Two Takes on Silicon Valley's Gold Rush
Almost a century and a half ago, the same behaviors you note were displayed outside San Francisco ("The dark side of Silicon Valley," News: Analysis & Commentary, July 17). It was called the Gold Rush. With the advent of litigants and the disappearance of firearms, more pleasant conditions now exist. You no longer have people in black hats shooting good guys. You still have claim-jumpers and rapacious hangers-on (the local BMW salesmen), but the hectic pace and easy money appeals to tired Easterners and distraught Midwesterners who are examining their own dreary futures.
The Gold Rush left several benefits: Levi Strauss & Co. jeans, the transcontinental railroad, lower interest rates, and a whole lot of stories to be told by Mark Twain and others. It's too bad people think gambling takes place in Vegas, because the gambling now taking place in Silicon Valley makes Vegas look like chump city.
San Luis Obispo, Calif.
As an engineer in Silicon Valley, I take exception to your story. The company where I work has a strict policy against using intellectual property of a rival or previous employer. We sign this and are counseled coming in the door.
Who exactly are the detractors? People lacking the drive and persistence necessary to achieve the high levels of success they envy. For most of us, success comes after several college degrees, 10 to 15 years of 50-hour-plus workweeks at many previous companies, willingness to adapt, and making correct life choices.
Aren't "greed" and "excess" words more descriptive of Washington, D.C., and Sacramento? Witness the 39.6% federal tax rate, 9.3% California tax rate, 8.4% California sales tax, and the 5% luxury tax on autos above $42,000. A well-paid Silicon Valley engineer buying a $65,000 auto would need to earn an extra $146,000.
To those envious detractors: Forgo your cheap PC, don't browse the Internet or trade stocks online, dump your high-tech mutual funds, and don't benefit from the 40% of the tax burden paid by the top 2% of wage earners. Then you can comment.
James Van Dyke
Sunnyvale, Calif.Return to top
"Tough Justice": A Racist Waste of Money and Lives?
Regarding "Tough justice is saving our inner cities" (Economic Viewpoint, July 17): I can't believe Gary Becker had the nerve to put his offensive views on paper or that BUSINESS WEEK would publish them. Blacks are beneficiaries of tough justice? Give me a break! The drug war is arguably waged in a racist manner, with African-Americans bearing the brunt of zero-tolerance law enforcement. Violent crime continues to trend downward, yet the Land of the Free recently earned the dubious distinction of having the highest incarceration rate in the world.
Nonviolent drug offenses account for the majority of federal incarcerations. While only 11% of the nation's drug users are black, blacks account for 37% of those arrested for drug violations, over 42% of those in federal prisons for drug violations, and almost 60% of those in state prisons for drug felonies. Here in the District of Columbia, 50% of 18-to-35-year-old black men are under some form of court supervision or being sought on arrest warrants. Nationwide, roughly one in three (32%) black males aged 20 to 29 is under some type of correctional control. Minorities fuel the burgeoning for-profit prison system.
Few Americans seem to care that the drug war has created a prison-industrial complex that rivals the cold war's military-industrial complex in terms of influencing public policy. Support for the failed drug war would end overnight if whites were subjected to "tough justice" at the same rates as their African-American counterparts.
Much of the police crackdown on inner-city crime involves a crackdown on people associated with illegal drugs in some way. If these people were not subjected to police actions because the drugs were legally regulated, and if drug use were treated similarly to alcohol and tobacco use, crime would drop dramatically, and the costs to society would plummet.
Instead, we have handed a monopoly to organized crime, ruined many lives, and drawn unflattering international attention to ourselves because of our astronomical incarceration rate. Rather than treat those who seek treatment to get off drugs and leave the rest alone, we dispense a brutal solution to their problems and in turn create greater problems for society.
Decatur, Ill.Return to top