Silicon Valley Billionaires Are the New Robber Barons

Silicon Valley Billionaires Are the New Robber Barons, by Victor David Hanson.

Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook are worth nearly $1 trillion each. Conservatives have no problem with anyone doing well, so their silence is understandable. But in the Obama era, the nation received all sorts of progressive lectures on the downsides of being super-rich. Obama remonstrated about spreading the wealth, knowing when not to profit, and realizing when one has made enough money. He declared that entrepreneurs did not build their own businesses without government help.

Yet such sermonizing never seemed to include Facebook, Starbucks, or Amazon.

The tech and social-media industries pride themselves on their counterculture transparency, their informality, and their 1960s-like allegiance to free thought and free speech. Yet Google just fired one of its engineers for simply questioning the company line that sexual discrimination and bias alone account for the dearth of female Silicon Valley engineers. What followed were not voices of protest. Instead, Google-instilled fear and silence ensued, in the fashion of George Orwell’s 1984.

On matters such as avoiding unionization, driving up housing prices, snagging crony-capitalist subsidies from the government, and ignoring the effects of products on public safety (such as texting while driving), Silicon Valley is about as reactionary as they come.

Why, then, do these companies earn a pass from hypercritical progressives?

Answer: Their executives have taken out postmodern insurance policies. Our new J. P. Morgans dress in jeans and T-shirts — like the late Steve Jobs of Apple or Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook — appearing hip and cool.

Executives in flip-flops and tie-dyes can get away with building walls around their multiple mansions in a way that a steel executive in a suit and tie might not.

The new elite are overwhelmingly left-wing. They head off criticism by investing mostly in the Democratic party, the traditional font of social and political criticism of corporate wealth.

As long as [the new billionaire barons of the West Coast] appeared cool, as they long as they gave lavishly to left-wing candidates, and as long as they mouthed liberal platitudes on global warming, gay marriage, abortion, and identity politics, they earned exemption from progressive scorn.

The result was that they outsourced, offshored, monopolized, censored, and made billions — without much fear of media muckraking, trust-busting politicians, unionizing activists, or diversity lawsuits.