You should see what Microsoft did. Come on. Give me a break. The press is so young, they don’t understand the history here. We’re still a small component of what a whole bunch of other companies have done, and certainly most other industries. So I reject all such charges. And I’m very clear on that because people can’t do math. Take the numbers of the amounts of money that go into the regulated industries of all sorts—and then compare high tech, and compare Google in specific, and it’s miniscule.
And privately the politicians will say, “Look, you need to participate in our system. You need to participate at a personal level, you need to participate at a corporate level.” We, after some debate, set up a PAC, as other companies have. And it’s basically in the interest of our customers to do this, because the government can make mistakes. And for every one of these Internet-savvy senators, there’s another senator who doesn’t get it at all. And it’s not a partisan issue. It’s true in both parties.
Executive chairman of Google Eric Schmidt discusses the one thing he believes Washington needs to know about Silicon Valley.
What’s the answer?
You’re asking it the way an engineer asks. It’s not an answer, it’s a journey. If it were an answer, then after we had done our thing and told everyone to leave us alone, they would have left us alone. That’s not how Washington works. That’s not how government works. It’s naïve, on our part. So the modern model is that we spend a lot of time trying to make sure the government understands how large the contribution is that technology has made to the GDP of the country. One of our quotes: Fifteen percent of the GDP growth has been due to the two-and-a-half percent of the economy that’s IT. In other words, don’t screw that up.
Do you think that this administration seems to “get it” more than in the past?
You want to distinguish between the administration and the Congress. Each administration that I’ve worked with is full of younger people, and younger people are going to understand more the implications of technology. So for example, many senators now have Blackberrys or the equivalent. It means they’re finally beginning to use the technology. But that wasn’t true five years ago. Ten years ago, senators wouldn’t even send you an email message. Fifteen years ago, the government did not have a uniform naming scheme for email.
So what you see over and over again is the age of the people in government, plus the buying structure and the systemic nature, causes it to lag—this is the Andy Grove ‘three-times slower’ concept. So what do you do in that case? You have to show them. On a personal basis, I’ve spent a lot of time on this over the years. I’ve spent as much time doing this as anyone. The other people who’ve done a lot of this would be John Doerr and John Chambers. The three of us have probably spent more time wandering around over two decades.
Are the leaders in technology doing enough to work together? Are the lawsuits and the patent wars getting in the way of being able to help move the needle on these bigger issues?
The industry tends to agree on the things I’ve told you about. There’s not much disagreement. So we have funded joint lobbying and so forth. One of the things about being in California is you’re just not as focused on Washington. So when you go and you spend time with the little companies, they have no concept of why they would want to go to Washington. I remember thinking, “Wow, I have to go to Washington and talk to them?” It’s so foreign because when you’re in that zone, you’re busy inventing something that’s so obvious [that you think] everyone will love it and there’s no scenario where the government will prevent you from doing that.