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Silicon Valley’s Inequality Machine: A Conversation with Anand Giridharadas (techcrunch.com)
81 points by kaboro 20 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 56 comments

Wow, this is a really, really powerful piece.

I love his analogy to people in Finance - how they are unabashedly "about that life" - and they're upfront about it.

After traveling across the US, I realized I prefer my wealth and power desires out in the open. Inordinate wealth is hidden so insidiously in the valley. We don't really dress in wealth signals, or even drive in wealth signals (as opposed to NYC or Miami.) - the subtler cues to social status are things like an Au Pair or private yoga lessons or an address in Menlo Park, Atherton, Woodside or Palo Alto. But they dress like us, and they drive in the same luxury cars we do.

And yet, they are so, so far above us.

In The Big Short you read about how the guy in the baseball cap and jeans is probably a fund manager doing really well. The guy in the suit is about to go ask for more money because he's not doing so hot.

It's the same principle in Silicon Valley.

The status symbol is being enough of a hot shot to not have to play by the rules of status.

> The status symbol is being enough of a hot shot to not have to play by the rules of status.

I definitely feel bad when I hear stories about black and hispanic men having to dress up at work because people feel scared of them when they wear hoodies and torn shorts like I do.

> Observers must believe the nonconforming individual is both aware of the norm and able to conform to it, but deliberately decides not to. A nonconforming behavior that seems unintentional or dictated by lack of a better alternative—such as ragged clothes on a homeless person—will not lead to a positive impression.

This part is super interesting. You need to be able to wear the baseball cap and jeans while letting people know that you _could_ be wearing a fancy suit if you cared about their norms.

It's not about the absence of taste, it's about the opposite of taste – is much more pronounced and intentional

Also, this send to be a great quote: https://youtu.be/FlzZhGr8G9w

This is so true. When you dress like a slob, you’re basically signaling you don’t have to impress people.

I feel like it’s just more of a personality thing than anything else...people who are attracted to high finance are attracted in part by the perceived lifestyle, and there’s peer pressure to live up to it. People who grew up as nerds and work in software probably never grew up obsessing over being rich enough to afford a Lambo or designer clothes, but if they did get rich they probably have a nice home and a Tesla or BMW.

I drove alongside Larry Page on 101. He was in a Nissan sedan, maybe $30K. This was two years after IPO.

Maybe he was on his way to the airport.


Googles corp jet flies out of moffet.

Steve Jobs had his famous license plate-less Mercedes. While that man is praised for too many things, perhaps he deserves credit for not pretending to not presume himself to be above you or me, unlike so many of his successors today. An honest sort of arrogance.

Why would you give credit for that? It's not something to be emulated.

A brazen, open evil is more refreshing than a hidden one, at least in a place as falsely modest as Silicon Valley.

I think this is a weird false dichotomy...What about just no evil and having a license plate?

To tie it back to the original post at the start of this thread, and to the TC article- then we wouldn't be talking about Silicon Valley. Or other places of great wealth.

I wasn't actually praising Steve Jobs. I was just pointing that at least he was a rich elite jerk who was open about being a jerk, unlike so many of our contemporary rich elite jerks who cover it up because they're afraid of others realizing their mission statements and grand visions are just excuses to amass wealth and power.

The real jerk move if you’re a billionaire driving a Nissan is to be silent when it comes to taxing wealth. Since you don’t appear to need the money (driving a Nissan), then dump it into laying fiber, building bridges, repairing roads and paying teachers, etc... Put your algorithms to work finding the greatest good, because one way or another you ought to be putting over half back into your community (taxes or charity). That would look more like real modesty to me

> It's not something to be emulated.

Which part? Driving a Mercedes (probably $50-100k) seems much better than driving some exotic million dollar car.

The part where he drove it for the maximum legal time he was not required to affix his license plates to the car (six months), and then leased a new one [1].

[1] https://www.itwire.com/it-people-news/enterprise/50649-the-t...

Why are people allowed to drive without a license plate at all?

