Almost a century and a half ago, the same behaviors you note were displayed outside San Francisco ("The dark side of Silicon Valley," News: Analysis & Commentary, July 17). It was called the Gold Rush. With the advent of litigants and the disappearance of firearms, more pleasant conditions now exist. You no longer have people in black hats shooting good guys. You still have claim-jumpers and rapacious hangers-on (the local BMW salesmen), but the hectic pace and easy money appeals to tired Easterners and distraught Midwesterners who are examining their own dreary futures.

The Gold Rush left several benefits: Levi Strauss & Co. jeans, the transcontinental railroad, lower interest rates, and a whole lot of stories to be told by Mark Twain and others. It's too bad people think gambling takes place in Vegas, because the gambling now taking place in Silicon Valley makes Vegas look like chump city.

William Cormeny

San Luis Obispo, Calif.

As an engineer in Silicon Valley, I take exception to your story. The company where I work has a strict policy against using intellectual property of a rival or previous employer. We sign this and are counseled coming in the door.

Who exactly are the detractors? People lacking the drive and persistence necessary to achieve the high levels of success they envy. For most of us, success comes after several college degrees, 10 to 15 years of 50-hour-plus workweeks at many previous companies, willingness to adapt, and making correct life choices.

Aren't "greed" and "excess" words more descriptive of Washington, D.C., and Sacramento? Witness the 39.6% federal tax rate, 9.3% California tax rate, 8.4% California sales tax, and the 5% luxury tax on autos above $42,000. A well-paid Silicon Valley engineer buying a $65,000 auto would need to earn an extra $146,000.

To those envious detractors: Forgo your cheap PC, don't browse the Internet or trade stocks online, dump your high-tech mutual funds, and don't benefit from the 40% of the tax burden paid by the top 2% of wage earners. Then you can comment.

James Van Dyke

Sunnyvale, Calif.

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