Silicon Valley is one step closer to being its own state. No, really.

(Six Californias)
(Six Californias)

Silicon Valley-based billionaire venture capitalist Timothy Draper has a dream: Six Californias. He's the major backer of a proposal that would split the nation's most populated state into six parts -- creating the new states of Jefferson, North California, Central California, South California, West California and Silicon Valley.

And now his dream is a teensy bit closer to reality: A petition for "Six Californias" has reached the 808,000 some signatures needed to get a referendum on the ballot in 2016, spokesperson Roger Salazar tells Reuters. But that doesn't mean it'll be happening anytime soon: Even if the proposal is approved by voters, it would still need congressional approval to move forward -- likely a pretty hard sell.

“Splitting California into six states would raise all sorts of concerns about the partisan balance of the Senate,” Brendan Nyhan, assistant professor of government at Dartmouth College told ABC News about the plan back in February. “I can’t imagine this would ever go anywhere.”

But perhaps more interesting than the plan's chances for success is just why Draper is so interested in slicing and dicing the Golden State -- and what it says about the civic interests of tech investors.

The proposed boundaries of the "Six Californias" plan would segregate some of the highest earning parts of California from the less prosperous agricultural areas. In fact, a report on the plan from California's non-partisan Legislative Analyst's Office from earlier this year says the proposed Silicon Valley state, which would include the San Francisco Bay area along with the associated tech corridor, would have the highest per capita personal income of any state. Meanwhile, Central California, which would include Fresno and some of the most fruitful agricultural land, would have a per capita personal income that ranks dead last in the country at about $150 less than Mississippi.

Draper thinks this gap could be overcome -- eventually. "If they could govern themselves, I could see them encouraging manufacturing jobs into central California," he told VentureBeat last month. "Central California could be a wealthy state – not suddenly, but over 10 or 20 or 30 years." The whole idea, he says, would be to create a more localized relationship between citizens and governments. As a state, California is a mess, he argues -- and he thinks dividing it into more manageable areas with less diverse economic priorities would help.

But in actual practice, splintering the states might leave an even bigger bureaucratic mess -- with some states facing profound challenges when it comes to water rights, prison management, budgetary issues and education.  For instance, the Legislative Analyst's Office notes that Jefferson and Central California would "not have a full array of professional programs, such as law and medical schools, at public universities within their boundaries."

This may not seem like a huge problem to Draper, who runs an unaccredited entrepreneurship program grandiosely titled "Draper University of Heroes." But it also seems to be indicative of Draper's personal political views, which lean heavily libertarian (like those of many others in Silicon Valley. See: Peter Thiel).

In May, Draper argued for his "Six Californias" plan by comparing government to slavery. (He later apologized for the remark.) On his personal blog, The Riskmaster, Draper links to a song by his daughter (a former actress and current tech-focused talk show host) Jesse Draper crooning about her father that "he loves to dance while teaching all the countries that the market should be free."  In 2009, he released a YouTube video for this anti-tax anthem titled "Take My Money."

 

Andrea Peterson covers technology policy for The Washington Post, with an emphasis on cybersecurity, consumer privacy, transparency, surveillance and open government.
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