So why does Peter Thiel support Donald Trump?
When I read headlines saying that Silicon Valley is baffled by his actions, I am baffled by their reactions.
It should be clear that there’s more going on here than meets the eye – though sometimes I wonder if Trump knows that…
Peter Thiel, for those of you who don’t know, is a brilliant billionaire tech tycoon who helped found PayPal and Palantir and who has his investment fingers in many other businesses.
As a tech-savvy, forward-thinking gay man – who has some unconventional ideas about technology, capitalism, economics, and the world we live in – he’s one of the last people you’d expect to see speaking in favor of a Trump presidency.
Yet that’s exactly what he did at the RNC, claiming that the economy and the government are “broken” and that he supports “people who are building new things.”
Donald Trump, he says, is a “builder…and it’s time to rebuild America.”
Donald Trump? That Guy?
- Encourages racial division and hatred
- Endorses racial profiling
- Promoted mass deportation of immigrants. Then, like any other practiced politician or salesperson, changed his rhetoric in response to public reaction: “No, I would not call it mass deportations,” Mr. Trump said. “We are going to get rid of a lot of bad dudes who are here. That I can tell you.”
- Has gone bankrupt at least 4 times
- If he becomes president, would be one of the world’s “top 10 global risks,” according to the Economic Intelligence Unit
- Allies himself with hordes of anti-gay politicians and voters
- Tweeted blatantly false crime statistics that are clearly aimed at promoting racial division and hatred
After watching a BBC special pointing out that the USA’s demographics are shifting – and that white people will be a minority in a few decades – I felt that Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again,” might actually be a subliminal message, “Make America White Again.”
The New York Times came up with a better one: “Make America Hate Again.”
But I’ll try to avoid ranting about Trump.
Critical Thinking About the System
Attacking Trump’s rhetoric is easy and everyone does it.
That is too simple.
It feeds his flames and avoids more important questions that would uncover the machinery underlying the current system, like:
- Why has a simple-minded salesperson – who simply repeats his target audience’s desires right back to them, like any good salesperson – become so successful financially (despite 4 bankruptcies) and made it this far in the electoral process, and what is it in his rhetoric that resonates with such a large demographic of Americans?
- Why are we being forced to choose between a salesperson and someone who’s being legally accosted by the FBI right now?
- Why do people regard him as a “marketing genius,” when in fact he has simply mastered the basics of salesmanship that have been expounded, extrapolated, and explored by great salesmen for the past 100 years?
- Why does a smart, forward-thinking tech billionaire like Peter Thiel support Trump?
Why Peter Thiel Supports Trump (Take Nothing at Face Value)
Peter Thiel is a businessman who thinks strategically about his aims, so there is certainly more to his endorsement than we heard in his RNC speech.
There are a few possible reasons why Thiel might support Trump:
- Thiel plans to replace Trump with an artificially intelligent, Trump-shaped robot after the election
- He actually does believe in and support Trump
- He sees this as an opportunity to take the administrative office from the political families who have been running the office for decades
- He sees a dire situation, thinks Trump will win, and wants to influence the little guy when he gets into office
- He wants to run for president in a few years and sees Trump as his best bet for changing and getting into the political game
I could only wish that this last one were true – we would be much better off with a smart “builder” like Thiel than anyone else who has run in a very, very long time. If this were the tech tycoon’s plan, then he’s probably setting himself up now as the rescuer who will fix up the country after Hillary or Donald inevitably make things worse during the next term.
But I doubt Thiel wants to be president (wink, wink, nudge, nudge).
Although, come to think of it, Mark Cuban, another famous billionaire who made big bucks in the tech industry, had said he’d been open to running for president…
Either Thiel plans to run for president in a few years (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) or…
Thiel Supports Trump Because He Thinks Trump Will Implode the Government, Which Will Make Room for Innovation … And a New Monopoly
That’s pretty similar to what this guy at Business Insider said, but I can’t seem to find that article any more…
To find hints of Thiel’s real thinking, look past his RNC speech:
- Thiel believes that innovation is driven by monopolistic companies, not by competition. According to Thiel, the ideas we use to discuss capitalism are based on models that are outdated and obsolete. Competitive businesses involve towards static equilibrium, and spend their money trying to outdo one another. They have no cash left over to innovate and create. A monopoly, however, is free to charge what it wants, then use those profits to drive innovation. Google is a perfect example of a monopoly in today’s economy. AT&T used to be one, as did IBM and Microsoft.
- Innovation is at odds with competition and globalization…or they are at least perpendicular to one another. In one talk, Thiel used Japan as an example to demonstrate the difference between the two: since the time of the Meiji Restoration, the country has globalized but not innovated…that is, Japan copied the rest of the world. As a result, this island nation, which is smaller than California, has become a major world superpower. In the 80s, though, they ran out of stuff to copy and their previously explosive economic growth stagnated.
- Technology and innovation are, for all intents and purposes, the same. Technology, he says, isn’t just limited to computers and software. This has been the most recent, most explosive area of innovation, in part due to the lack of regulation in this sector, which is a brand new industry. Other types of technology could also innovate and grow, but there are a variety of financial, regulatory, and other hurdles to overcome in those sectors – for instance, Elon Musk went to extreme lengths to overcome institutional, technical, regulatory, financial, and other obstacles in the preexisting aerospace industry in order to innovate with SpaceX. Not to mention Tesla.
- Thiel runs Palantir, a secretive software company that tells the future. Well, fortune-telling may be a bit of a misnomer, but it does offer big data solutions that are used by big organizations, from governments to spy agencies to big name brands. Palantir is financially backed by the CIA and Thiel’s own venture capital company, among others. Supposedly, Palantir is valued at $20 billion and earned $1.7 billion in revenues in 2015. Some have suggested that Thiel’s support of Trump is a move to secure more government revenue for his company.
So how do all these bullet points apply to the topic at hand?
Many people look at a Trump presidency and see chaos…or worse.
The prospect of President Trump terrified him. It wasn’t because of Trump’s ideology—Schwartz doubted that he had one. The problem was Trump’s personality, which he considered pathologically impulsive and self-centered…[Schwartz said,] “I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization”…asked what he would call [a new book about Trump], he answered, “The Sociopath.”
Is it really possible that Thiel supports someone like Trump?
Or is the tech tycoon playing a different game?
All Good Monopolies … And Competitions … Come to an End
As Thiel has pointed out, competition results in stasis and old monopolies are out-innovated by newer monopolies. Trump, a a simple-minded salesperson, has somehow co-opted the Republican party and the election process.
Perhaps his very presence on the electoral stage signals the obsolescence of an old monopoly?
For instance, AT&T was replaced by a diversity of wireless providers. Microsoft replaced the IBM monopoly, and Microsoft is in turn being replaced by newer, more innovative monopolies.
A businessperson, like Trump or Thiel, might feel that businesses and governments are analogous processes.
Eventually, any monopolistic governmental structure, electoral competition, or economic machinery will become outdated and obsolete.
Then it will become replaced by a newer, more evolved monopoly.
If Trump gets elected, it will result in – at the very least – more division, conflict, and controversy than we are seeing right now.
In other words, Trump could cause so much havoc that we would have to wake up and restructure the system.
This would make room for innovation and growth.
Heck, maybe there is only one way to make the broken governmental engine work again…
Start banging on it with a Trump-shaped hammer and hope the world doesn’t end in nuclear war.