Venture capital giant Andreessen Horowitz has announced its intent to begin lobbying the US government, and their plan is as tone-deaf and obtuse as this summer’s dreadful “Techno-Optimist Manifesto.” Essentially, they will give to anyone — literally anyone — who “supports an optimistic technology-enabled future.”
This is what’s called being a single-issue voter, and while co-founder Ben Horowitz (who penned the blog post) seems to think announcing themselves as such gives their lobbying a child-like purity, it’s quite the opposite.
The fact is that they are rich ideologues announcing their intent to pay any politician who will advance their agenda, whatever that politician’s other views. It really is that simple!
That tech is more important than people is fundamental to their approach. They would argue that they’re pro-people by way of being pro-tech, for example as they write, “Artificial Intelligence has the potential to uplift all of humanity to an unprecedented quality of living.”
Therefore, being pro-AI is being pro-people, right? And in fact, if you think about it, if AI could lead to a 100x improvement in the human condition long term, it justifies taking actions that produce worse outcomes in the short term. For instance, supporting politicians who oppose basic civil rights just because they have a more hands-off tech regulation proposal.
Would Andreessen and Horowitz support a politician proposing a national abortion ban, for instance, or widespread banning of “woke agenda” books, if that person said they’d trust AI companies to do what’s best for everyone? Well, according to A16Z’s statement of purpose here, that abortion stuff is none of their business! They’re “non-partisan, one issue voters.”
But that’s just bullshit, right?
In the first place, the idea that this one issue is non-partisan is risible. Forced birth advocates would probably say they are non-partisan, one issue voters too. It’s not about politics, it’s about the right to life, after all. That only one political party has cynically tied this and other “traditional values” to every other policy proposal for decades is irrelevant!
No, no — you don’t get to just declare non-partisanship in a blog post. Tech regulation has become a partisan issue like everything else. The debates on net neutrality, on Section 230, on TikTok, on disinformation in social media, and on A16Z’s pet techs AI, cryptocurrency, and biotech — all partisan! That is simply the nature of politics now. Even not participating in lobbying is in a way a partisan decision because it signals that you are not willing to take a side.
But that non-partisan language is just the usual dressing for this kind of announcement. Everyone claims it because it’s a meaningless quality and can’t be proved or disproved. The problem with A16Z’s philosophy here is that it is a wolf in sheep’s clothing: a nakedly deregulatory and pro-capital agenda superficially draped with the language of empowerment.
You have to imagine that some cigarette industry executive wrote a similar blog post in the ’60s: We are a non-partisan, single issue voter on the misguided regulatory regime unfairly preventing Americans from enjoying the great taste and health benefits of our all-natural tobacco products.
Same for plastics, food additives, leaded gas, everything else. All they cared about, and all Andreessen Horowitz cares about, is clearing the board of a troublesome obstacle to enrichment.
If they actually cared at all about people and how politics or this lobbying effort might affect them, “people” probably would have been mentioned as more than abstract concepts that might theoretically get “uplifted” or harmed in an imaginary future.
It’s unrealistic to think that by donating to a politician who supports their deregulatory vision, A16Z will not also be supporting the other policies that people actually vote on right now. Things like voting rights, reproductive care, education. This obvious conflict of interests is conveniently avoided. Is any position, any proposal vile enough for them to withdraw support, or will they stick by their principles, if they can be described as such?
They can’t expect us to believe that their understanding of lobbying and politics is this naive. There are smart people at that firm. We must take their statement at face value that they truly don’t care about anything but growing the sector they invest in. But what they are declaring is not, as they suggest, an idealistic pro-humanity stance, but a cynical self-interested stance that is fundamentally anti-people.
But A16Z does not care about people — it cares about humanity.
And humanity will surely be thankful when, as we enter this golden age of technology, we enter a dark age of civil and social policy, right? Women like Kate Cox may not have bodily autonomy, but at least they will have the blockchain.