. But it’s not for me.