The newest shock in certain circles is the fact the Koch brothers are teaming up with Silicon Valley on tech issues. Via POLITICO:
[D]espite their ideological distance on issues like the Paris climate accord, the Koch groups and left-leaning Silicon Valley are working together to advance the argument that innovation is most likely to flourish when legislators and regulators leave it alone.
“We tend to think that there’s a role for government, but it’s limited,” Jesse Blumenthal, who leads the Charles Koch Institute’s tech policy portfolio, said in an interview at the organization’s headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. He called technology a prime example of how people can see their quality of life improved, and their existences less constrained, when the free market is allowed to work.
The deep-pocketed Koch groups have the resources to help tech put on educational events, co-host conferences and fund academic research. But the alliance with Charles Koch also allows Silicon Valley to expand its contacts and influence in the age of Donald Trump — in a Washington that looks much different from what the tech executives who supported Hillary Clinton had expected after the 2016 election.
There always seems to be some kind of, “what, huh?” whenever the Kochs decide to get involved in something which isn’t always considered a “conservative” position. Deion Sanders was asked by The Dallas Morning News whether he was worried about working with the Kochs on poverty, and ‘shockingly’ (note sarcasm) said he had no qualms about the brothers or their motives. His key quote is how he’s seen first hand how the Kochs are “really trying to make this country a better place for everyone.”
Silicon Valley appears to be having a similar reaction to working with the libertarian brothers, even if they disagree on certain issues. Engine executive director Evan Engstrom told POLITICO he looks forward to working with the Kochs more, especially because there are “a lot of philanthropic foundations working in the tech policy space, particularly on forward-thinking tech issues.” That’s a breath of fresh air because tech freedom is a transpartisan issue, much like justice reform. The fight for privacy against the government’s attempt to get their grubby little fingers into everything from our emails to our text messages is important for the future of freedom. It would be nice if other conservative and libertarian groups got involved in this sort of thing, as well.
There are obviously still skeptics, who can’t get past the fact it’s the Kochs helping out. Via POLITICO:
“At some point the tech community needs to realize that our work has a moral dimension,” said Catherine Bracy, executive director of TechEquity Collaborative, a group advocating for fairness in the Bay Area economy. “Taking money from people who are dedicating their lives to undermining American democratic values, like openness and inclusion, goes against everything the internet is supposed to stand for.”
*cue eyeroll emoji*
Look, I know people are going to have a tough time accepting help from non-traditional allies, but come on. It’s not a strange bedfellows issue either, because tech freedom is an issue which affects you and me (much like justice reform). There are certainly going to be disagreements, but the core thesis of freedom is, well, freedom. It also gives conservatives and libertarians access to groups they might not always have access to, so they can explain their positions.
Chris Calabrese, vice president for policy at the Center for Democracy & Technology, which co-hosted the September event at the Newseum with the Koch team, calls them “really great partners.” Working with the Koch group, he says, has helped his organization expand its scope.
He points to Ajit Pai, the Trump-appointed head of the Federal Communications Commission, who addressed the Newseum event. Pai began his talk on free speech by saying of the event’s three hosts, “I think it’s fair to say these three groups might not always agree on everything.”
“One of the reasons Chairman Pai, I think, spoke at our event was because CKI was able to reach out to him,” Calabrese said.
This is a key factor conservatives and libertarians need to realize. There is nothing wrong with working with the “other side” if the issue expands freedom for everyone. It’s a big difference from working with the “other side” on say gun control or increasing government spending for some pet project. This is increasing liberty, and protecting people from our intrusive government. It also gives us the chance to expound on other freedom and liberty issues like why Net Neutrality is a bad idea. It’s not going to always work, but there’s nothing wrong with trying, especially with the large audience of Silicon Valley.
Here’s hoping there will be more partnerships like this which expand freedom, instead of contracting it. Because freedom is fleeting, and the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.