Tim Draper, one of the capitalists behind Skype and Hotmail - has announced new details about his “Six Californias” plan, which would divide the Golden State into - you guessed it - six new states. Draper is spearheading the plan to decentralize the country’s most populous state, allowing for what he claims will be “better representative government.”
So why is this important to us tech folks? Well one of Draper’s proposed states is all of Silicon Valley. Now as we know, much of the tech sector in this country lives and does business there - so there’s quite a bit of money floating around places like San Francisco and Santa Clara. As one of the six proposed states, Silicon Valley would have its own Senate representatives in Congress to “better represent the interests of its citizens.”
So instead of having to turn to Sacramento for state laws, passing bills and such, the tech sector would pretty much just do what it wants. But this also means that this concentration of wealthy investors and tech giants would only have to support their strip of Californian land - poorer parts of the state are on their own, at least as far as Draper’s plan is concerned.
The idea is supposed to encourage technological growth in California - Draper proposes that by breaking the successful sector off, the new states will be free to develop their own industry instead of being bound by the current out of touch central California legislature.
The lines drawn would section off Jefferson at the far north, which has some of the poorest counties in the state, North California, which includes the current state’s capitol, Central California, home of Fresno, West California, encompassing Los Angeles to San Luis Obispo, South California, with San Diego at the helm, and of course, Silicon Valley.
Here’s the problem with this, and we’re going to ignore the trite “rich trying to get richer and make the poor poorer” argument, because we’d be here all day and never get to the point.
New tech sectors won’t just “pop up” in California - that’s not how people work. Silicon Valley took decades to develop and become what it is today because it had a set of geographical conditions that other places in the state don’t - population density and proximity to water, for example. San Francisco is generally fair-weathered, pleasant to be in, and has access to most people’s needs within walking distance. The Bay Area is generally a densely populated area, since historically, humans tend to live near water. So it’s hard to imagine that somewhere like Bakersfield becoming a tech Mecca, considering it’s in the middle of nowhere.
Admittedly, there is some sense in Draper’s proposal - new centers for tech startups and companies have arisen in the last decade - Austin, Texas, for example, has seen a gigantic influx of new, young professionals. But it also has events like South By Southwest to encourage cultural development within the city - and a cultured city is a cool city, which attracts even more people.
Ireland has heralded the arrival of technology companies in the past few years, especially in Dublin. Once again, a relatively densely populated area along the water that’s been a desirable place to live. Helps that the scenery is beautiful, too.
So. Where does somewhere like Shasta fit in? Not every city can be a tech hub - there are other needs to fill.
And that’s where this proposal is lacking vision - the other proposed states would be easily self-sustaining, albeit some poorer than other - but the Silicon Valley doesn’t exactly...build things. Or harvest materials. Or grow food.
Now, assuming Draper’s plan is actually put to vote (which is possible, considering he’s got the funds to push the legislative process) on the state ballot, the move would have to be passed by Congress as well.
The last time Congress ratified a new state within pre-existing state borders? West Virginia, 1863.