Al Gore on Valley libertarianism and Uber: "Disruption can be extremely healthy."

By Carmel DeAmicis , written on June 10, 2014

From The News Desk

If libertarianism is the prevailing political climate of Silicon Valley, then Al Gore is the resident who didn’t bring an umbrella. After all, this is the man who ran for President on the democratic ticket, championing values libertarians would vomit over like expanding public services such as healthcare, education, and the environment.

But at the same time, Gore is a partner at Kleiner Perkins and even an investor in libertarian-leaning startups like Uber. Are the seemingly incongruous values of Randian Kalanick and publicly-minded Gore not so contradictory after all? At Southland this morning, Sarah Lacy asked Gore about whether he thinks legal disruption, ala Napster and Uber, is a good thing.

“I don’t think it’s a binary choice, good or bad,” Gore says. “Disruption can be extremely healthy, no question. But there’s a lot of others out there who understand, as I strongly believe, that having adequate investments in public goods is absolutely crucial.”

Then he gave the audience a bit of a history lesson. He believes that in the Cold War the presence of communism kept a balance between “capitalism” and “democracy” in the democratic capitalism ideology. In other words, communism was the enemy that kept the two philosophies united.

But once communism collapsed and the Berlin Wall came down, it ended the era of cohesion between them.  “All of a sudden the long held passionate belief on the part of some in America and elsewhere in the democratic capitalist sphere said, ‘Wait a minute, capitalism is so good it can take over some of the decisions made in democracy,’” Gore remembers. “In some areas that made some sense. But in other areas it does not.”

He cited all the areas he believes the private sector can’t run properly. Education. Transportation. Healthcare. He argued that although the day could come when technology advances change that, at the moment we have rising levels of inequality and chronic underinvestment in key areas like mental health care and environment protection.

“95 percent of all the additional national income in the U.S., since the recovery began in ’09, goes to the top one percent. That’s not an Occupy Wall Street slogan, that’s a fact!” Gore says. He believes we have to reassess our way of putting adequate investments into public goods, citing the global warming pollution going into the atmosphere every year as one example.

“If we’re going to throw our lot in with capitalism then let’s put a price not just on the things easily monetized but the other things important to us also,” Gore says. “Let’s put a price on carbon pollution.”

[photo by Geoffrey Ellis]