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Ayn Rand's Objectivism and the Silicon Valley ethos have a lot in common (jasoncrawford.org)
17 points by jasoncrawford on Oct 25, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 7 comments

This is probably a reaction to this: http://pandodaily.com/2012/10/24/travis-shrugged/

I actually wrote most of this post about two months ago. Finished it and posted it recently after talking to some friends who were at YC Startup School and also seeing that article (which was pretty bad, IMO).

That PandoDaily article is pretty aggressive and hysterical.

The message is, more or less: "unlicensed taxi drivers are responsible for 80% of stranger rape, therefore Uber's 'ask forgiveness, not permission' approach to business is wrong"

I don't get the same impression from Silicon Valley. In fact, I sense a lot of ambivalence around government regulation, not universal opposition by any means. I think a lot of high tech executives see a useful role for government that goes well beyond the more Randian notion of minimalist government.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately, largely within the current debate about "job creators."

Many sectors of the economy are staffed by people who "need jobs." Towns are devastated when corporations pack up and leave, and they try to fill the gap by courting new businesses. I think this often happens when the workforce is unskilled and is heavily dependent on the employer for gainful employment.

To some extent, silicon valley turns this on its head (I've heard it referred to as a reverse field of dreams, if you come, they will build it). You don't attract companies, you attract the workforce, and the companies will follow. I think the high tech business community generally recognizes the general attractiveness of a city as a big factor in getting the kind of workforce they need, and may see the government as a partner in creating or sustaining this environment. I also think "silicon valley" recognizes a particular synergy with research universities, for both core technologies and an educated workforce. If you look at rankings of graduate engineering schools, you'll see that the have a much higher concentration of public universities than the usual "prestige rankings" of undergrad programs... and private universities like Stanford and MIT of course receive very large amounts of government funding.

High tech just isn't one of those fields were the job creators employ unskilled people who would otherwise be unemployed. There are so many issues involved in getting the right environment of infrastructure, educated citizens, and so forth.

Remember when Obama said "you didn't build that"? There was a big uproar, and of course some people took it to mean that Obama claimed people hadn't built their companies, rather than the infrastructure that allows these companies to thrive.

I'm swear I'm not trying to drive home a political point. I was disappointed with the response, but not because I'm necessarily agreeing with Obama - I just thought that this could have lead to an exceptional and much needed debate about the relationship between government infrastructure and job creation. Just because you support it to some extent doesn't mean you think it's being done well right now. The response could have been "no, my company didn't build that, but private enterprise could have handled some or many of those things more efficiently that government will. Orr alternatively - yes, the government should do this, but there's a far better way to go about it."

It's probably asking far too much of a political debate to hope to see a good discussion, and I've drifted too far off topic. But all in all, while I think that there is probably a wide range of opinions about the interrelationship between gov'ment and private enterprise, I just don't see much demonization of government coming from silicon valley the way you do from some other sectors, and I do think it's because high tech entrepreneurs are aware that at least some of the big issues around infrastructure, research and development, and an educated workforce will involve the public sector as well.

Ayn Rand and Silicon Valley have very little in common, unless you are arguing that Silicon Valley has embraced unbridled greed. Indeed, open source, open anything is contrary to Randian ideals. Rand would embrace the RIAA and the MPAA and their defense of property rights. Rand stands in opposition to almost every value that has made Silicon Valley worth celebrating.

I'm not sure why you were down-voted, because I think you make a good point.

My impression of Rand's philosophy, based on reading the Fountainhead, is that people should strive for excellence, and not necessarily greed. I think that the RIAA and the MPAA fall more into the Peter Keating archetype than they do into the Howard Roark archetype.

There can be an altruistic side to OSS, but certainly not by definition. Open source projects usually exist for benefit of the authors.

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