You need to be able to drive before your plates are mailed to you (or you pick them up at the DMV). Usually you're required to use a temporary paper license plate... maybe California is different on that? And 6 months is a really long time, something like 14 days should be plenty of time.

There was incentive for delaying it as long as possible, for example you could evade tolls that were charged based on license plate readers.

It looks like as of this year (in California at least) there is now a requirement to have a temporary plate that is in the same location as the permanent one, partly to prevent people doing the above:


"You need to be able to drive before your plates are mailed to you (or you pick them up at the DMV)."

Do you? Why couldn't you be required to get the plates first and attach them to any car plateless you wish to drive?

I'm pretty sure CA just updated the law so that you now have to have a more descriptive paper plate affixed where your license plate should go. Basically they were having problems with people evading tolls and running red lights when they had no plates.

You aren't, anymore. However, plate theft is booming now.

Why plate-less?

Cause he can

> drive in wealth signals (as opposed to NYC or Miami.)

People in NYC use cars to show off?

Maybe there’s a secret Uber tier for centimillionaires?

Even the rank and file are completely self-deceiving by repeating all the bullshit in between cashing their checks.

Choose one:

1. Own it (finance)

2. Change it (go into teaching or something)

3. Lie about it (tech)

Anybody have a legal way to read the full text without paying?

Blocking javascript on the site got me to the end. This is a surprisingly versatile solution for a lot of sites.


Yes. I needed this. It eliminates the strange scrolling behavior and other web mess.

It does not, however, allow me to read the full article.

>The first third has been ungated given the importance of this subject. To read the whole interview, be sure to...

This is incredibly ironic. Techcrunch's (partial) release of this article is a perfect example of what the author describes: excluding those who can't afford to pay while pretending to act in the interest of all.

>And, at the heart of what I’m trying to establish with the book, is how they have then turned around, and in response to this exclusion, and the anger it generates, sought to pass themselves off as change agents who can fix the problem that they are complicit in causing, and who can fight the fire that they helped set.


To your first sentence, since when has he played the intellectual? He's a writer. Sure he does a few talks here and there, a few interviews. Nothing really deserving of your labelling.

Your second sentence is spot on though. "Win-winism" is just a repackaging of age old leftist theory.

"'Win-winism' is just a repackaging of age old leftist theory."

Lefist theory? It sounds solidly right-wing to me.

The article's author writes:

"What win-win-ism says is, the best way to help the least among us is to do what's good for the richest and most powerful."

That sounds to me very much like Trickle-down economics[1], of which Reagan was the champion.

Do you consider Reagan a leftist?

[1] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trickle_down_economics

The "leftist theory" is the description of the right-wing ideology that Anand calls "Win-winism". I'm not saying that "Win-Winism" is right-wing.

The funny thing is that he talks about how Zuckerberg probably sees himself as the emancipator. This is true for a hell of a lot of us, even those of us who haven't made it yet.

It's true. But there's a slight difference. No one has faith in the government. There are only those who are see themselves as powerless in the face of this and those who see themselves as the agents of change. The Messiahs have been commoditized.

I have a lot more faith in government—which has proven to be democratic, on occasion—than corporations which offer no levers of consumer control, and lie constantly.

"I have a lot more faith in government--which has proven to be democratic, on occasion--than corporations which offer no levers of consumer control, and lie constantly."

They're not two cleanly separable entities. Industry executives go in to government all the time (often to oversee the regulation of the industries they came from), and when politicians leave office they frequently get hired in to extremely high paying jobs at the very companies they regulated or awarded contracts to while in office.

Former politicians also frequently get hired by corporations to become lobbyists, because they know the system and have a lot of connections in government.

Corporations and government scratch each other's backs so much that it's a wonder there's any effective regulation, consumer protection, or health and safety protections left.

Yeah, everything you're saying is true. I'm comfortable modeling all human endeavors on a gradient from authoritarian to democratic.

