Skip to Content

Silicon Valley’s Call to Secede Shows How Out of Touch It Is

Clamoring for California to leave the U.S. is little better than Donald Trump’s plan to build a border wall with Mexico.
November 10, 2016

Silicon Valley is right to be rattled by the election of Donald Trump to the presidency. But some in the Valley are now suggesting that California secede from the U.S.—a small-minded, knee-jerk response that a community of entrepreneurs and venture capitalists should know better than to embrace.

Both Bloomberg and the New York Times say that “Silicon Valley reels” following his election. That’s understandable. Views in the tech industry are certainly at odds with the public sentiment that propelled Trump to victory. They tend to embrace global intellect, overseas manufacturing, and offshore banking—all of which run counter to the Trumpian worldview. And the populist vote clearly rallied against the coastal elites amassing fortunes while creating few new jobs.

Tensions between the industry and the incoming government that never existed with Obama in office are unavoidable.

Not happy with the results of the election? Secession is not the answer.

To be sure, Trump will harry tech companies in California, the Pacific Northwest, and elsewhere. He will likely pursue Amazon over antitrust claims, chase tax payments from the likes of Microsoft and Google, and may try to halt AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner. A doubling down on issues such as immigration, trade, and more directly tech-related concerns such as encryption and privacy will all ruffle the tech world’s feathers.

But there’s murmuring from some members of the Silicon Valley elite, among them Hyperloop cofounder Shervin Pishevar, that the state of California should secede from the U.S. It even has a snappy name: Calexit.

Sure, California could easily go it alone. It’s certainly rich enough: according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, it had a gross state product of $2.5 trillion in 2015. That makes it the sixth largest economy in the world.

But the proposal to exit the U.S. is an immature response to a grown-up problem. Really, the suggestion is little better than the “us and them” sentiment that underpins Trump’s questionable desire to build a wall between America and Mexico. Silicon Valley has already created huge tensions within its own state; a splinter would exacerbate those problems and hurt America, too.

The future for technologists does look uncertain, and their relationship with government is about to change. Calexit, though, is not the answer. Instead, “regardless of which candidate each of us supported as individuals, the only way to move forward is to move forward together” No, that’s not Donald Trump’s rhetoric (though he did say something similar during his acceptance speech). It’s actually a quote from Tim Cook’s memo to Apple staff yesterday.

There are some sane voices in Silicon Valley. The technology industry would be well-served to heed them, rather than building walls of its own.

(Read more: Bloomberg, The New York Times, Guardian, “Bad Math Props Up Trump’s Border Wall,” “The All-American iPhone,” “Six Big Technology Questions for President Trump”)

Keep Reading

Most Popular

Geoffrey Hinton tells us why he’s now scared of the tech he helped build

“I have suddenly switched my views on whether these things are going to be more intelligent than us.”

ChatGPT is going to change education, not destroy it

The narrative around cheating students doesn’t tell the whole story. Meet the teachers who think generative AI could actually make learning better.

Meet the people who use Notion to plan their whole lives

The workplace tool’s appeal extends far beyond organizing work projects. Many users find it’s just as useful for managing their free time.

Learning to code isn’t enough

Historically, learn-to-code efforts have provided opportunities for the few, but new efforts are aiming to be inclusive.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.