Update 09-12-14: A reader writes that Joel Kotkin will be speaking at the ERC “The Big Splash 2015″ – ERC’s Annual Tribute to Business Success and Leadership January 29, 2015 @ The Veterans’s Memorial Hall, Grass Valley – 3:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
The title of this post was a question posed by our local left leaning blogger on April 10, 2009, who is a Silicon Valley transplant. He moved from the Bay Area to Nevada County after a long career covering the high tech industry in Silicon Valley. In his mind we have a lot to learn from the folks on the Coast about economic development.
I am reading Joel Kotkin’s new book The New Class Conflict. He makes the case that America’s real class problems are deeper, and more damaging than the typical election rhetoric about class warfare. As I read the text on my Kindle I am drawn to the parallels in our own community.
According to Kotkin, California is an indicator of where the nation is headed, and it’s not an attractive destination. At the core of his argument is the emergence of a technology driven Oligarchy in Silicon Valley. According to Kotkin, Silicon Valley hosts a group of super-wealthy tech oligarchs with almost unimaginable wealth. These oligarchs feel free, and even entitled, to choose the direction of society in the name of a greater good, but somehow their policies seem mostly to make the oligarchs richer and more powerful.
These oligarchs were the primary backers of the AB-32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, which was written to restrict the use of fossil fuels. They were the main funders of the opposition to Prop 23, with large donations by Tom Steyer a venture capitalist who made his money in oil and natural gas, eBay and TechNet a technology-led lobbying group, that includes Apple, Google, and Yahoo, venture capitalist John Doerr, and billionaire Vinod Kholsa formerly with Sun Microsystems. Many in this group are poised to make huge sums from alternative energy and government subsidies.
They were making the rules to their own benefit, which is making it harder for middle class businesses to survive in California. According the Kotkin environmental regulations a much larger burden on small business than the businesses of the oligarchs and the growing and expanding NGO’s that they fund.
I am finding that Kotkin’s book confirms many of my observations on who was behind the global warming legislation, a Silicon Valley oligarchy which was assisted by what Kotkin calls the “clerisy” class — an amalgam of academics, media and government employees who play the role that medieval clergy once played in legitimizing the powerful, and in implementing their policies while quelling resistance from the masses.
By his own admission, our local lefty blogger was part of this Clerisy class, and is still struggling to exert his influence in the community with his publications and blogs. His wife edits the GoNevadaCounty web page.
What have we learned from Silicon Valley? Do we meed our own Oligarchy, our own version of the Clerisy? Or, has Silicon Valley done enough to hollow out our middle class and create a community of haves and have-nots?
Your thoughts are most welcome.
I am only one-third through the book, but I highly recommend every Californian read the The New Class Conflict.