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.
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.
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.
Keep up with the latest in Silicon Valley at EmTech Digital.
The Countdown has begun.
March 25-26, 2019
San Francisco, CA