Silicon Valley, although it’s been instrumental since World War II in driving innovation in the US, is really America’s best answer to what happened to the country economically in the 1970s, as destructive monetary policies and scleroticizing bureaucratic liberalism became ascendant. The new beliefs in equal representation in the workplace and fairness over excellence tended to be subverted on the west coast.
The region and the influential institutions there (like Stanford) were willing to sacrifice William Shockley’s reputation and career to the beasts in the east, and after feeding the man to them, they were mostly granted some leeway to discriminate in hiring based on effective intelligence.
Speaking of intelligence, the long-standing links between Silicon Valley, the military-industrial complex, and America’s signal intelligence organization, the NSA, have also been helpful in fending off the regulatory state. So have all the enormous donations to the Democratic party as well as the warm relations with the Bill Clinton / Robert Rubin team, the cooperation of which made the modern commercial internet possible. Without the tax incentives and deliberately light regulatory hand placed on the web, there’s no way that these industries could have grown in the way that they have in the last couple decades.
It’s not even particularly clear that any contemporary president could tolerate an independently minded Treasury Secretary. The last time one of them tried to be responsible, he was sacked and publicly excoriated. So now, the only people who can be considered for such jobs are servile cronies who don’t even make a pretense of taking a helpful long-term action.
Over the last several years, the relationship between Washington (and its orbiters) and Silicon Valley has become more strained. This strain seemed to become worse when many prominent executives went to the White House to issue personal complaints following the repeated embarrassments created by dissidents/traitors like Edward Snowden and the rest. This has been countered recently with Washington demanding that network security be nationalized, which would force these companies to give up a lot of autonomy in return of what would probably be much less security.
Further, the public humiliation and libel of one of the co-founders of Palantir in the pages of the New York Times Magazine is an important indicator of how willing people in Washington are to dispose of some of their closest partners in building and maintaining its global surveillance network. For context, Palantir is a company that, among other functions, makes it easier for our friends in the intelligence agencies to make intercepts and publicly available data more intelligible in a social context to analysts and other spook types.
So, why is Washington and its friends giving so much guff to its own creation? Probably because the level of political talent at the highest levels in politics is declining, so they are doing stupid and self-destructive things. Allowing economic competition also puts pressure on many of the Democrats’ other corporate clients. “Disruption” sounds cool when it’s lifting the values of government pension funds, but it sounds awful when it’s vaporizing a corporation that lards your campaign coffers and employs your constituents.
Silicon Valley likes to portray itself as maverick and independent — the digital frontier — but it’s really more of a protected romper room. Washington can destroy what it created at any particular time, and can use that capacity to push the companies there this way and that way.
The pressure to make the digital economy more like the decaying and destroyed corporations that play by the rules is increasing in part because Washington has more ideological dependents that it needs to get jobs for in order to maintain its power base. They know that these profitable firms could afford to employ more useless people in profitable make-work jobs. Using the press and other means of intimidation, they can get what they want.
Some people are upset and incensed by this, but really it’s just another halfway-competent sovereign hungry for golden gooseflesh.
This notion that the American right should ride to the defense of a business community that, politically and in terms of the inclinations of most of the rank-and-file, are in the tank for the Democrats, is just ridiculous. After the same business community, as one of its first major political initiatives, tries to open up immigration even further (solidifying the power of the left permanently) — and fails — it starts feebly making motions to get support from the same people that it has contempt for.
Democrats throttling their own supporters to death should be mostly seen as a good thing, even if it’s having deleterious effects on enterprises which have done a fair amount of good for the world. The other advantage to this is that it encourages the others to watch an obese and crazy Titan devour some of its own children.
And, frankly, even if the American right wanted to defend the Valley against the same hungry hungry horde of feminists eager for make-work jobs, it couldn’t do it, so they’re really locked in a cage of their own making with a beast that they’ve been feeding for years.
Hope all that time smoking dope and building the perfect Harry Potter-themed polyamorous community made you tough enough to handle an insane monster eager to rip out your guts and bite your head off.
Remember The Yankee and Cowboy War
Interesting. In this case, the cowboys want to lose, so they’ll lose.
