Mark Zuckerberg: Government social services should 'give people the dignity and confidence to be entrepreneurial'

Mark Zuckerberg talking to the Chairman of the Tribal Council of Blackfeet Nation in Montana.
Photo courtesy Mark Zuckerberg | Facebook

Entrepreneurship has been good to Mark Zuckerberg. At 33 years old, the Facebook founder and CEO is worth north of $66 billion, according to Forbes.

Perhaps that's why he's on a mission help others become entrepreneurial.

During the most recent stop on his tour of all 50 U.S. states, at the Blackfeet Nation reservation in Browning, Montana, Zuckerberg used the community to illustrate how important comprehensive, smart social services are, as they help give people the support and freedom they need to thrive in business.

It's important to "set up these services well to give people the dignity and confidence to be entrepreneurial rather than making them feel helpless and dependent," says Zuckerberg in a Facebook post.

On the reservation, economic depression has resulted in an epidemic of drug and alcohol abuse among the people of Blackfeet and a life expectancy 20 years less than the national average, Zuckerberg says. Corruption in the tribal courts hinders outsiders from opening businesses in the area.

"The result is a feeling of helplessness," he writes.

Social services could help change that on the reservation, and in the rest of the country, according to Zuckerberg.

"A lot of what I saw comes back to the basic idea of freedom," explains Zuckerberg.

"If people have the freedom to do what they want — whether that's taking a chance on a new idea or building their community — the inherent creativity and goodness in people will help different parts of society flourish."

Zuckerberg makes a similar claim in his graduation speech at Harvard in May. He says part of what allowed him to learn to code as a teenager was that his parents supported him financially (his dad was a dentist). Because of that, he believes on a larger scale, billionaires like him ought to be paying for a social backstop like universal basic income.

"An entrepreneurial culture thrives when it's easy to try lots of new ideas," Zuckerberg says in the speech.

"I know lots of people who haven't pursued dreams because they didn't have a cushion to fall back on if they failed. … We should explore ideas like universal basic income to give everyone a cushion to try new things."

Also, at a recent tour stop in Alaska, Zuckerberg commended the state's cash handout program, funded by oil revenues.

"Seeing how Alaska put this dividend in place reminded me of a lesson I learned early at Facebook: organizations think profoundly differently when they're profitable than when they're in debt. When you're losing money, your mentality is largely about survival," writes Zuckerberg. "But when you're profitable, you're confident about your future and you look for opportunities to invest and grow further."

Zuckerberg is not alone in his calling for universal basic income. Elon Musk, for example, has said that he thinks universal basic income will be a necessity in the face of massive job loss as robots replace lower-skilled jobs.

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See also:

Elon Musk: 'Robots will be able to do everything better than us'

Alaska gives residents free cash handouts—here's what Mark Zuckerberg thinks everyone can learn from it

Mark Zuckerberg: Success comes from 'the freedom to fail,' so billionaires like me should pay you to do that

Mark Zuckerberg: Alaska's cash handout program "provides some good lessons for the rest of the country"
Mark Zuckerberg: Alaska's cash handout program "provides some good lessons for the rest of the country"