Silicon Valley Elites: 2 Parts Liberal to 1 Part Libertarian?

David Broockman, Neil Malhotra, and Greg Ferenstein have published an interesting study of the political views of the US tech elite. Silicon Valley types are usually thought of as Libertarians — or more accurately, Lockheed Libertarians who’re against all government except for the programs that ice their cake. Turns out it’s a more complicated picture. According to the New York Times,

On most culture-war issues, they are unrepentantly liberal. They oppose restrictions on abortion, favor gay rights, support gun control and oppose the death penalty.

They also support raising their own taxes to fund health care and protect the environment.

Now for the twist. The study found one area where tech entrepreneurs strongly deviate from Democratic orthodoxy and are closer to most Republicans: They are deeply suspicious of the government’s efforts to regulate business, especially when it comes to labor. They said that it was too difficult for companies to fire people, and that the government should make it easier to do so. They also hope to see the influence of both private and public-sector unions decline.

To try to get a better sense of how these elites feel about regulation, researchers asked whether it was ok for a business like a florist to use surge pricing. Both traditional Democratic and Republican donors think it’s unfair, but 96% of the tech elites were good with it.

“My guess is there’s an underlying principle to their views,” Dr. Broockman said. “They see an entrepreneur trying to do what they want in the marketplace, and they see nothing unfair about that.”

It’d be interesting to see how tech elites’ political attitudes today compare to how they felt, say, 20 years ago. I’m guessing that the rise of inequality, the rise of resentment against tech startups in San Francisco — eg., the dust ups over Google buses that started back in 2013 — and increasing fears about automation have pushed them away from Lockheed Libertarianism to a political position that’s a lot more muddled.

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