Tech Bros Are Destroying Weird Austin
Not so long ago, Silicon Valley was a magical land where unicorns flourished; anybody with an idea, seed capital and a little luck could become richer than all the kings of folklore. These days, things aren’t so rosy. Silicon Valley’s own bank recently collapsed, some unicorns have turned out to be donkeys, and, depending on your point of view, the Valley is now either Ground Zero for a plague of disinformation or the epicentre of a sinister private-public surveillance regime.
Meanwhile, house prices are so high in San Francisco that even software engineers at mega companies struggle to afford accommodation, tech companies are downsizing, and homelessness is on the rise. Confronted with these problems, the city recently recommended a payment of $5 million each in “reparations” to eligible black residents. The figure was arrived at without actually doing any maths and, it is estimated, would cost everybody else $600,000 each.
As always, Silicon Valley is at the vanguard of a wider Californian trend. Here is a place where things were too good for too long; where the ruling class became unmoored from reality, hastening their state’s decline. Residents are voting with their feet: in 2020, California’s population declined for the first time in its history, a trend which continued through July 2022. Where, people are asking, are all those who came to California seeking success now going?
For many, the answer appears to be Texas. Austin in particular has received some high-profile defections. In 2020, Joe Rogan left LA for the city because, as he put it, “I want fucking freedom.” Joe Lonsdale, the co-founder of Palantir, the data mining firm that helped locate Osama Bin Laden, declared that Texas beats California “in almost every method you can name, whether it’s education, pollution, homeless[ness].” Trump-supporting billionaire Larry Ellison relocated the HQ of database giant Oracle from Redwood City to Austin following a bitter struggle with regulators. And, most famously, Elon Musk shifted Tesla’s headquarters to Austin in 2021, after claiming that California regulators had started behaving like a “monopoly that cannot go bankrupt”.
Musk’s announcement marked the moment when the rise of Austin as a tech hub reached critical mass in the public consciousness, but the process had been underway for over a decade….
Read the rest at UnHerd