In “The Political Education of Silicon Valley,” which appears in the August issue of WIRED, Steven Johnson looks at the changing political worldview of the tech sector, a shift from the libertarianism of the 1990s to a more progressive, pro-government outlook today. One of the exemplars of that transformation is Ro Khanna, who was elected in 2016 to represent California’s 17th Congressional District in the heart of Silicon Valley. In early May, Johnson sat down with Khanna at his office in Washington, D.C. to discuss the tech sector’s political evolution. The following is a condensed and edited transcript of some of the conversation.
Steven Johnson: One of the things that got me interested in this story is hearing so many people on the East Coast and in Europe talking dismissively about “libertarian” Silicon Valley. But it seems obvious to me that that stereotype no longer fits.
Ro Khanna: Nothing drives people in Silicon Valley more crazy or gets their blood boiling more than that stereotype. In fact, I had put out a tweet saying that libertarianism is totally dead in Silicon Valley and I got feedback from friends of mine, upset that the very rejection of the myth was an acknowledgment and perpetuation of that myth. It definitely strikes a nerve out there.
SJ: If you look the political values in Silicon Valley elites as reported in the survey by Greg Ferenstein and David Broockman and Neil Malhotra of Stanford, everybody looks super progressive, except on regulation and unions. Nobody wants their industry regulated, right? But the union question is…