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Stakes High For Silicon Valley This Election

Publication Date: 
November 06, 2012
The Stanford Daily
Marianne Levine

Professors Mark Lemley and Hank Greely spoke with The Stanford Daily's Marianne Levine on how the policies of the next president will have a "profound impact" on companies based in Silicon Valley. 

Silicon Valley and Washington D.C. are 3,000 miles apart, but policy and economics tie them closely together. Though technology policy and regulation rarely make it into candidates' stump speeches, the policies of the next president will impact the hiring of foreign workers, government investment in technology and privacy laws — all of which have profound impacts on companies based in Silicon Valley.


Silicon Valley, like most of Northern California, traditionally votes democratic. According to Mark Lemley, director of Stanford Law School’s program in Law, Science and Technology, the Democratic Party favors big government and is more likely to invest in innovation.

While President Obama received significant support from Silicon Valley donors in 2008, there has been a noticeable drop in enthusiasm for this coming election. Although Lemley acknowledged Silicon Valley’s democratic inclinations, he noted a tension between support for Obama's stance on technology innovation and opposition to government regulation in the technology industry.

"My guess is that if you had to describe a dominant political philosophy [for Silicon Valley], it would be libertarian," Lemley said. "Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are particularly libertarian these days. Republicans want to lower taxes, but want to regulate personal life. Democrats traditionally want more government … regulation but more personal liberties."

Bruce Cain, political science professor, echoed Lemley in a statement.


Hank Greely, professor at Stanford Law School, expressed more ambivalence, stating that the immigration of highly skilled workers could bode well for either candidate’s platforms and ideologies.

"I think the Obama administration would be more open to [the immigration of highly skilled workers]," he said. "They’re more open to immigration reform generally, but, then again Romney himself would likely be sympathetic to the high-tech industry’s concern to hire and keep high-tech citizens but his party seems unlikely to accept any change."


"One area where Silicon Valley is probably very concerned is Romney’s position with regard to trade and China," Greely said "China is practically an adjunct to Silicon Valley. … Major implications would follow that would have negative consequences for Silicon Valley and for the whole country. It’s hard to believe he’ll actually do it."