The modern history of the Silicon Valley arguably began in 1957, when eight young PhD graduates left Shockley Semiconductor Laboratories to launch the first high-volume chip manufacturer, Fairchild Semiconductor. Fairchild and its spinoffs, including Intel and Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), were the early participants in what became the most fervid ecosystem of fiercely competitive innovators the world has ever seen. Inspired by the mantra “better, faster, cheaper,” and fueled by billions in venture capital, the Silicon Valley is now the epicenter of the information age that has transformed our lives.

With power, however, comes corruption. The Silicon Valley’s inspirational mantra has become challenged in recent years. High-tech products that used to sell because they were better are now sold because they are mandated by law. They sell not because they are faster, but because they are engineered to operate according to a social or environmentalist agenda. And they are most definitely not cheaper, but instead cost far more than they should. And across the product spectrum from high-tech to low-tech, Silicon Valley leadership increasingly uses their political clout to support this new agenda.

This is no longer competitive innovation. It is crony capitalism. Here are examples of these mandated products:

And we haven’t seen anything yet! The “internet of things” is coming. And when it does, nanny robots will abet the nanny state, ensuring the green corporate vision of utopia monitors and manages us all.

The problem with all of these socially engineered, mandated products, apart from the fact they are, collectively, massive annoyances, is that they are based on convenient myths. The idea, for example, that anyone can overuse indoor water is a myth. Instead of using water bond proceeds to give rebates to consumers to buy these contrivances, policymakers should be completing infrastructure upgrades so that 100% of sewage is treated and injected into aquifers to be retrieved again as potable water. How can you overuse indoor water if 100% of it is recycled?

The idea that urban water cutbacks in general can have a significant impact on California’s total water diversions is another convenient myth. During this recent drought, California’s households were asked to cut back their water consumption by 25%. Best case, this would have given back about 900,000 acre feet for farmers or environmental uses. But according to the California Dept. of Water Resources, farmers currently consume 27 million acre feet each year, and environmental diversions consume another 31 million acre feet per year. All of that household saving equates to a reduction in total use of only 1.5%. Meanwhile, public funds are spent urging people to put a brick in their toilet tank, or a bucket in their shower. This is infantile propaganda, imparting dangerous levels of scope insensitivity to the impressionable.

When you examine the alternatives to forcing citizens to buy expensive, annoying gadgets to address a phony shortage, it becomes quite clear what’s going on. Crony capitalist lobbyists, who want their high-tech companies to be OEMs to major manufacturers of durable goods, are warping policy decisions so they can pocket the public money that ought to be used to upgrade our sewage treatment plants, construct reservoirs (Temperance Flat and Sites come to mind), and build percolation systems to harvest storm runoff from the Los Angeles river and other rivers.

The same holds true for energy. There’s nothing wrong with mandating common sense solutions to avoid profligate waste of water and energy. But it is oppressive to mandate sealing up homes and buildings so fresh air can’t circulate, subjecting people to the blinding industrial glare of first generation LED light, or making them install switches and thermostats that are puzzles to operate. Back in the 1990’s, reputable environmentalist magazines like WorldWatch promoted natural gas as the “transition” fuel to adopt while we moved methodically towards the electric age. Now that we’re awash in natural gas, the environmentalists, abetted by the crony capitalists, have raised the stakes.

For those of us in the developed world, these policy biases translate into annoyances. For those billions who reside in the developing world, the oppressive consequences are tragic. The preconditions for population stabilization are universal literacy, reduced infant mortality, and female emancipation. And the biggest single precondition for those three laudable goals? Cheap and abundant energy. So while we fiddle with affordable battery technology and smart electrical grids, inexpensive clean fossil fuel investment in the developing world is scuttled.

Here is the moral choice that the phony shortage crony capitalist crowd doesn’t want you to hear: We can develop clean fossil fuel to quickly create global prosperity, and world population will peak at 8.0 billion. Or we can develop “green” energy with windmills, batteries, and solar farms, deferring global prosperity due to the incredible cost of these bleeding edge technologies, and world population will peak at 10.0 billion. What is the impact of another two billion people on the ecological carrying capacity of planet earth? Al Gore and Tom Steyer are invited to answer this question.

Back here in California, the choice is equally clear. We can pretend there are shortages of water, energy and land, which will enrich the crony capitalists, but make the rest of us poorer. Or we can develop our natural gas and invest in our water supply and storage infrastructure, which will encourage the Silicon Valley to reaffirm their inspiring legacy of competitive innovation, while providing tremendous opportunities for the rest of us.

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Ed Ring is the president of the California Policy Center.