Last week, in San Francisco, the lowly proles who work for Bay Area Rapid Transit went on strike. Tech columnist Sarah Lacy, who runs the incestuous startup publicity site PandoDaily, wants you to know how disgusted she is about this. How dare the transit workers have made life inconvenient for the only people who really matter, the ones who are changing the world with their startups?
For Lacy and the rest of the techno-libertarian goon squad, it's a matter of moral progress. The BART strike is yet another case study in the failure of public goods—fresh agar for startups to colonize. Is college unaffordable? Go to an internet school. Or don't go at all. Subway unavailable because of a labor dispute? Just take a private car, dialed in via iPhone app.
"It’s too bad no one is working on disrupting BART," she pouted in a recent post, her head surely spinning with dreams of equity-hungry Stanford dropouts dynamiting tunnels through mountainsides.
“If I had more friends who were BART drivers, I would probably be very sympathetic to their cause, and if they had more friends who were building companies they would probably realize we’re not all millionaires, and we’re actually working pretty hard to build something. People in the tech industry feel like life is a meritocracy. You work really hard, you build something and you create something, which is sort of directly opposite to unions.”
A meritocracy! A meritocracy, in which anyone with a dream, a rarified education in computer science, and the kindness of a millionaire investor can make it. Not only does Lacy believe in this startup utopianism, she thinks ordinary members of the labor force are “directly opposite” to what she and her friends want to accomplish. If you’re not working “really hard” to make the next superfluous app, you’re standing in their way. These regulars are just obstacles, not actual humans—not even worth the title of consumer.
Fortunately Lacy isn't friends with any of the slobs who spend their days operating (or riding!) the trains instead of engineering a website to make the trains obsolete—so their needs don't register with her. Her friends are on the other side, in the industry she's ostensibly covering. "We," not "they." She’s one of them—they’re just like her, and everyone else is just a clog in the disruption stream.
And so it doesn’t matter that she rails against public transit on a website that shares investment money with Lyft, a startup that helps San Franciscans hire their fellow residents as chauffeurs. It doesn’t matter that she marginalizes city employees and those who rely on their labor, people outside of her cramped sphere—you know, the people who are supposed to use products that companies make. All that matters is preserving the myth: that Lacy and her peers matter, are a vanguard, and will remake the world without labor, a world built ("built," mind you) by startups that place pink mustaches on Range Rovers.
Photo: Charles Eshelman/Getty