One Rich Man's Dream of Making Silicon Valley Its Own Megarich State

Tim Draper, a wealthy venture capitalist, is pushing a ballot in initiative in California that would carve the state into six pieces. It would also create a very rich, very Democratic state out of Silicon Valley.

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Tim Draper, a wealthy venture capitalist, is pushing a ballot in initiative in California that would carve the state into six pieces. His argument to TechCrunch was that this would increase the number of senators for Californians and "increase competition." It would also, as he no doubt knows, create a very rich, very Democratic, very introverted state out of Silicon Valley.

TechCrunch got the scoop on the (admittedly unlikely) plan. "Essentially, the idea is to section off California into six horizontal slices," it writes, "with Silicon Valley getting its own region stretching from the Sierras to the Bay Area beaches." Draper explained his rationale for his "Six Californias" campaign in a very Silicon Valleyesque series of bullet points:

  1. It is about time California was properly represented with Senators in Washington. Now our number of Senators per person will be about average.
  2. Competition is good, monopolies are bad. This initiative encourages more competition and less monopolistic power. Like all competitive systems, costs will be lower and service will be better.
  3. Each new state can start fresh. From a new crowd sourced state flower to a more relevant constitution.
  4. Decisions can be more relevant to the population. The regulations in one new state are not appropriate for another

There are a lot of things in those four points that should arouse some skepticism. But the most obvious result of the plan would be that Draper's home region, the wealthiest part of the state, would slough off the poorer, more rural regions to fend for themselves. And get two deep-blue senators to cover their backs in Washington, for good measure.

We pulled data on income, poverty, and politics and divvied it up by county for each of the six proposed new states. Here are the average household incomes, total population, Obama vote percentage, and 2011 average poverty rates for the counties in each one.

State Population Household income Family income Obama margin Poverty
1 924,793 $41,432 $51,941 -1.55% 20.9%
2 3,136,737 $58,784 $69,361 10.58% 14.7%
3 6,781,378 $75,616 $89,608 25.82% 12.4%
4 3,605,446 $52,080 $61,973 -1.28% 18.2%
5 12,120,410 $60,308 $69,499 17.21% 17.0%
6 10,400,436 $58,648 $66,079 1.23% 18.1%

State 3 is the state that would be named "Silicon Valley." It leads in average household income. It leads in median family income. It voted the most heavily for Obama last year, and it has the lowest poverty rate. That's the state in which Draper would live: rich, Democratic, and to do with what he pleases. As Sam Biddle of Valleywag, puts it (with characteristic reserve): "The Sean Parkers and Peter Thiels of our nation would finally get their enclave, an anti-regulatory Xanadu comprised not of noble yeoman, toilers, artists, or thinkers, but app-hucksters and Tesla-driving engineers."

And, of course, all of the tax revenue generated from that activity would stay right there in the state of Silicon Valley. State 1, up in the pot-growing hinterlands, would have to fend for itself. Draper calls it "starting fresh." It's more like being dumped in the woods with only the clothes on your back.

This will never pass in California; even if it did, it wouldn't be approved nationally. The dream, like so many other potentially lucrative dreams in Silicon Valley history, will die unloved by anyone but the person that dreamed it.

The initiative proposal, via TechCrunch.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.