Is tech industry really worse than Wall St.?

ASSOCIATED PRESS Tech magnate Sean Parker is taking heat from the media over his extravagant wedding.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Tech magnate Sean Parker is taking heat from the media over his extravagant wedding.
Posted: October 01, 2013

AN ARTICLE this month in the New Republic caught my eye: It suggested that tech entrepreneurs were replacing Wall Street tycoons as the rich bad guys in popular culture.

The lightning rod for this apparent change was the media firestorm over former Facebook president and billionaire Sean Parker's medieval-themed wedding in June, held in a California redwood grove. The wedding reportedly cost $4.5 million. Sam Biddle, the editor of Gawker's tech-gossip site, Valleywag, described it as "grotesquely overpriced and environmentally destructive." (Parker replied by writing a 9,500-word manifesto for TechCrunch revealing a list of mean names he was called - "douche canoe" was one - after the media began to pick on him.)

"Tech is something like the new Wall Street. Mostly white dudes getting rich by making stuff of limited social purpose and impact," influential economist Umair Haque wrote on Twitter recently.

Piffle, I say.

At least the tech industry creates stuff, such as hardware and software. Now, one can argue whether some of the products are good for the planet - mobile dating apps come to mind - but the fact is that tech produces new stuff. Think of GPS, e-readers, Skype and all the Internet-enabled devices.

Wall Street bankers? They play games with moving money around and taking a cut off the top. What does Wall Street actually produce besides massive financial disasters? You may or may not like Google Glass, but at least it's an actual, physical product. Wealth is not.

And don't tell me that Wall Street is the sole source of finance for the folks who create all the technology. A significant portion of tech startups are bootstrapped or funded by other tech folks or everyday people via crowdfunding.

Are rich folks in tech jerks? Of course some are. Valleywag says the tech industry is infested with Ayn Randians. Some of the industry's biggest luminaries - like venture capitalist, PayPal co-founder and Facebook board member Peter Thiel - are proud Libertarians. But I don't think Thiel's politics - he supported former Texas Rep. Ron Paul for president in 2008 and 2012 - represent most people in the industry or tech entrepreneurs in Philadelphia.

Some rich folks in any area of business - oil, Wall Street, tech, even journalism - have a high degree of jerkiness.

But here's the thing: The tech industry actually changes the world every now and then, although not as often as they think. I'd stand tech's record of bringing helpful, innovative solutions - just the advances in computing since the Internet - against anything Wall Street has done.

When the tech folks drive the global economy to the brink, then are bailed out by taxpayers to the tune of tens of billions of dollars, we'll talk about who the real villains are.


On Twitter: @MHinkelman

Online: ph.ly/YourBusiness

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