silicon valley

Silicon Valley Not Really Sure What This Whole ‘Government Shutdown’ Thing Is About

Facebook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks during an interview session with The Atlantic at the Newseum in Washington, DC, on September 18, 2013.
Looming financial apocalypse? Come again? Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Silicon Valley has never been known for paying much attention to the world beyond its walls. As long as its workplace perks and venture-capital funding are intact, the tech sector has historically gone about its app-making, Tesla-driving business. And while you might think that an issue like the shutdown of the entire federal government and a looming debt-ceiling disaster that could throw the U.S. economy back into Lehman Brothers territory would make the denizens of Silicon Valley look up from their mini iPads, you’d be wrong.

Lydia DePillis looks at why Silicon Valley “has been silent” about the government shutdown and finds that asking a bunch of tech workers about our nation’s largest political problems is a lot like asking your grandmother about Snapchat. They just have no idea what’s going on.

If you asked probably 10 of [the tech companies we fund] what they think about the debt crisis, what do they think about the government shutting down, they wouldn’t have any idea, or it wouldn’t affect them,” Alan Patricof, founder and managing director of venture-capital firm Greycroft Partners, tells Depillis.

Another start-up guru tells her, “On one level, business is continuing on a whole lot of the issues that we’ve been working on, so that coupled with the relatively negligible impacts felt thus far, may have led to a copacetic sense of letting Washington work out its own problem here.”

DePillis seems to think that Silicon Valley lobbying groups like could have a material impact on the debt-ceiling talks if they decided to get involved. I’m not sure that’s true (after all, Wall Street’s lobbying apparatus is much more robust than the tech world’s, and even it hasn’t been able to move the needle). But it is remarkable how narrow the tech world’s vision can be. As long as the venture-capital money is still flowing from Sand Hill Road, the logic goes, why does it matter if federal workers are being furloughed, cancer patients are having their treatment delayed, and the global economy’s stability is one default away from disaster?

If Washington really wants to get Silicon Valley’s attention, it should declare the Creamery a national park and then shut it down.

Silicon Valley Shrugs at Government Shutdown