Cicero Institute

Cicero Institute

Enabling entrepreneurs to solve America’s toughest civic problems

Principles & Commitments

The Cicero Institute harnesses public-sector entrepreneurship to address America’s most pressing problems.

Too often, our dynamic innovation economy and the most pressing needs of our society are ships passing in the night. Entrepreneurs have brought innovation, dynamism, and progress to many industries, but a lack of market frameworks and dense meshes of rules and restrictions block innovators from contributing to areas where disruption is needed most: healthcare, education, regulation, transportation, housing, and prisons. Instead, the systems governing these areas are increasingly rigged and extractive, not free and open, giving ill-gotten gains to the connected instead of rewarding ideas and implementations that best benefit the citizenry.

The Cicero Institute aims to reverse this trend by removing these barriers for innovation and creating opportunities for entrepreneurs to contribute to the public good. We partner with today’s Ciceros: public-spirited policymakers who courageously oppose cronyism and special interests for the sake of the common good. Together, we design bipartisan policy frameworks that foster entrepreneurial innovation by opening our country’s most pressing civic responsibilities – cheap and high-quality healthcare, workforce-ready students, affordable housing, smart and adaptive regulation, and reduced inmate recidivism – to fair and open competition.

Our conviction is that America’s best days are yet ahead of her, and that our path to this ever-brighter future lies not in top-down fiat, but in solving the challenges that confront us with America’s most precious and powerful resources: the human ingenuity and hard work of its citizens. Our mission is to help public servants work with entrepreneurs to make this vision a reality.



Fields of Focus

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Regulation

The American regulatory regime is broken. Decades of poor planning have witnessed the uncontrollable metastasis of thousands upon thousands of restrictive and ineffective regulations. These outdated rules cost the economy trillions of dollars every year. The causes are systemic. Administrators create rules with limited public input, and are therefore blind to the true consequences of their decisions. Overwhelmed by the sheer size of the paper trail, legislators lack the time or ability to fight an avalanche of rules. Meanwhile, special interests have had an unfair advantage in pushing favorable policies because key elements of the regulatory process are opaque to the public. Missing data and siloed policy knowledge have created a rocky regulatory landscape for public and private sector stakeholders. Regulatory solutions must begin with transparency and measurement, as enabled by advances in information technology.

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Healthcare

America spends over $3.2 trillion on healthcare per year and 26% of federal government spending. Healthcare spending accounts for 18% of GDP, or roughly 1 in 5 dollars spent in America. One-third of all American healthcare expenditures are pure waste. Consequently, US healthcare expenditures are twice the OECD average with no improvement to American health outcomes – and with no end in sight. As Larry and Sergey pointed out in a recent interview, “Health is just so heavily regulated, it’s just a painful business to be in…The regulatory burden in the US is so high that it dissuades a lot of entrepreneurs.” Streamlining regulation in the healthcare sector to allow sharing and analysis of medical data is vital to ensuring that our society can sustainably provide affordable, quality care for all Americans in the decades to come.

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Transportation

America faces a mounting transportation crisis. The primary culprit is road congestion. Americans spend 7 billion hours a year sitting in traffic, crippling both our individual health and national economic productivity. Commuting costs keep many Americans locked out from urban hubs, which are centers of innovation and economic opportunity. Worse, infrastructure financing has dried up: American roads are falling apart, with an $836 billion backlog of capital needs, but the Highway Trust Fund is insolvent. Our country must massively expand construction of new lane-miles and alternative infrastructure such as tunnels and high-speed railways in order to follow the road to prosperity.

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Education

Education reform is the best solution to the challenges of short-term technological unemployment and the skills gap in the American labor force. In the coming decades, many conventional forms of work will be automated. Fortunately, there are currently 5.5 million unfilled jobs and counting in the US labor market, and new jobs are emerging in such sectors as the science, technology, healthcare, and service industries. We believe that a combination of high school apprenticeships and a carefully managed for-profit higher education system will allow Americans to develop the skills necessary to pursue their vocations, jumpstarting growth and innovation in every community.

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Housing

The lack of affordable housing in America’s high-growth cities is crippling growth, exacerbating regional inequality in the form of racial, income, and age-based segregation, and destroying equality of opportunity in American society. A recent study estimated that lowering regulatory constraints in the most productive American cities to the level of the median American city would increase U.S. GDP by 9.5%, generating over $32 trillion over the course of the next decade. The culprit for America’s undersupply of housing is “Not In My Back Yard” or “NIMBY” syndrome, as manifested in restrictive land use regulations. While regulatory reform must remain at the heart of any housing strategy, shifting cultural attitudes is a critical element as well.

