"I’m all for rushing the barricades when there’s an enemy to fight and a battle that can be won. I’ve engaged in my share of such battles. But it’s time to reckon with reality: There is no enemy here. Or if there is, it’s an enemy that won’t be defeated. What has hit San Francisco in the last couple of years can be summed up in one word: capitalism. And that is a tsunami that no seawall can keep out. Herb Caen once described San Francisco as “surrounded on three sides by water and on the fourth by Republican reality,” but that reality—right now taking the shape of free-market capitalism—does not magically stop halfway across the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge. We may wish that it were otherwise, but San Francisco is no more exempt from the almighty market than anywhere else in the United States. As a result, much of the left’s response to what is happening here is what philosophers call a “category violation”: the confusion of surface phenomena (techies, new construction, city policies) with the economic system that is actually responsible for the problem.
For better or worse, the techies are here. Barring an economic meltdown that would probably send the world into a catastrophic depression, they’re going to be here for a long time. Yes, it’s possible that the gloomy view will prove correct and the techies will bring little or nothing positive to San Francisco. But I’m betting that at a minimum, their sociological impact will be neutral. If they’re low on charisma but invent something that makes the world a better place, we’ll take it. Who knows? The mixture of compassionate old-school progressives, with their commitment to social justice, and high-IQ, problem-solving techies, with their ambition to change the world, just might be the alchemical combination we need.
At this fraught moment, a venerable slogan from an earlier cultural revolution could be useful. As the Change breaks over the city like a huge wave, the classes shouldn’t make war. They should interbreed and reproduce."