An example of Silicon Valley communism involving some of my closer acquaintances.
The “Off Camera Guy” is a self-described liberal from NYC working at tech firm that preaches diversity. Initially, he feels shitty about “neighborhood scumbags” not letting him use a field that he reserved. (He ended up giving them most of the field.)
However, the temporary guilt he felt was not enough. Later, the cell phone video surfaces and he gets doxxed. His life goes downhill: he has to apologize to his employer and to the public, the employer struggles to contain the PR blip, he nearly loses his mid-career job and he gets a good online shaming. He better learn to be a good liberal in the future, and let his superiors do what they like with him.
Good lord, that comment section took a few years off of my life.
You should see the youtube comments. That will leave with only a few days left to live.
Modern liberalism is a vengeful, bitter “it.”
You couldn’t be more right. I’ve been watching the creeping entrance of Washington into Silicon Valley and vice versa. In fact, I wrote a quick blog post about Silicon Valley and creeping bureaucracy. Keep up the amazing thought!
“So, why is Washington and its friends giving so much guff to its own creation? ”
It sounds very one-sided when you put it like this. I would at least consider the possibility that it was actually Silicon Valley that provoked it by abusing its privilege. (And also by being carried by technological drift towards a situation where it’s encroaching on things that no government can ignore.)
The computer industry in recent decades has indeed, by some strange customary law, been allowed to operate in a laissez-faire way that’s unimaginable in almost any other area of business nowadays. However, in recent years, two trends have emerged that have made this state of affairs increasingly untenable. First, as the internet has become mainstream, large internet companies have become an important part of the big-megaphone mass media complex. This necessarily draws government scrutiny. (Indeed, by sheer natural selection, no modern-day government could survive if its institutions were incapable of controlling something that has mass propaganda potential). Second, there have been increasing attempts at arbitrage where a business operating in some heavily regulated market tries to present itself falsely as belonging to the computer industry, in order to claim the de facto “Silicon Valley exemption” from regulation. Clearly, this is going to cause trouble.
In other words, the world of computer industry was able to operate in its peculiar way only because it was far from any commanding heights of influence over public opinion, and also far from the turf of any entrenched rent-seeking interests. Unfortunately, both conditions are no longer true.
It was set up that way as a digital free market zone, as made clear by Clinton’s speeches at the time. That was the idea behind it. The Democrats ran interference on their own underlings for that purpose. Now they’re off the leash.
Article published today reinforces your core thesis…
I may or may not have an inside line. Thanks for dropping this link here.
My pleasure. Love the work you’re doing.
The sad truth is that the Great Digital Revolution of 1975-2010 was just about out of steam when The Cathedral started putting its mitts on it in earnest anyway. Those 35 years (running from the founding of Microsoft to the introduction of the iPad) were indeed a “hockey stick”, but that kind of explosive period of innovation and growth is not sustainable for very long in any technological field. Eventually it’s going to plateau, and from there you’ll get incremental improvements, but nothing completely game-changing. The car you drive, for example, is incrementally better than one made 50 years ago in many ways (and maybe worse in a couple others – it’s almost certainly less stylish, and likely less roomy as well), but it’s not exponentially better. The 787 you might get into to fly to Paris today is a better airliner than the 707 you would have gotten on in 1965, but again, incrementally, not exponentially so. Certainly, the improvements in both automotive and aircraft technology have been much less in the 50 years going forward from 1965 to now than they were in the 50 years going backward from 1965 to 1915. That’s just the way technology works.
That said, whatever remaining innovation there may be left in Silicon Valley is about to be drained out of it by the pack of vampires headquartered in Washington, after which we’ll get back to the predictable pattern of the past half-century – the Asians will catch up with us, will learn to produce a technology that we invented more cheaply and reliably than we can, and will kick our asses in the market. As for what happens next, well… look at pictures of Detroit in 1965, and now. Or maybe if we’re lucky, that won’t be what happens, and they’ll just end up turning Silicon Valley back into almond orchards instead.
You see now why I left CA a few years ago. If the leadership in SV had been stiffer and less willing to bend to DC, there would be a chance. Now, no way.