Peter Thiel says California suffers from a “tech curse”. Is he right?

Speaking recently at the National Conservatism Conference in Miami, Peter Thiel, an investor and intellectual, made a provocative argument. He suggested that California suffers from a “tech curse”: a play on the “resource curse”, the notion that countries with abundant natural resources often have weak economies and corrupt political systems. If data is the new oil, then California is the new Saudi Arabia—even, he said, if things aren’t quite “as bad as Equatorial Guinea”.

Mr Thiel made the Equatorial Guinea comparison with tongue firmly in cheek, but he was deadly serious about the tech-curse theory. At first glance it seems plausible. California’s tech industry has in recent years produced astonishing wealth. The state is also in many ways dysfunctional. Parts of downtown San Francisco resemble an open-air drug den. Many of the state’s public schools seem keener on talking about social justice than teaching children. Each year, one in every 100 Californians,…

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