America’s tech industry is undergoing a serious fall from grace. Once celebrated as the heralds of the future, the originators of new, disruptive business models, and the curators of the bleeding edge of free thought, the industry has since relapsed into defending the Obama-era status quo, relying on corporate welfare, and silencing any thought that doesn’t conform to an increasingly stifling and politically correct San Francisco liberalism. All this, while also often showing an appalling disregard for the rule of law, and for the legitimacy of an American election.
Now, libertarian or liberal promoters of the industry may argue that part of tech’s charm has always been willingness to push boundaries set by the outside world. Having once been among their ranks, I reply only that I understand their point, but that it fails for a simple reason: the tech industry’s approach to business has become so anarchic that they now no longer can even abide by the ideals they claim to embody.
Consider recent news: namely, that former Microsoft executive Frank Artale resigned from the venture capital firm Ignition Partners after allegations of sexual harassment. Granted, so far they’re only allegations, but nevertheless one must acknowledge that someone in Artale doesn’t usually resign from a position over pure lies. Not only that, but the scandals surrounding Uber’s treatment of women – scandals that eventually forced the resignation of the company’s founder and CEO Travis Kalanick – show beyond a doubt that sexual misconduct in the tech sector is more than pure fantasy.
And it’s not just sex that tech has a problem with. Race also factors in. Airbnb, for example, recently has had to denounce one of their hosts for engaging in what looks to have been racist behavior toward black occupants. Another host refused to rent to Asian guests with the explanation “I wouldn’t rent to u if u were the last person on earth,” and when pressed why, answered, “One word says it all. Asian.” Racial discrimination in Airbnb renting has apparently been so widely reported in California that now the platform has had to let the California government conduct covert investigations to see how deep the problem goes. Less explosive, but no less hypocritical are the strong allegations that the site has also shamelessly undercut property rights while simultaneously claiming it wants to strengthen them, and undermined the rule of law surrounding its own taxes while not even telling some renters what they earn through the site.
Now, culturally libertarian readers may be inclined to scoff that these kinds of complaints carry the whiff of political correctness, or even to suggest that they are part of a feminist and/or racial shakedown. Both things may well be true, though in some cases, it’s far too soon to tell. However, even if this argument were proven, it’s far from obvious why tech barons deserve the sympathy of cultural libertarians.
Let’s not forget that Silicon Valley and its satellites are almost uniformly left-wing, not to mention often complicit in the persecution and suppression of conservative, libertarian, or otherwise right-wing voices. Kalanick in particular threw his libertarian defenders under the bus by endorsing Obamacare for keeping costs down on his workers. Airbnb price gouged Trump supporters during the President’s inauguration, and has since taken a virulent anti-Trump stance, even to the point of twisting the purpose of the courts. All this while profiting from the reluctance of libertarians to acknowledge that the early virtues of the sharing economy are no longer something to be discussed in isolation, given its other economic effects.
In short, tech inflicted this mess on itself not by necessarily doing anything wrong, but by making a habit of propagandizing norms and rules that it then completely failed to live up to. To those seeking to defend the sector despite that mistake, I say only that if you’re going to pick who to defend, the people most willing to toss you to the wolves and lie about their ideological commitments should not rank near the top of your list. In fact, the only thing that cultural libertarians can learn from episodes like Kalanick’s, Artale’s, and Airbnb’s, is that the tech industry, like every other group that tries to adopt Social Justice ideology, has found it impossible to adhere to every letter of that ideology’s doctrine. They made that bed for themselves, though, and should be obliged to lie in it. If nothing else, their public failure to live up to the rules they set for themselves will aid the cause of liberty in one very important respect: it will make Americans less likely to take them seriously when they try to foist those rules on the rest of us.