It seems like everyone–but especially conservatives–is talking about Peter Thiel these days. One sees his name all over. The traditionalist conservative Intercollegiate Studies Institute has made the venture capitalist and PayPal cofounder this year’s speaker defending Western civilization (link no longer available). I met Peter (and sat cozily beside him for two days) at a theology conference sponsored by First Things, where he shared his quite singular interpretation of Genesis. Last December, I went to a Straussian conference on Burke and Strauss, funded, of course, by Peter Thiel.
I (and 60,00 or so others) recently got an email from Jonathan Last of the Weekly Standard, who began by saying that he often disagrees with Thiel; he thinks his praise of the innovative benefits of monopolies, for instance, applies “only in the narrowest cases.” Still, “right or wrong, or somewhere in between,” Peter’s writing is always “interesting,” and he is “one of our more important public intellectuals.” Thiel’s big claim, that “the collapse of technological progress over the last 40 years is the root of our cultural, political, and economic malaise,” is worth arguing about.
You know, it really is.
This latest podcast is with Joel Kotkin, America’s Demographer-in-Chief, on his recently released book, The New Class Conflict. Kotkin and I discuss his grave warning of an American future that no longer contains the promises of democratic capitalism. Two groups, in Kotkin’s telling, have converged and share a vision of America that is unconcerned with economic growth, shared prosperity, and the need to rein in state power. The book’s opening argues that this class of tech entrepreneurs and the "Clerisy" pose a fundamental challenge to America's self-understanding as a nation of economic mobility: In the coming decades, the greatest existential threat…
I appreciate John McGinnis’s account of the state of our liberty. He’s right that by some objective measures liberty is on the decline. But, a consistent individualist might say, liberty is on the march when it comes to same-sex marriage, legalized marijuana, and the general front of “lifestyle liberty.”