In partisan terms, Silicon Valley is more blue than red. But techies hate politicians almost as much as they do Microsoft — and for the same reason. Government, like Windows, is big and slow, irrational and buggy, yet insists on forcing its way into every human activity.
Most Valley professionals given the World's Smallest Political Quiz would score smack in the Libertarian quadrant — eager to limit government's power, rather than to harness it to enforce their personal beliefs on the rest of society. It may be the legacy of Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill, or more likely a reaction to high school.
Pelosi and Governor Schwarzenegger seem like classic popular kids — the kind who asked to copy your homework. Valley voters preferred Tom Campbell, Stanford's youngest tenured professor who served five terms in the House. Campbell, a Republican, checks off like a Democrat:
- Abortion: Pro-choice.
- War on Drugs: Opposed.
- Gay rights: Refused to legislate against homosexuality.
- Patriot Act: "An outrageous invasion of privacy."
Yet Campbell is no San Francisco liberal. He supported private school vouchers and Social Security privatization. See the pattern? Government shouldn't be a "nanny state" that manages everything for everybody. People should be free to make their own mistakes. Cross a Californian with a Republican, and you get a libertarian. Valley libertarians are legion. They can be found registered Democrat, Republican or completely off the grid. To avoid association with the hapless Libertarian Party and perennial local candidate Starchild, they often specify themselves as "lowercase-l libertarians."
But even Campbell fails the libertarian litmus test: Guns. Any bigmouth with a blog can defend the First Amendment, but libertarians stand tall for the Second Amendment, too. Check out open-source spokesmodel Eric Raymond, whose blog Armed and Dangerous advocates the free flow of sex, software and firearms. (Raymond lives in Pennsylvania, but was a board member of Fremont-based VA Linux during the hottest IPO ever.) His take on 9/11 hijackers: "The WTC would probably still be standing if the passengers had been armed." Even Raymond's lowercase fellow-travelers roll their eyes at his posts, but when push comes to shove they're on his side. If the BART cops and TSA morons at the airport have guns, shouldn't we keep a few of our own at home in case they ever get ideas?
It's easy to get techies to agree that taxes are too high, Iraq was a mistake, and people should be allowed to smoke whatever and screw whoever they damn well please. But try this at your next Valley social mixer: Whenever some ponytailed engineer pontificates about politics, coyly turn the topic to libertarian themes by blurting out "WHAT ABOUT GUN CONTROL?!?" If Mr. Ponytail speaks up for handgun bans, you've got a standard lowercase-l liberal. But if he (or she) is a libertarian, you've got a date. Because uppercase or lower, there's no such thing as a closet libertarian.