Techies Are Shaking Up Politics. Good

A brash new kind of New Economy politics, different in style and substance from the political games played by traditional Corporate America, is beginning to take form in the U.S. As the economic center of gravity shifts to Silicon Valley and as the clout of information-based companies grows, the nation's political agenda is beginning to change. The Washington Establishment is betting it will tame the kids from the Valley. Let's hope not.

Valley boys (and girls) believe they are creating the future and that anyone who questions them simply doesn't get it. So New Economy politics is infused with attitude, a mixture of irreverence, self-confidence, and elbows-out combativeness. The Valley approach is situational. Instead of primarily relying on permanent political action committees or lobbyists, they tend to form coalitions around specific issues, do battle, and then disband. It's guerrilla warfare.

The issues dear to the Valley cut across conventional liberal and conservative lines. The New Economy agenda calls for more immigration, but of highly skilled, technologically literate people. Securities reform to block class actions is important, since they threaten initial public offerings and stock options. Intellectual property is a biggie, since this is the capital that Silicon Valley thrives on. Blocking taxation of Internet commerce is a major issue, for obvious reasons. And keeping the government out of encryption is good for exports--and for privacy. On antitrust, the New Economy folks split between pro-Microsoft and those crying "monopoly."

The New Economy has grown so fast that it must now interact with the rest of American society. The policy conflicts now appearing are harbingers of things to come. We think the Valley boys could use a bit more polish and just a dash of respect when they go to Washington. America loves a maverick, but not one who's above the law. If the fresh-faced New Economy folks can ride out of the West and rustle Washington out of its entrenched, and money-soaked, ways, the country will be theirs.

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