Without question, the technology sector is the most dynamic and fastest growing part of the American economy.
Since the Internet first debuted two decades ago, Silicon Valley has been the epicenter of once-in-a-century advances in how humans live their lives. For most of its existence, the technology sphere has stayed away from politics or ideology – preferring to keep its head down and create, almost daily, new and different revolutionary products.
Among those that made up Web 1.0, many share a strongly libertarian ethos. Marc Andressen and Peter Thiel, among many others, espouse the entrepreneurship that has led to remarkable creative power and profits. As Andressen tweeted last month, “...let markets work (voluntary contracts and trade) so that capital and labor can rapidly reallocate to create new fields and jobs.”
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Dedicated to building new companies and industries, many agree that the tech sector has grown so quickly specifically because it has been free of substantive governmental regulation and allowed to flourish. While many in the Bay Area take these ideas for granted, they are radically different from how much of our economy, our educational system and our government has operated since the end of World War II.
Having watched how badly conservatives and libertarians lag behind the left in technology, it is time to bring new voices to the political conversation – and be part of the dialogue rather than simply a topic of it.
Now is the time for those on the right to fuse the ethos of liberty with technology and politics. The campaigns we run today differ little from those of 20 or 30 years ago. The structure of our efforts, their main modes of communication and how we bring supporters together and subsequently activate them still largely rely on home phones and clipboards.
We must wrench ourselves into the 21st century - despite how uncomfortable this transition may be.
Many of the ideals (and ideas) Silicon Valley lives by can and should be applied to political efforts and government. Embracing creative destruction, risk and an understanding that failure is part of healthy processes, it is time to begin bringing liberty-minded individuals together to begin closing the technological gap between the right and the left.
Last weekend, the young, tech-savvy founders of Lincoln Labs, hosted its first annual conference – Reboot – in San Francisco. Some of the premier leaders of both the political and tech worlds came together for a weekend filled with discussions on how we can and should apply "conservatarian" values to some of our country’s biggest problems.
In the past year, Lincoln Labs has brought thousands of young, energetic technologists together who share conservative and libertarian ideals but don’t see a place for themselves in the current political process. Be it distrust or disdain for Washington, we must work hard to give these future leaders and entrepreneurs a voice - and a meaningful place within our campaigns and organizations.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), angel investors Joe Lonsdale and Scott Banister, and dozens more led Reboot with their ideas and vision about how to improve our use of technology in the public square. We must continue to encourage building more bridges between Washington and Silicon Valley – that accomplish more than just raising money for a campaign.
In addition to the speakers and discussion, the conference hosted a hackathon at the headquarters of Brigade – a social activism startup funded by former Facebook president Sean Parker. More than 60 hackers came together to build products that solve problems our attendees, any from inside the Beltway, highlighted as issues with which they often contend.
In less than a day, the winning teams created, respectively, a platform to track police deployment, a new polling application and a platform to increase transparency in government. Each team had to pitch its idea to the assembled crowd before they began working and once they’d finished had to run the gauntlet of a panel of judges who pulled no punches.
Reboot will be the first of many events that bring East and West coast together to discuss, develop and expand on conservative and libertarian ideals. Silicon Valley brings more optimism to its work better than any other sector. Washington and politics need a healthy dose of positive energy to help break out of a mindset that has been in place since computers filled entire rooms and televisions, such as they were, only displayed in black and white.
We need more events like Reboot - events that will allow the best and brightest of both worlds to network, create new dialogues and new communications channels as we close in on Election Day 2014. Althought it is probably too late in this election cycle to develop test and bring new technology products to the political market, we have two years of presidential campaigning right around the corner, and no shortage of political applications we need designed, built, tested and deployed.
We should take advantage of groups like Lincoln Labs, who identify young coding talent, to ensure we're properly utilizing all the knowledge and skill we have on the right to prepare for the next "most important election of our generation" just over two years from now. We must pro-actively work with our political institutions to show them how much of what we do must be reimagined and reorganized to align with how technology melds with modern organizations. This will not always be easy - but it is essential.
Conservatives and libertarians have an opportunity to take the lead on matters related to policy and politics. We must consistently bring new ideas to the table and understand that failure is part of the learning process. We cannot and should not fear failure – we must always look to create a better future for everyone.
The young geeks in Silicon Valley are showing us the way.
Reed Galen is a political consultant in California. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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