I'm currently very vexed with my elected representatives for spending my thousands of tax dollars on an invasion of Venezuela, while excusing Exxon's billions in taxes. I recognize that this is partly facilitated by Exxon's former CEO manipulating Venezuelan politics with black ops while holding the position of Secretary of State. So, far be it from me to proclaim the purity of our governance.



A few words in favor of corporations: at least they can go out of business and be replaced by something else.

Yeah, or just declare bankruptcy and rebrand. So long Cambridge Analytica! Oh hello Emeradata, gosh you seem so familiar. Oh well, I’m just going to putter off in my VW TDi and smoke a lovely Altria cigarette.

These are great examples of how Capital survives PR disasters, and the implosion of one legally defined corporate body is as irrelevant to tracing the consolidation of economic power as a change of clothes is to the tracking of an cheating spouse: colorful circumstantial evidence of their treachery, but a distraction from the bigger picture.

This is historically true, and while it's certainly the case that revolutions are usually bloody (and therefore not worth implementing), I am afraid corporations will not go out of business. What I mean to say is that, by the end of my lifetime, it will no longer be the case that "corporations go out of business" if, instead, the tenure of the legally defined corporate entity becomes meaningless in a frothy sea of restructures, acquisitions, and spin-outs. What we'll see instead are long-lived monopolies-in-all-but-name. I think we are seeing this now.

An individual factory may go offline, but "big food" will not.

Edit: And this is the case I expect regardless of which post-capitalist scenario we face: either a) neoreactionary feudalism or b) socialist collectivization. In either scenario, the corps don't go out of business.

The government also has some checks and balances. They don’t always work to my expectation, but they function well enough to be vastly preferable to alternatives.

> No one has faith in the government.

Judging by how emotional many people get about elections, that doesn't seem true.

I lot of people vote because they don’t have faith in government.

Perhaps they have faith in government generally but not the currently elected instance?

I stopped reading when he equated reduced lifespans to the wealth gap. In my experience(my own family included), the shortened lifespans relate to poor lifestyle choices(i.e. type II diabetes and not choosing to change post-diagnosis). I'm not saying the wealth gap is good, just that, with logic like that, I can't take this piece seriously.

Also, while I think it's great that folks want to level the field and reduce the wealth gap, the likely outcome will be that the ultra rich will evade taxes like they always do, while the $1-10 millionaires will be pulled down to appease the masses. I don't lose sleep over some mildly rich tech bro. They're not the problem. It's the ultra rich that are holding all the cards and controlling our destinies.

Firstly, if you think the reduced lifespan thing is wrong and you're trying to convince us, you should probably cite a source.

Secondly, your approach is bad. The "I found one thing I think is false (but never bothered to look up) so I'm dismissing the whole article" is your right of course, but I don't know if it makes for an informed member of the discussion.

> if you think the reduced lifespan thing is wrong I don't, and I'm not sure how you got that out of what I wrote. I have no doubt that there is a correlation. I just have personal opinions as to why that correlation exist which conflict with the idea that lower incomes caused the reduced lifespans. If you're disciplined enough to amass wealth, you're probably disciplined enough to maintain good health. Sure, there are other factors, such as access to better medical care. In many cases though, access to medical care cannot make up for poor lifestyle decisions.

If I read an article and encounter flawed logic, I am less inclined to continue investing time into exploring the author's thesis.

"In my experience..." - anecdotal garbage, there are many datasets on wealth and lifespan proving the authors point.


I hate to say it, but correlation is not causation. Do you have any explanation for why incomes are correlated with lifespans? Remember, no resorting to 'anecdotal garbage'.

You can afford better food, nicer place to live (living next to major highways/trains results in lower lifespan due to the pollution), can have more autonomy and respect in the workplace (lots of pesky things like hormone levels change when you are perceived by others as 'high-status' vs 'low-status' and status is more often than not determined by money), and MOST importantly, at least in America, you can afford healthcare. And getting treated for a disease/ailment has a very positive correlation with surviving it.

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