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Prisons

The United States has the highest incarceration rate of any developed country, housing 2.3 million inmates, or nearly a quarter of the world’s prison population. Of this population, 14% are serving life or virtual life (50+ year) sentences. Overzealous prosecutors and strict minimum sentencing laws are undoubtedly major reasons why so many Americans are behind bars, and common-sense statutory reform is necessary. But perhaps even more shocking is the fact that 80% of American criminals re-offend once released from prison. Any adequate solution to America’s prison catastrophe must place rehabilitation at the heart of the incentives structure for both public and private prisons. We are excited by work in the non-profit sector to teach prisoners entrepreneurship skills and reintegrate them into their communities, as well as the prospect of creating market incentives for private prisons to reduce recidivism rates rather than “warehouse” prisoners. A legal framework which encourages bright, entrepreneurial members of society to iterate on the best ideas for helping ex-convicts lead rewarding and successful lives is key to real prison reform.

Articles

The Healing Game

State governments should competitively reimburse private prisons that are most effective at reducing recidivism and helping prisoners reintegrate into normal American life. Only by rewiring incentives can we attract the best and brightest entrepreneurs to solving America's mass incarceration nightmare.

Fight Traffic With Congestion Pricing

America faces a mounting transportation crisis, and the primary culprit is road congestion. Traffic makes us unhealthy, wastes enormous amounts of time, and cripples national productivity. America needs expanded roads and transportation infrastructure, but traditional gas tax funding is no longer available.

“May no man’s fortunes fail to correspond with his services to our country!”

– Cicero

Advisors

Joe Lonsdale

Joe Lonsdale is an American entrepreneur and technology investor; he founded Palantir, Addepar, OpenGov and other companies, and is a Partner at 8VC, his venture capital fund. Along with friends and colleagues, he is building the Cicero Institute to help policymakers and entrepreneurs work together on society’s challenges.

Tayler Lonsdale

Tayler Lonsdale is Co-founder & Board Director at Esper, a regulatory technology company powering proactive and productive public administration. She is also an Advisor at Medal and on the Board of Directors at Argive. Previously, she worked with New Oriental co-founder, Xu Xiaoping, to build Zhen Fund, now a leading early stage investment group in China. From 2014-2015 she led Palantir's largest healthcare customer deployment, where she oversaw software development for population health and provider network management. She is a graduate of Stanford University where she received a B.A. in Human Biology and M.S. in Management Science and Engineering. Tayler is also a member of P.E.O., a nationwide philanthropic organization that raises scholarships for women’s higher education.

Clay Spence

Clay works on writing, editorial, and research projects at 8VC. His work is multidisciplinary, ranging from diligence on specific industries and macroeconomic forecasting to humanistic pursuits in history, politics, and ethical philosophy. He works on exploring the relationship between the microcosm of Silicon Valley and the wider social landscapes of culture, government, and markets. Prior to joining 8VC, Clay completed a Philosophy, Politics, and Economics major at Claremont McKenna, where he specialized in population ethics and Baruch Spinoza. His particular interests include the history of finance, evolutionary biology, and contemporary political theory.

Shlomo Klapper

Shlomo Klapper is a J.D. Candidate at the Yale Law School in the Class of 2020. Before law school, he worked as a behavioral researcher in Dan Ariely’s lab at Duke University, at Palantir in both the Commercial and Government sectors, and as a speechwriter for Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations. Shlomo graduated summa cum laude with a B.S. in Economics from the Wharton School and a B.A. in History from the University of Pennsylvania.

Connor McCarthy

Connor works directly with Joe Lonsdale and portfolio companies to coordinate and advance policy efforts. Prior to 8VC, Connor was a partner on the market development team at Andreessen Horowitz where he worked on proactive deal sourcing for prospective investments and go-to-market strategy for portfolio companies. He previously worked on product and sales at GiveCampus, a Y-Combinator backed company that builds technology for charitable giving. He also worked as a research assistant at Capitol Counsel, where he supported partners on healthcare and tax policy work. Connor received an AB with Honors in Philosophy and a minor in African-American Studies from Georgetown University.

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