Tech Policy Positions in Silicon Valley - Global Trade Magazine
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  January 4th, 2017 | Written by

Tech Policy Positions in Silicon Valley

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  • The Trump administration and Congress have pledged to cut regulations within the first 100 days.
  • Silicon Valley startup founders expressed three important values on government regulation.
  • Politically, technologists tend to be hybrids between conservatives and liberals.

Lincoln Network, in partnership with CALInnovates, released the results of a survey of technology startup founders on government regulation.

The Trump administration and Congress have pledged to cut regulations within the first 100 days. In this report, Lincoln Network surveyed Silicon Valley startup founders to find three important values on government regulation. Founders view governmental regulations positively when they permit informed user consent of risky technologies, they reduce a hawkish approach to resolving legal disputes and security issues, and when regulations incentivize performance-based organization.

“If the new president and Congress care about eliminating regulations that stifle innovation and job creation, they should invest in understanding areas of potential policy alignment with the tech community” said Garrett Johnson, co-founder of Lincoln Network. “Startup founders support permissionless innovation, believe in experimenting in areas like charter schools, and often see labor unions and incumbent interest groups as having a negative effect on the economy. This seems like a reasonable foundation for a discussion, but GOP politicians and their staffers will need to step out of their comfort zones in order to jump-start a dialogue.”

The overarching conclusion of the report is that the stereotypical conflict between small and big government may be a false choice to many innovators. The traditional left-right polarity is a poor fit for understanding the political inclinations of innovators. Instead, there is a framework for some regulation that innovators see as innovation-enhancing or innovation-restricting.

Politically, technologists tend to be hybrids between conservatives and liberals. A 2015 poll of tech startup founders discovered that like conservatives, they are avidly pro-free market, support free trade, believe in more charter schools, and often believe that labor unions have a negative effect on the economy. But some of their policy inclinations are more like liberals in that many support strong protection for the environment and a health care mandate. They also seem to have a novel role for the state: one that sees the primary role of government to enhance innovation with investments in skill development and open data, rather than controlling the free market. Technologists broadly support regulations that require transparency and promote performance-based government.