And you wonder why the Valley disdains Washington
At midnight last night, amid sloppy kisses, drunken toasts, faking you knew the words with Auld Lang Syne, and screaming at a big lit up ball, the Senate decided to actually do its job and finally pass a would-be solution to the Fiscal Cliff crisis they created and have spent the end of 2012 exploiting for their own posturing gains.
Tech pubs haven't covered this much-- unlike every other media outlet on the planet-- so I'm no expert on what it all means and whether it'll pass the House of Representatives and all that. Go read actual political reporters like Howard Kurtz for real analysis.
But a quick satirical post on the New Yorker summed up my thoughts as a citizen and a member of an industry that generally gets a lot of shit for saying we just want Washington to leave us alone.
WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Official Washington was in celebration mode on New Year’s Day after kind of averting a completely unnecessary crisis that was entirely of its own creation.
“This deal proves that if we all procrastinate long and hard enough, we can semi-solve any self-inflicted problem at the very last minute in a way that satisfies no one,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky). In 2012 we saw a huge surge in startups learning to play the Washington game, whether it was defeating SOPA, spending more on lobbyists, or getting the JOBS act passed. And next year top priorities are a sensible policy around immigration (again) and for many, fighting back the call to tax carried interest as ordinary income.
Making sure we're as loud as other big parts of the US economy (cough, cough, Hollywood) is important, yes. It's a game we need to learn to play better as an industry.
But when it comes to well-meaning allegations that "what's wrong with Silicon Valley" is we don't apply enough energy, cash, and ingenuity to the innovating the democratic and political process, let's remember just how broken that process is. There is a fundamental cultural gap between Washington and the Valley that makes Wall Street and Silicon Valley look like sentence-finishing, milkshake-sharing BFFs.
Is a new Instagram filter more important to the world than beating a sensible immigration policy into a political process that lumps PhD scientists and programmers in with day laborers? Most definitely not. But we can actually get that done. And entrepreneurs and engineers like to get shit done, not perform theatre for six months. If Silicon Valley becomes a place that tolerates and thinks like Washington enough to consistently change it, I fear we'd wreck what's made us create so many jobs, wealth, and technology to begin with. Yes, both profound and frivolous technology.
For a window into the cultural gap, watch this clip on how AngelList's Naval Ravikant helped get the JOBS Act passed. Something that mostly happened because of what the bill was named. (Money bit starts around the 4:20 mark.) This is what it looks like when everything goes extraordinarily well:
Call me cynical, but Eric Hippeau of Lerer Ventures had a Tweet this morning that I resonated with a lot more than this post: