Sean Garrett has a thought-provoking post asking why there doesn't seem to be any "leadership 2.0" on policy issues
. His complaint is that most of the folks involved in public policy issues that impact the tech industry are the same folks who were doing public policy issues 10 years ago -- and that it's all coming from the big companies, who mostly have set up offices in DC and keep policy questions away from Silicon Valley. It's an interesting question -- and I tend to agree with Garrett on a lot of things, but I don't see this as much of a worry.
First, Silicon Valley companies historically have never
been interested in public policy questions until they reach a certain size. That's why you always hear stories about tech companies reacting late to policy issues and then having to ramp up their lobbying efforts. So this doesn't seem any different than it's been in the past. When companies are in high growth mode, there are only so many things they can worry about, and most of them are focused on growth, not government. If anything, while there are downsides to this, I tend to think this is one of the advantages of Silicon Valley. Once you have young companies looking at policy questions, inevitably, they start focusing on how policy can be twisted to their advantage -- and that's not helpful to anyone.
Second, I partially disagree with the premise. While it may be true that among the web 2.0 San Francisco party crowd you don't see much interest in public policy issues, from my standpoint, it seems like technology-interested folks are much more in tune with public policy issues than a decade ago. You hear more people today who understand various public policy issues than in the past, and there's been a rapid growth of policy-focused blogs, often from young technology-focused individuals. So, while it may be true that the latest generation of Y-Combinator founders are more interested in the next party or getting coverage on hot blogs, that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of folks paying attention to what happens in DC -- and when things get troublesome, they have no problem raising the alarm in a way that gets noticed.