Optimism: The Politics of Silicon Valley


Silicon Valley
San Jose and Silicon Valley

From the Roman Republicans, the Colonial Freeman, to pacifists and populists, contemporary democracy can only work if it adjusts to the rhythms of a quickly-changing society. It works even better if it’s optimistic about what’s coming next.

In a recent TechCrunch article, by Gregory Ferenstein evaluates Washington’s inability to categorize the fiercely individualistic ideologies of start-up culture.

The founders of tech institutions in Silicon Valley waver between the neat categories of DC politics; imagine Democrats and Republicans as two parallel magnetic walls; now throw a handful of bouncy balls that just don’t quite reach to the magnets. These are tech founders.

The titans of startup land are philosophically best understood as “idealists,” as Ferenstein points out. Most founders all reject labor unions, regulation, small government, and militarism.  They are staunch supporters of non-unionized charter schools and research at public universities.

Many of their actions don’t fit neatly into one political division.  They essentially believe the government should function like a high-tech company, relishing the meritocracy of capitalism in its encouragement of citizens’ self-improvement.

Patrick Kulp in his Mashable article rightly points out that Silicon Valley is not quite this meritocracy it purports to be. The example of Ellen Pao and her obstacles with inequality as CEO of Reddit prove that meritocracy is an exclusionary and antithetical system.

Despite the conflicts in process, the underlying philosophy in Silicon Valley seems to be optimism.  

Linkedin Founder elaborates, “If you’re working towards progress, your future will be better than your present.” If employees feel empowered and positive, they will have faith in themselves.  They will have faith in the future. Founders believe that with the right thinking, people can talk out their problems or utilize education. These politics have taken on categories such as “Atari Democrats,” “Communitarians” or “Quasi-Libertarians.”

In this innovation age, I’m impressed by the inherent optimism of these billionaire leaders.

If our businessmen, who steer our economy and our everyday choice, can believe that there are no true conflicts between societal groups, we can believe in a promising future.

It’s the responsibility of the rest of us to stay consistent with optimism. Plus, we have to communicate – if you’re optimism is overshadowing the needs of people in your society, you will lose site of the changes necessary to develop a positive and cooperative future.

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