New York magazine is getting a little antsy that Silicon Valley gazillionaires may be getting their libertarian on thanks to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). Kevin Roose notes that the libertarian-leaning politician is spending lots of time out West and is hanging not just with the likes of Peter Thiel but also Mark Zuckerberg and Sean Parker.
And why not? Unlike most establishment pols on either side of the aisle, Paul doesn't evince the technophobia that tends to dominate Washington, D.C. He understands that Uber is a good thing and that taxi commissions don't have the interests of riders in mind. He gets that ossified dealership rules that screw over Tesla (or AirBnb or whatever) are protectionism, not safety regulations. Roose writes:
Paul's biggest problem, to borrow a term popularized among tech workers, is that he's not a "culture fit" in Silicon Valley. A gray-haired Kentucky ophthalmologist is a less obvious representative for tech's political class than, say, Ro Khanna, an Indian-born 30-something who speaks easily about 3-D printing and robotics. But it's not hard to imagine that someone with Paul's political genotype and a different phenotype — younger, coastal, more fluent in tech-speak — could pick up broad support from the kinds of techies who want government to leave their start-ups alone.
The ideological overlay of Silicon Valley isn't strictly political, after all. It's more about how institutions are structured and functions are carried out. Lean and fast-moving are good. Bloated and deliberative are bad. "Permissionless innovation" is good. Bureaucratic box-checking is bad.
In this context, you can see why someone like Paul could appeal. And while it's still possible that people like Zuckerberg and Parker could remain in the squishy political middle, it's also possible that they could tip into anti-Establishment libertarianism, and take a whole coalition of tech donors with them. After all, what a certain Silicon Valley contingent wants most right now is independence. And few national politicians are prepared to lengthen the leash as much as Rand Paul.
As it happens, Paul will be out in San Francisco this weekend, speaking to the same conference that I'm also participating in:
[This weekend], Paul will get to make his case yet again as the keynote speaker at Reboot, a San Francisco conference put on by a group called Lincoln Labs, which self-defines as "techies and politicos who believe in promoting liberty with technology." He'll likely say a version of what he's said before: that Silicon Valley's innovative potential can be best unlocked in an environment with minimal government intrusion in the forms of surveillance, corporate taxes, and regulation. "I see almost unlimited potential for us in Silicon Valley," Paul has said, with "us" meaning libertarians.
Read the New York mag piece here.
For more details on the Reboot conference, go here. Among the other speakers are Kmele Foster, Matt Welch's co-host on Fox Business' The Independents; Derek Khanna, gadfly crusader for sensible copyright reform; and John Dennis, the business-furniture magnate who ran a great campaign against Nancy Pelosi in 2012.
Reason.com readers get 15 percent off all tickets by using the promo code reason when registering.