In the 4th century A.D., Constantinople was consecrated and became the new capital of the Roman empire. Old Rome had been the capital of the kingdom, republic and early empire for centuries but now found itself too distant from the barbarian frontiers and the economic centres of the empire in the Levant, and so it gradually lost its gravity in the empire. Rome was tired and could not find within itself the energy to overturn old paradigms and realise the change that had been wrought in the world. Constantinople was the city of tomorrow; it had a closer reach to the major cities of the empire producing its art, culture, food and other precious resources and so could process and synthesise this information to act as the new imperial core.
In the 21st century A.D., the East Coast is Old Rome. She no longer commands a prized position in the American empire. The Atlantic seaboard is no longer the most important theatre of global politics and trade; Europe’s decline vis-à-vis the rise of the Indo-Pacific powers means the regaining of the latter’s historical position as the most productive region of the world. The important questions of the day will no longer be decided by congresses in the halls of Versailles or Vienna but in Tokyo, Shanghai and Jakarta.
The old blood of new England is spent, and its aristocratic sons and daughters now engage in rent-seeking and offshoring American productive power for their own gain. Their greatest desire in life is to be McKinsey consultants, not servants whose purpose is to promulgate the empire’s rule. But America is too wide and mighty to lose its premier position because one corner of its empire finds itself unmoored from reason and wants to throw in the towel. If East Coast institutions have shaped American culture, politics and the economy since the founding of the Union, it may very well be that a dynamic and young region in the empire shall replace the tired and old and come to define America for the next few centuries. The question is, where in America will New Rome be founded?
A West Coast Century
The Union is not yet crumbling. Rather, a shift is occurring that may define America for the century to come. From the rapid response of the West Coast to COVID-19 compared to the East Coast (and New York City’s subsequently unflattering reputation as the COVID capital of the world) to open warfare between San Francisco venture capitalists and pseudo-anonymous bloggers versus Brooklyn journalists and “venerable” media institutions, we may be witnessing a shift of power from the East Coast to the West Coast.
There are good reasons as to why this may be happening, and a strong argument as to why it should happen. Of course, those with a stake in maintain their position in the power hierarchy of the imperial heartland do not want this to happen at all. They range from Brooklyn journalists to D.C. beltway policy wonks. Traditional institutions of American power such as the Ivy league and Wall Street are also threatened by this shift.
The West Coast is no longer the far-off dusty corner of the empire where vagrants, goldrush miners and railway speculators congregate to eke out their fortune from the sands. Capital is flowing to California. San Francisco is the technology capital of the world. Los Angeles is second only to New York City in its cultural influence and the size of its economy and population. Even the agricultural production of America is dominated by California. In many ways, the West Coast is already the leading power centre in America.
More importantly, the West Coast’s ability to interact with the world of tomorrow is an incomparable advantage for any nation, particularly in a world defined by information technology. The West Coast’s mobilisation to combat COVID-19 came earlier than most other states America thanks to its tech community’s ability to receive and process information faster than the rest of the country. In the late weeks of January, they were already blaring the sirens about the coming plague. It really felt like we were living in the future then, watching people confirm in March what we knew in January.
The West Coast has another advantage, and this is a geopolitical one; its deep connections to the developed Asian world have made them extremely cognizant of the global shift in wealth and power that is currently underway. D.C. policy wonks and NY journalists still refer to countries like South Korea and Taiwan as developing when COVID-19 has shown anything but that. They are still living in the 20th century, and it may take the West Coast mentality to shake America from its current stupor and drag it into the 21st century. By its Pacific location and proximity to the new power centre of global political economy (the Indo-Pacific), a far better understanding of rising threats like China, and therefore US imperial interests in the New Arena, the West Coast is primed to take its role in American governance. But if New Rome is to be founded on the West coast, then there must be the will and vision to build.
Looking across the pacific seaboard, America is confronted with a dizzying array of megacities that have, quite literally, risen out of the ground within the past few decades alone. Asia alone has 25 megacities with populations ranging from 8,000,000 to 30,000,000 and over. Cities like Tokyo and Shanghai are serviced by state-of-the-art public transport while America struggles to build a few new rails of track. There is no better way to signal that the West Coast will lead America into the 21st century than by answering Marc Andreessen’s clarion call to build West Coast cities into ultra-modern, hi-tech metropolitan areas serviced by state-of-the-art public transport, public areas and urban design that centres the human and family. California has immense STEM talent that can rebuild American infrastructure, but this time building the railway from west to east. It would be the first major response to the challenge that the 21st century has laid before America: can you keep up, or will you join the other empires in the crypt of history?
Of course, to even discuss even the most rudimentary project of building, one must contend with the fact that although SV’ers control and produce much of the technology of our world, and collectively own some of the greatest wealth in the history of humanity, they have been unable to so much as change the housing regulations in their own backyards.
Silicon Valley continues to believe itself to be completely outside the ecosystem of politics, but the reality is that it is downstream from politics, becoming a repository for the detritus of petty bureaucrats and rent seekers. This has to change. If the West Coast wants to come into its own, to show that it has the right to take the mandate from the East, then it must engage in politics.
Capture your local councils. Capture your local government. Coerce politicians into doing what you want by playing the game of politics. It is quite easy when you have money. Instead of funding the latest startup to deliver cricket protein bars to humanity, why not devote that wealth to lobbying and capturing political institutions so that you can begin to physically change the world around you? Such recommendations have already been given. It need only be acted upon.
Big tech does not need to be broken up like the antitrust gang recommend. The MFAANG alone form one of the largest economies in the world. It is a massive source of power for America and should be cultivated further in the interests of maintaining America’s technological lead over the rest of the world. But it needs to be made to understand it is not above politics, and certainly not the American state.
By assuming that they are above politics, big tech has not become morally pure, but has instead unwittingly become a pawn kowtowing to totalitarian regimes to secure their business interests. All the while we do not cease to hear the moralising tone against American state and society, and an outright refusal to work on security projects while also helping China build concentration camps for Uyghurs. The West Coast must become unequivocally American and take the American side.
A man once declared that software was eating the world. This may be the view from within a microcosm that has long considered itself separate from the very nation it exists in, and were able to sustain its sense of separateness by moving much of their existence to the virtual plane. For them, software was indeed existence. But now there is an emerging consciousness in the valley and across the coast: the institutions that have underpinned American power since World War II have failed and action needs to be taken before stagnation becomes permanent sclerosis.
The West Coast is a sleeping giant, and yet the Tech Lords that reign in that fair golden country have not truly leveraged their power to change things inside America itself. America needs leadership, and the West Coast is primed to provide it. They need only reach out and take the mandate. Accept the existence of politics and leverage your position to claim power to make the changes needed to take the country forward. If this is done, we may witness political power in the American empire formally transfer to the the other side for the first time in its history, and in doing so, create an American Renaissance in the 21st century. A West Coast century.