“We can still learn from history the invaluable lesson that an enormously powerful and profitable evil can be overcome.”
–David Brion Davis
Entrepreneurs have an inherent distaste for entrenchment, and seek to disrupt it wherever it exists. Because of the history of Silicon Valley, entrepreneurs are typically focused on market entrenchment. The organizations being disrupted are market goliaths – the Microsofts, IBMs, and Oracles – that use their connections, capital, and incumbency to stifle innovation. In our world, those that bring about this disruption are heralded as innovators and held up as exemplars.
It’s time we expanded our field of vision. There is another category of powerful entrenched interests in our midsts – another flavor of anachronistic goliath. These kind don’t look to protect their market caps or their cash flows; they look to protect their influence and their votes.
Yesterday we saw a grotesque example of this kind of entrenchment, as a minority in the U.S. Senate blocked legislation that would have required background checks on all gun sales, instead of only registered broker sales as is currently the case. Before it was introduced, every controversial measure was dropped from the legislation. It was so uncontroversial that nearly 90% of the American public supported the reform, including 85% of gun owners.
But in stepped the NRA, the Comcast of the political world, to kill the bill. Despite this legislation having the support of a majority of Senators, and nearly 90% of the public, it didn’t even get an up or down vote.
Whatever your views are on gun control, it’s hard to see yesterday’s events as anything but an example of an entrenched political interest using its power (money, exclusive relationships, incumbency) to maintain the status quo (sound familiar to any startups out there?). Former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords writes about this far more eloquently than I can in yesterday’s NYT.
This sort of political entrenchment is legion: big oil kills renewable energy investments, certain religious institutions kill marriage equality, content producers kill internet freedom – it goes on and on, and crosses party lines.
It’s time our entrepreneurial community widens our field of vision and takes on this problem. It’s time we celebrate not only market disruption, but political disruption. This is why we founded Amicus – to give those like Gabby Giffords the tools they need to disrupt the powerful entrenched interests standing in the way of progress. But Amicus is not enough. We need to see technology enable even more disruption in this space.
This work is rewarding. When you disrupt political entrenchment, great things can happen. Slavery can be abolished, women can gain the right to vote, SOPA can be defeated. For instance, Amicus helped turn the tide on marriage equality by helping advocates overcome the entrenched minority standing in their way. And it feels amazing.
If we create the tools that enable political disruption, innovation will flourish, and nothing will stand in the way of progress. So let’s get hacking.
If you’re interested, join us in achieving this mission.