Politics Archive

'Tis the Season of Disasterous Unintended Consequences

As I've said before, I'm starting to get irrationally freaked about the downturn and just how much worse 2009 could get. But my fears of every employer of ours going insolvent, and Mr. Lacy and I ending up in the poor house are-- by any stretch-- a long shot. Even the worst case scenario is likely some belt tightening, which we've done before and can do again. (Tip: Short Diane Von Furstenberg if this occurs.)

But there is something else I'm very scared about, and it's all too rational: Unintended consequences of government intervention. The TARP bailout was merely the beginning to a drunken spree of spending, regulation and scapegoats that'll continue at least through first quarter of 2009, and I'm betting even longer. It's a mad-dash to soothe the stock market, which is irrational at best. And you know what happens in mad-dashes? People fall and trip on scissors.

First, consider, a cautionary tale from the last bust: Here's a great piece in the Wall Street Journal by Mike Malone, one of my very favorite authors. (In fact, Infinite Loop is the best book written on Apple IMHO. Not too late to get one for your favorite fan boy for Christmas....) Malone's piece echoes several of the "Nontrepreneur" chapter in my book, and a good many columns I've written about the very real problems venture capitalists are facing, although I tend to point the finger at Wall Street more than Washington. As usual, Malone makes his points in elegant style.

And now a cautionary tale for 2009. Paul "It's only fairly apocalyptic" Kedrosky likes to come up with doomsday scenarios, and sadly in 2008 a lot of them were right on. But this situation he describes in our video below is one of the scariest. (Hint: ZOMBIES!)

This is what happens when we slap-dash regulations and bailouts to pacify voters and mob-investors. I don't know a single expert, journalist, commentator or luminary that said the bailout plan was well thought out. But at the same time there was high-pitched screeching when it wasn't immediately passed. This is just one unintended consequence of the "YOU HAVE TO DO SOMETHING!" school of governance. Do you know how many we haven't even seen yet?

I started my career covering regional banks and you can't overestimate how much the fabric of America is woven into them. The U.S. Government certainly can't afford to bail them all out. Already we're stretched so thin, China is downgrading our credit rating for the first time.

I know, I know, not exactly happy Christmas wishes. The above video is far more suited for Halloween.

BREAKING: I Actually Like a Republican

So apparently there was some big Orange Festival-Carnival-Dance-To Do or something in Houston that anyone who is anyone goes to….the same night as my signing. Brilliant timing right?

Actually, yes. I’m always secretly happy for a small intimate crowd because you can actually have deep conversations with people. I had quite a few last night. One guy marched up, barked a few questions at me including “WHAT VCS DO YOU KNOW?” to which I blankly stared and finally asked how long he had. I mean, it’s pretty much been my job for ten years to know as many as possible. It’s a bit like asking an Eskimo to describe all the snowflakes he’s ever seen. Said guy also informed me if you had an innovative new drill bit you could start a company in Houston. Otherwise, you leave. Period. Not a single good software developer to be found in the city limits. He was there for “free babysitting” and then getting the hell out. And then he marched off. As someone who loves efficiency and bold statements, he was a man after my own heart.

Olivia and I also got personality tests that showed—among other things—we have no secrets and my husband is like candy to me: The sweetest part of my life, but it can also give me a toothache at times. Also, Olivia sees problems in life like a little chipmunk she can solve by patting them on the head. (Delusional!) I see them as a big grizzly bear on hind legs charging at me. What do I do? MACE THE BITCH! (Bad ass!) We lifecasted the “readings”….posts to come later.

But I have to say the single best conversation I had was with David Wallace, with whom I shared the event. David wrote “One Nation Under Blog” and is the former mayor of Sugar Land, Texas. He’s a Texas republican who was introduced to me by my new BFF Erica O'Grady as the man who will one day be President. Another republican Texan as President? You can understand my hesitancy to shake his hand.

But it was perfect at this moment in American history and my own life to do an event where politics and Web 2.0 were colliding. David’s book is about how Web 2.0 is determining the future of politics; my book chronicles the rise of those very technologies. He’s a politician who can’t stop thinking about the Web and its impact. I’m a tech reporter who can’t stop thinking about this upcoming election and its impact. We probably could have talked for about 45 hours, each wanting to somehow can-opener the other’s brain and just cherry-pick the contents.

From the conversations we did have, I have to say W has given Texas republicans an unnecessary bad name. David isn’t a fear-based, reactionary politician. Although terrified by the ugly side of the net-- think pedophiles lurking on MySpace and anonymous bloggers calling him a drug dealer-- as mayor David worked to understand the net and educate parents and schools how kids should be careful using it—not lobby banning it or somehow trying to regulate it. He’s also an avid Twitter user—writing his Twitters himself, not outsourcing it to a staffer. (Wait: does that mean he’s a terrorist?)

