Editor’s Note, from Elizabeth:
Here’s a story I’m following:
Andreessen Horowitz, one of the biggest Silicon Valley venture funds, is undertaking a well-financed lobbying campaign to influence international regulations on digital currencies.
This is a much bigger deal than it sounds. Digital currencies, cryptocurrencies or “crypto” are having deep effects across finance. Bitcoin, for instance, is turning into an alternative asset class – you could think of it like gold, essentially untethered from any measure of productivity and thus very volatile. Blockchain technology has the potential to affect how transactions are cleared – this is the hidden, powerful work in the middle of the financial system. And cryptocurrencies like Ethereum are resulting in innovation in consumer finance, like the ability to do cross-border transactions without the cost that comes with national currency.
Sorry if I’m sounding in the weeds! The important thing to know is this is revolutionary technology. The question that regulators are grappling with is how to achieve the promise of digital currency to democratize finance and increase access for people around the world, while protecting the system from corruption and manipulation by bad actors.
In its lobbying campaign, Andreessen Horowitz is trying to position itself as an expert acting in the common interest. This is the firm that helped create Silicon Valley’s ruthless brand of capitalism, which builds companies that are incredibly profitable by virtue of their size and dominance. Silicon Valley’s libertarian, market-oriented mindset means that the consequences for society are rarely considered.
Andreessen Horowitz is an investor in Facebook (Marc Andreessen still sits on the board), Airbnb, Robinhood and Instacart – and dozens or hundreds of other companies, many in the crypto space. Coinbase, for instance, is a cryptocurrency exchange.
To do its crypto lobbying, Andreessen Horowitz has hired people including Tomicah Tillemann, who reached the inner circles of Washington elites with a combination of smarts and – usually more important in Washington — family connections. He’s the grandson of Tom Lantos, a former Congressman, friend of the Bidens, and a Holocaust survivor, who died in 2008. The family still runs the Lantos Foundation, a human rights advocacy organization.
Here’s his job description, which strikes a chill: “Tomicah Tillemann is a partner and Global Head of Policy for the a16z crypto team, where he builds public policy architecture to support the next generation of the internet.”
Someone asked me, what’s Andreessen Horowitz’s angle here? Based on the firm’s history, the angle is simple: How do we control the crypto regulatory system to benefit our companies, and therefore, ourselves? The self-interest is baked into the culture. Given the complexity of the topic and Andreessen Horowitz’s resources, it will be hard for regulators to stay one step ahead. If you want to look at Tilleman in action and get a sense of how important and how complicated the push-me-pull-you between crypto and the world’s financial regulators will be over the next few years, watch this session: https://www.brettonwoods.org/article/global-standards-for-digital-currencies-0
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