Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Tech Oligarchs Buy Political Protection

They call themselves liberal and progressive Democrats, but the tech oligarchs of Silicon Valley do not practice what they preach.

Joel Kotkin has written about their hypocrisy before and he returns to it this week:

Yet beneath the veneer of good intentions, the world being created by the tech oligarchs both within and outside of Silicon Valley fails in virtually every area dear to traditional liberals. On a host of issues—from the right to privacy to ethnic and feminine empowerment and social justice—the effects of the tech industry are increasingly regressive.

Continuing, he points out that these oligarchs have merely created a version of “oligopolistic crony capitalism:”

In reality the valley elite is increasingly nothing more than the latest iteration of   oligopolistic crony capitalism. Firms like Google, Apple and Microsoft hold market shares in their fields upwards of 80 percent. In some cases, they do it without improving their products, as anyone using Microsoft products can certainly attest. Their control of their markets is far greater than those of  the  largest oil, automobile or home-building firms.  Tech firms, particularly in California, have also been primary beneficiaries of crony capitalism, particularly in terms of “green energy” schemes that are far from market-worthy. Despite this, Google and their ilk get subsidies to reap profits while forcing California’s middle and working classes to pay higher bills.

Why are these monopolists so attracted to the Democratic Party?

They are buying political protection from the only political party that might threaten them.

Kotkin writes:

Like other plutocrats, the tech oligarchs seek to buy political protection, usually from the Democrats. In 2012, tech firms gave Democrats roughly twice as much campaign money to Democrats than to Republicans.

For the record, your not-so-humble blogger advanced the same idea on two prior occasions.

On January 11, 2014, I wrote:

More seriously, as long as the oligarchs own the liberal media, there is no chance that it will turn against them. And, these people have been smart enough to know where they can go to buy protection. They know that the Democratic Party is, for its wealthiest donors, a protection racket. Greasing the wheels of the Democratic Party is part of the cost of doing business. It beats paying taxes.

If the trial lawyers could do it, why can’t the tech oligarchs?

And, on February 11, 2013, in a post about Niall Ferguson’s views of the tech oligarchs, I wrote:

He [Ferguson] doesn't mention it, but these techno-wizards are throwing their money and influence into electing more Democrats. Perhaps it means that they are young; perhaps it means that they are buying protection. 

The tech oligarchs know that they have nothing to fear from an ascendant Republican Party.

Kotkin offers this:

Yet despite these leanings, the tech oligarchs manage to get a pass from conservatives. Perhaps some have over-imbibed Ayn Rand, becoming prisoners of an ideology that suggests the valley elites reflect a  “meritocratic” ideal driven by profits. That’s an interesting take since so many leading tech firms, from Amazon to Twitter, actually earn little or no profit. They benefit instead from easy access to capital markets, from which they can extract enormous earnings through stock inflation.

And he adds that Republicans have a tendency to make absurd statements that alienate younger techies:

The recent brouhaha over Indiana’s religious freedom law revealed two basic things: the utter stupidity of the Republican Party and the rising power of the emerging tech oligarchy. As the Republicans were once again demonstrating their incomprehension of new social dynamics, the tech elite showed a fine hand by leading the opposition to the Indiana law.

Compare this to a remark I made in my January 11, 2014 post:

Also, part of being a Democratic tech oligarch is being cool and hip. Unfortunately, the Republican Party is filled with dimwits who manage to make ridiculous public statements that will instantly turn off young voters. Remember Todd Akin on “legitimate rape.” Remember Christine O’Donnell’s witchcraft. Just the other day a Virginia Republican proposed banning oral sex for teenagers. Now, there’s a winning issue: End Blow Jobs Now.

At least you can say that you heard it here first.


Ares Olympus said...

Joel Kotkin closes with : None of this is to say that the tech elites need to be broken up like Standard Oil or stigmatized like the tobacco industry. But it’s certainly well past the time for people both left and right to understand that this oligarchy’s rise similarly poses a danger to our society’s future. By their very financial power, plutocratic elites -- whether their names are Rockefeller, Carnegie, Page, Bezos or Zuckerberg -- need to be closely watched for potential abuses instead of being the subjects of mindless celebration from both ends of the political spectrum.

It does make sense that young newly wealthy men would prefer to associate themselves with libertarians than prudish and discriminatory social conservatives, even if they'd be more likely to get a happy flat tax with Republican domination.

I wouldn't bet on anything more than that. So it looks to me that the republicans now exist the sole purpose of helping the democrats fundraise for their elections. It's like free money, a chance for Techie's to demonstrate their progressive values, but do they expect to get political favors for it? I wouldn't think so, at least not from individual donors.

But if many of these "tech oligarchs" are really "libertarians" rather than "liberals", do they think they're also helping to tip the playing field for big business?

At least bulldog Elizabeth Warren is too busy fighting the banks and Wallstreet's excesses to worry about high-tech excesses.

And really I think everyone is too scared now-a-days, so any company that looks good on paper is a hero to American Exceptionalism.

Yes, it seems like all "big money" is nearly immune to any criticism, as long as they can add to the job numbers and economic indicators that help convince everyone that its still Morning in America.

Ronny, where are you? We need a good actor for president again!

priss rules said...

It's good to be the king.

Sam L. said...

"At least bulldog Elizabeth Warren is too busy fighting the banks and Wallstreet's excesses to worry about high-tech excesses." I have my doubts about that; not the 'worry', but the 'busy fighting'.