During our public chat—which is Qik’ed below—I prefaced a lot of obnoxious statements with “I’m just a crazy San Francisco liberal…” as my way of apologizing in advance for the jerky partisan statement-masquerading-as-a-question I was about to ask. (The recording stops before I go too far, sadly.) One of the things I just had to know was his opinion of McCain picking Sarah Palin as a running mate. He said he was horrified and said we could talk about it more later. We did. And I was impressed with how many issues a crazy San Francisco liberal and a Texas Republican politician could actually agree on. Perhaps the most important thing we agreed on: We both voted for Obama. Boo-ya. I left with a huge appreciation and hope that a non-Karl Rove republican party actually exists in America in larger numbers than it seems and that maybe Sarah Palin isn’t the future of the party—maybe people like David are.

I also got a copy of his book, which I’ll read and review once, um, Erica ships it because apparently I waltzed right out of Caroline Collective leaving it on the table.

Damon Weaver is my homeboy....

Five things I learned from the intrepid fifth-grade reporter Damon Weaver:

1. Self-promote with confidence and purpose.

2. Seek out a mentor figure if you have questions or need advice.

3. Keep your questions clear and to.the.point. 

4. When in doubt, embarrass your crew. Impromptu dance moves are a sure-fire win.

5. Remember your audience.

I am now going to perfect holding a microphone at a bizarre 45 degree angle above my head in an awkward yet cute manner for future SarahLacy.com lifecasts. Fact.

Why I Think Prop K Is Not OK

Earlier today I voted. The big three issues for me:

  • Obama- duh!
  • No on Prop 8- duh!
  • and No on Prop K

I said as much on Twitter when someone asked and hours later found myself in a debate with Melissa Gira Grant (and a few others) on why exactly I was so against sex workers rights. I'm not. In fact, I was excited about Prop K when I first heard about it. Then I started hearing more details and read it myself.

This is not a proposition that helps everyone-- in fact it hurts the sex workers lowest on the totem poll and hurts people investing in San Francisco homes and neighborhoods. I'm limited to what I can say in 140-characters on Twitter and my followers were probably annoyed by all the back and forth. So in case you live in San Francisco and are voting next week (hopefully another "duh") please read this letter a good friend of mine wrote after studying the issue. He wrote it to send to the candidate he was hoping to vote for for district supervisor. That guy had staunchly supported K, and when he read this letter he went back, read the prop, and switched his vote, writing my friend back to thank him and say he was right. (Both letters on the jump.)

As I said on Twitter, bad law with good intentions doesn't equal good law. History books are filled with laws that meant well, but introduced a flood of negative unintended consequences. (Remember energy deregulation and Enron???) We can do better. We live in the most progressive, most freethinking city in the U.S. We should do better.

I'm not urging you to vote based on what my friend says below.  But if you are going to vote for it, just read the proposition for yourself, please. We all get this phone book-thick lists of all the stuff we need to vote on every year and almost none of us sit and read what we're essentially enacting into law.

I don't want to keep debating this. This is what I think, have a free-for-all in the comments if you disagree just keep it clean for the sake of my readers. And, @philipn, I don't apologize for caring about this as a homeowner. First of all, if I were a renter I'd want my block safe for the kids who live next door and across the street. Second, my husband and I worked our asses off for ten years in low paying professions like art and journalism to buy this house and invest in the city we love. If that makes me a bad person in your book, unfollow me.

(BTW: Forgive the digression from startup/business/tech posts, but the election is all I can think about this week.)

The letter on the jump:

Part insightful analysis of what ails Silicon Valley and part madcap journey to far flung hubs of aspiration and innovation, Sarah Lacy takes us around the world in 180 pages to find the fascinating people who are creating the new wealth in a new world of start ups and ventures that America ought to be paying a lot more attention to.
Brilliant. Crazy. Cocky.

New Book

An unforgettable portrait of the emerging world's entrepreneurial dynamos Brilliant, Crazy, Cocky is the story about that top 1% of people who do more to change their worlds through greed and ambition than politicians, NGOs and nonprofits ever can. This new breed of self-starter is taking local turmoil and turning it into opportunities, making millions, creating thousands of jobs and changing the face of modern entrepreneurship at the same time. To tell this story, Lacy spent forty weeks traveling through Asia, South America and Africa hunting down the most impressive up-and-comers the developed world has never heard of....yet.

Excerpt »

Buy it from these sellers

Srah Lacy

Sarah Lacy is an award-winning reporter who has covered high-growth entrepreneurship for more than fifteen years. She is the founder, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of PandoDaily.com, the site-of-record for the startup ecosystem. She lives in San Francisco.

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