What is new today is not just technological change, but the possibility that workers might be able to be as productive on their own as within a firm, having access to the same global distribution and production regimes.  That is what is truly new, that an independent person can function as a multi-national, sourcing and selling globally through digital platforms. The longing many Americans feel for owning their own business, the celebration of entrepreneurship in our culture, and our homesteading heritage are not just about money—or buying houses. The rise of the new economy, as the last election showed, has left many people, especially rural people, behind. This new reality of our decentralized economy, however, offers the possibility of returning to our core American values of security and independence.

America struggled with the last great economic transition, industrialization, as we struggle with digitalization today. We worried as independent farmers became dependent wage-workers. In response, the federal government in the 19th century passed the Homestead Act to provide farmland. The aim was to make our citizenry independent—farming was just the way to accomplish this goal. Americans today do not need farm land, but they do need other kinds of basic security—healthcare, education, maybe even a universal basic income—to take the risks upon which success depends. Americans need life security, not job security. We need to separate “benefits” from jobs, which would liberate our corporations and our workers. A minimum safety net enables maximum risk taking, unleashing the true growth potential of capitalism.

Today, as our industrial jobs are being eliminated, we have a chance to rediscover this older American Dream of independent work. From 2005 to 2015, 94% of net new jobs came from outside full-time, permanent work. The employee receiving a regular wage or salary is giving way to independent contractors, consultants, temps and freelancers. Through digital labor and selling platforms, like Upwork and Etsy , niche producers of goods and services can make a living in a long-tail, global marketplace. In doing so, we can restore the independence lost in the industrial economy while retaining the benefits of rising productivity—which is the source of all wealth.

Embracing the new reality of flexible, digital work, rather than fighting it, we can find a way to provide a new American Dream that is, in essence, the oldest one of all: independence and security.