The closer science gets to politics, the more vague and less convincing Thiel’s thinking becomes.
Despite, or perhaps because of, all this activism, Thiel has recently begun to express a strong antipathy toward politics. He doubts that it can solve fundamental problems, and he doesn’t think that libertarians can win elections, because most Americans would not vote for unfettered capitalism. “At its best, politics is pretty bad, and at its worst it’s really ugly,” he said. “So I think it would be good if we had a less political world. I think it was Disraeli who said that all merely political careers end in failure.” (Actually, it was the Conservative British politician Enoch Powell, who said, even more depressingly, “All political lives, unless they are cut off in midstream at a happy juncture, end in failure.”)
I’m sorry for being so obtuse that I never realized before that I was channeling Peter Thiel. It is enlightening that the author of this article places this after the point where Thiel expresses doubt about the value of politicized (that is, completely useless) science such as evolution and climate change; notes disapprovingly that Thiel doubts that politics can solve fundamental problems; and then describes the reality of political failure as depressing. The cult of the progressive idolizes politics.
The next great technology revolution might be around the corner, but it won’t automatically improve most people’s lives. That will depend on politics, which is indeed ugly, but also inescapable.
It is inescapable as a part of the human condition, as is defecation. That is no reason to worship it, though.
At the end of the article, the author makes a final swipe by equating libertarianism with infantile idealism:
The libertarian worship of individual freedom, and contempt for social convention, comes easiest to people who have never really had to grow up. An appetite for disruption and risk—two of Thiel’s favorite words—reflects, in part, a sense of immunity to the normal heartbreak and defeats that a deadening job, money trouble, and unhappy children deal out to the “unthinking herd.”
That may be true, but it is curiously ironic to make this claim, considering the universal inadequacy of progressive idealism, as well as Thiel’s critique of narrow optimism that was presented earlier in the article:
Thiel—who grew up middle class, earned degrees from Stanford and Stanford Law School, worked at a white-shoe New York law firm and a premier Wall Street investment bank, employs two assistants and a chef, and is currently reading obscure essays by the philosopher Leo Strauss—holds élites in contempt. “This is always a problem with élites, they’re always skewed in an optimistic direction,” he said. “It may be true to an even greater extent at present. If you were born in 1950, and you were in the top-tenth percentile economically, everything got better for twenty years automatically. Then, after the late sixties, you went to a good grad school, and you got a good job on Wall Street in the late seventies, and then you hit the boom. Your story has been one of incredible, unrelenting progress for sixty-one years. Most people who are sixty-one years old in the U.S.? Not their story at all.”
Basically, the author of this article just cannot understand how Thiel can be so contradictory and contrary to stereotype. He thinks this is a kind of pathology, like compulsive lying; and my experience is that most people likewise consider me pathologically contradictory and contrarian. I would say that they are pathologically logical, believing irrationally that because a certain thing is true then they “must” accept another coincidental thing to be true; and that moreover, anyone who doesn’t is deceptive or insane.