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Peasants' Revolt
Big Tech Is Big Business

San Francisco is changing, and the old guard isn’t happy. Silicon Valley’s success is transforming America’s leftist paradise in to a Mecca for a new class of wealthy and technically savvy elites. The transition, and the gentrification and mainstreaming of what used to be counter culture has upset many, and we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg. New York Magazine reports:

In many ways, San Francisco is the nation’s new success theater. It’s the city where dreamers go to prove themselves—the place where just being able to afford a normal life serves as an indicator of pluck and ability. I had lunch the other day with a Harvard Business School student who belonged to a 90-­person section, of whom 12 were start-up entrepreneurs. You can imagine the whole dozen packing their bags for the West Coast after collecting their M.B.A.’s, thinking: If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere.

Which isn’t to say that San Francisco has pulled off this transition effortlessly. The city still has its lefty legacy, after all, and as the tech sector has grown into an economic powerhouse, so has resentment toward its elites. Protesters, angry about Silicon Valley’s effect on the local economy, are blockading tech-employee shuttles in the streets; in Oakland last year, a Google bus had its window shattered by a rock. San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, long suspected of being in the tech industry’s pocket, is accused of not doing enough to help the working class cope with rising costs and widening inequality. Although most right-thinking one-percenters cringed when venture capitalist Tom Perkins compared the treatment of the rich in San Francisco to the treatment of Jews by Nazis on Kristallnacht, the hostility he felt is real. Silicon Valley is exploding, as Wall Street did in the 1980s, as Detroit did in the 1940s. And as in those booms, not everyone is going along for the ride.

Read the whole thing; it’s important. San Francisco is the front line of a seismic cultural shift, felt more keenly by the millenials and now thirty-somethings who grew up enchanted by the hope-y change-y promise of Silicon Valley, which seemed at least as intent on making people’s lives better as it was on making money. That veneer is rubbing off in places now, as increasingly America’s best and brightest realize the potential ahead for tech companies in an information economy.

A peasants revolt is under way in the Bay Area, but the “weirdness” many might want to keep in San Francisco is fleeing before a tsunami of wealth, and as firms like Google, Facebook, Yahoo! and the like become the new blue chips of the US economy, there’s no going back. Pandora’s Box is open; it may be time to start looking for a new bastion of American liberalism.

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  • Andrew Allison

    This post is an example of false equivalence which, one most hope, was not written by WRM. The new class of wealthy and technically savvy elites is, by-and-large, young and liberal. To equate the frustration and envy of those who are being dispossessed by them with political leaning is, to be charitable, naive.

    • Boritz

      Yes, another front in the blue civil war.

    • Dain Fitzgerald

      But they’re comfortable with inequality, at least compared to those being dispossessed. The new culture clash pits libertarians – socially liberal but tolerant of wealth disparity and profit-making – as the the de facto conservatives of the new century. Socially progressive PLUS economically egalitarian remains liberal.

    • free_agent

      The new class may be liberal, but they’re not so liberal that they have a problem with pricing poorer people out of where they’ve lived for a long time. Were those guys back in college now, they’d be *protesting* the Google Bus.

      • Andrew Allison

        Ah yes, limousine liberals now joined by Google-bus liberals.

        • Boritz

          outdated term 🙂
          It’s Gulfstream liberals.

          • Andrew Allison

            I wouldn’t object to adding any class of liberal which will be completely unaffected by what they want to impose upon the rest of us. May I propose a portmanteau term: hypocriterals.

  • AllanDale

    San Francisco is a blue-collar tribal paradise. The Irish run the police department and the Italians control the fire department and the name of the game is to stick it to the gentry for ensured protection so their Monaco-by-the-Bay real-estate Ponzi can continue to appreciate. In reality, the burg is populated downmarket by nasty, right-wing-redneck retired military types who hate the government but love cashing their pension checks even as they applaud the right of sergeants York and Rock to exchange marital vows in the secular or religious temple of their choice. Upmarket, all you find are right-wing Irish Catholics like the Salon crowd whose favorite meme is “Better to ask forgiveness than permission!” which they constantly fondle like a rosary but although they may be currently registered as liberal Democrats, they are still descendants of the crowd that vomited Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan all over the national body politic.

    • PKCasimir

      My, my we certainly have no Allan a Dale here do we?

    • free_agent

      I’m not sure I even understand all that, but I *love* your rhetoric, man!

  • free_agent

    You write, “Silicon Valley is exploding, as Wall Street did in the 1980s, as Detroit
    did in the 1940s. And as in those booms, not everyone is going along
    for the ride.”

    But as WRM is fond of pointing out, when Detroit exploded in the 1940s, it hired tens or hundreds of thousands of blue-collar workers, and roughly everybody went along for the ride. Today, high tech is not hiring that way, although there’s some possibility it will mature into an industry large enough for mass employment.

    • rheddles

      there’s some possibility it will mature into an industry large enough for mass employment.

      There is?

    • Jim__L

      The whole point of Tech is to produce efficiencies — in other words, squeeze the number of people you need to hire down to a minimum.

      Something drastic is going to happen, one way or another. Patterns of employment are changing. We have an opportunity to return to the one-breadwinner (or one-and-a-half breadwinner) family, which would improve children’s (and, frankly, everyone’s) lives a hundredfold, or we could return to England’s caste system of servants and masters, or we could move to a socialist system of over-taxed, over-regulated producers and a mass of leeches.

      Guess which one I prefer.

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