Presidential contender Andrew Yang took the stage at Consensus 2019 on Wednesday, facing a friendly (if not slightly boisterous) crowd as he discussed bitcoin, blockchain and his bid for the White House.
Amid jokes about a possible YangCoin, Yang essentially pitched himself as a sympathetic friend of the crypto community in an appearance that came weeks after his campaign issued a policy statement on digital asset regulation.
He also opined on the declining influence of traditional media, the threat of climate change, his Freedom Dividend pitch, and current U.S. president Donald Trump (“The opposite of Donald Trump is an Asian candidate who likes math.”)
As CoinDesk reported in April, Yang promised “clear guidelines in the digital asset world so that businesses and individuals can invest and innovate in the area without fear of a regulatory shift,” a position that he reiterated during his onstage conversation with Coin Center’s Neeraj Agrawal.
He argued that the current framework in the U.S. is unclear and unfair to people working with the technology, saying:
“If you’re a builder it’s just ‘look, tell me what the landscape’s going to look like and we’ll figure it out from there’ but no one knows what the landscape will look like.”
For the record, Yang told CoinDesk after his talk that he doesn’t own any crypto but that he has some funds in a vehicle which has some crypto holdings.
On regulators’ practice of setting policy through enforcement actions rather than issuing guidance, Yang told CoinDesk:
“I think it’s unfair to folks and I think it’s a clear emblem of the U.S.’s approach, and [customers] ask ‘what the heck’ … It’s one thing that they [regulators] come down when there’s clear guidelines [but there aren’t in crypto]. So the regulators owe us some degree, owe the community some degree of clarity.”
Similarly, Yang acknowledged the digital privacy concerns that motivate many crypto users, telling the audience: “I’m sympathetic to members of the community who want to have more of these transactions occur in a non-monitored manner or context.”
Yang also offered some more light-hearted advice for crypto advocates. “Don’t eat, sleep and breathe [crypto] too much. Every once in a while go on a hike,” drawing laughs and a response from Agrawal: “I guess I should do that.”
‘One of the key technologies’
Looking ahead to his possible occupancy in the White House, Yang called blockchain “one of the key technologies” that he envisions forming part of a next-generation economy, and reiterated that he would be a friend to the industry should he prevail in the 2020 vote (not to mention the crowded Democratic Party primary, which begins in earnest this summer when the official debates begin).
“The work you’re doing is difficult…but it is the future,” he said. “If I’m in the White House oh boy are we going to have some fun.”
In the follow-up interview, Yang also highlighted the question of how tokens are classified (whether they’re commodities, securities, or something else), and reckoned that his push for clarity would in part focus on this area specifically.
Speaking to CoinDesk after the appearance, Agrawal struck a positive note about Yang’s perspectives on the technology and the regulatory hurdles the industry faces.
“It was remarkable to see a candidate think through the cryptocurrency policy issues as deeply as Andrew Yang has, and I think this bodes well for cryptocurrency leadership,” he said.
Photo by Wong Joon Ian