Tyler Cowen makes a startlingly candid admission:
Consider the right-wing, conservative, and libertarian movements — is there a good word for them as a general collective? For now I’ll use “conservative,” while recognizing that the lack of generally recognized standard bearers means that “conservative” and “radical” these days blur into each other, and furthermore conservative and libertarian views have areas of real and significant conflict.
Who is today the most influential conservative intellectual with other conservative and libertarian intellectuals? (I once said Jordan Peterson is the most influential intellectuals with the general public.)
It seems obvious to me that this is Peter Thiel (admittedly I am a biased observer, for a number of reasons, one being that the Thiel Foundation is a supporter of Emergent Ventures). Quite simply, if Peter gives a talk with new material in it, it gets discussed more than if anyone else does.
What else might his qualifications be for “most influential conservative intellectual”?
He has had a major hand in the tech revolution, and with his later view that technology is stagnating more generally.
He is the talent spotter par excellence, having had a hand in the rise of Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, Reid Hoffman, Eric Weinstein, and others.
A major hand in Trump/populism/nationalism, or whatever it should be called. I should note that Peter is often highly influential with those who disagree with him about Trump.
Spoke/wrote/co-authored a bestselling book — Zero to One — which also was a huge hit in China. And the samizdat lecture notes, from Peter’s Stanford talks, were a big hit in advance of the book.
A major hand in the critique of political correctness, and the spread of that critique.
This is true. And very bad!
It’s an extremely correct post!
The most influential intellectual force on the contemporary right is a rich guy who is openly hostile to the ideas of a free press and electoral democracy — it’s a genuinely alarming situation and Tyler is unfortunately part of the problem. https://t.co/UgobDlgbER— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) August 8, 2019
The situation is way scarier than most people recognize, though, and has relatively little to do with Trump.
I hope people will take Tyler’s thoughts on Thiel’s vast, deep, and multifaceted influence over the right seriously — but then actually read about Pete Thiel!— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) August 8, 2019
Matt isn’t exaggerating at all here:
I remain committed to the faith of my teenage years: to authentic human freedom as a precondition for the highest good. I stand against confiscatory taxes, totalitarian collectives, and the ideology of the inevitability of the death of every individual. For all these reasons, I still call myself “libertarian.”
But I must confess that over the last two decades, I have changed radically on the question of how to achieve these goals. Most importantly, I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible. By tracing out the development of my thinking, I hope to frame some of the challenges faced by all classical liberals today.
He’s not the only very influential Republican opponent of democracy, of course — John Roberts has been an staunch opponent of voting rights for decades and has been able to realize his dreams with decisions like Shelby County and Rucho — but Theil has spent a lot of money and has obtained a lot of influence on the right. And since he’s openly hostile to democracy and the free press, not to mention pro-Trump without apology (opposing “political correctness,” as usual, means “OK with white supremacist ideology”), this is very bad indeed.