Why Is a Savvy Investor Like Peter Thiel Investing Millions in Ron Paul’s Doomed Presidential Campaign?

Who's winning, who's losing, and why.
Feb. 20 2012 4:41 PM

Ron Paul’s Billionaire

Peter Thiel made a fortune investing in the right ventures at the right time. So why is he investing millions in a doomed presidential campaign?

(Continued from Page 1)

It’s a downer of a speech, but when it’s over, students sprint to a microphone to lob questions. Thiel takes them while holding an arm over his face to block out the blinding stage lights. A bunch of the questions are about the possibility of starting competing currencies. Thiel likes one of the concepts he hears—an alternative, gold-backed money produced by a company like Google.

“If you really wanted to create an alternate currency, it would have to be gold-based,” he says. “There are enough people who already believe in gold that you could probably get it to the tipping point. Starting completely from scratch is a lot harder to do. I have a lot more thoughts, but I’d say—you probably want to go with gold.

Woo-hoo!

Advertisement

Another student wants Thiel to answer for something. When he created PayPal, one of the goals was to take financial transactions out of the government’s greedy paws. What happened to that?

“What I think is true of the way we negotiate with terrorists is also true of the way companies negotiate with governments,” says Thiel.

WOO!

“Yeah: You never compromise, except in every specific instance. So, when you look at PayPal or Amazon, or Vis, or all these people, the question you have is: Were they doing this because it was a deeply felt ideological thing, that they had to do this? Or was it because the government had its screws on them? There’s sort of this liberal/libertarian argument: Companies are bad, and not to be trusted. I tend to think we need to put it against the background of insane regulation.” How insane? “The average American commits three felonies a day.”

Some Ron Paul supporters talk about the election as a choice: salvation or doom. Paul wins, and we survive. Paul loses, and Chinese Communists sell us off for parts. Thiel, who is ostensibly doing more than anyone else to help Paul win, is already looking past the election. It is teaching moment, maybe, that can convince more people to drop out and innovate. He is serious about that. If you want to drop out of college to innovate, he has a scholarship for you. If you want to try to fix the current American system, well, best of luck.

“I’m sort of skeptical of how much voting actually works in the first place,” says Thiel. “I used to think that it was really important to directly change the political system, to convince people of things. I still think it’s intellectually very important. Occasionally, you get some converts that way. But it’s really an inefficient way of doing things. One of the things I like about technology is that when technology’s un-regulated you can change the world without getting approval from other people. At its best, it’s not subject to democratic control, and not subject to the majority, which I think is often hostile to change.”

Thiel has invested in a presidential campaign; he’s also invested in a plan to build floating sovereign island nations. This is a donor who likes to plan for the future.

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.

Why Are Lighter-Skinned Latinos and Asians More Likely to Vote Republican?

A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 12:29 PM A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

Subprime Loans Are Back

And believe it or not, that’s a good thing.

It Is Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

How Ted Cruz and Scott Brown Misunderstand What It Means to Be an American Citizen

Divestment Is Fine but Mostly Symbolic. There’s a Better Way for Universities to Fight Climate Change.

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 22 2014 6:30 PM What Does It Mean to Be an American? Ted Cruz and Scott Brown think it’s about ideology. It’s really about culture.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 22 2014 5:38 PM Apple Won't Shut Down Beats Music After All (But Will Probably Rename It)
  Life
Outward
Sept. 22 2014 4:45 PM Why Can’t the Census Count Gay Couples Accurately?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 7:43 PM Emma Watson Threatened With Nude Photo Leak for Speaking Out About Women's Equality
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 22 2014 9:17 PM Trent Reznor’s Gone Girl Soundtrack Sounds Like an Eerie, Innovative Success
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 6:27 PM Should We All Be Learning How to Type in Virtual Reality?
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 22 2014 4:34 PM Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.