sDried rhino horn has been (rightfully) banned, and only two sex stimulants remain: political power and great wealth. Of these, the second is the most interesting, in part because most humans, especially journalists, are affected by it. This leads them to suppose that if someone is superstitiously wealthy, they must be very intelligent. This is why the super-rich are always surrounded by sycophants – and also why they ultimately think of themselves as geniuses.
Which brings us neatly to Peter Thiel, Silicon Valley’s leading fair. With a net worth of up to $5 billion (£3.9 billion), he’s undoubtedly wealthy, albeit not in the league of Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos or even Bill Gates. But since he is the only public intellectual the tech industry has produced, there is a common belief that he must also be a deep thinker, which is why organizations ask him to give “key” speeches.
The function of these addresses is to set a high tone for what are considered abhorrent measures, which explains why Thiel was invited to speak at the Bitcoin 2022 conference in Miami, which has been described as “a four-day pilgrimage for those who seek greater freedom and individuality.” Sir.” Given that the attendees at this party were most likely subscribed to the view that he was a genius, it was an easy feat for the great man. Think of it as Narendra Modi addressing the BJP annual conference and you’ll get the general idea.
Tell was there to tell those present that they were the Lord’s Messiah. Bitcoin is the new gold that should one day take its place alongside the precious metal as a global store of value, replacing equities (i.e. company shares), which currently at $115 trillion are much larger than gold ($12 trillion). This will happen when the value of one bitcoin (currently around £30,000) increases by at least a hundredfold, making one currency worth £3 million. But this will only happen if a vicious gang of old-world reactionaries is defeated – the “financial aging rule” of veteran investor Warren Buffett, Jimmy Dimon (chairman of JPMorgan Chase) and Larry Fink (CEO of BlackRock).
Stir up stuff, eh? The strange thing is that this call to take up arms has reached such devastation. Here’s a verbatim version of the relevant passage, starting with the 14 minutes of Tell’s speech:
“Why [bitcoin] You haven’t yet converged with gold for the sake of the stock markets or even with the stock markets more broadly, and what’s going to happen, you know, what is it going to take for that to happen? And ah, I know the kind of way we often talk about business or technology, you know, how amazing technology is, how great code is, how amazing math is, you know, how it’s kind of innovative, but I want to kind of suggest that maybe We have to think about it, we have to think about it, and we have to think about it at least in one dimension as a kind of political question which is a movement which is a political question of whether this movement will succeed, or it will succeed, or whether the enemies of the movement will succeed in stopping us, and so I would like I might end up with a list of enemies, you know.”
Thiel’s rhetorical shortcomings make him an unlikely leader of a political movement. But the aphrodisiac effect of his fortune meant his speech was widely reported. However, the odd thing is that his record as an investor appears patchy, to say the least. He made his first stack of PayPal, which was a smart bet. He was Facebook’s first major investor, sure, but then tried to convince Mark Zuckerberg to sell it to Yahoo for $1 billion in 2006, then sold much of his holdings after the company’s initial public offering in 2012. He foresaw the banking disaster of 2008, but failed. In pre-sale. According to his biographer, much of his fortune comes from his skill at finding clever ways to reduce his exposure to taxes: his investments in Facebook, Palantir, and some others were made through a vehicle known as a Roth IRA that was originally intended for “ordinary people – that is, taxpayers.” Taxes from the middle class, as David Runciman put it in his book review by Max Shafkin Paradoxical: Peter Thiel and the Silicon Valley Quest for Power: “Thel is not a genius investor. He is, like almost everyone else, a nervous investor prone to panic and regret. He is just another hedgehog chasing his tail.”
But if Thiel is not a genius, or even more recently Cicero, he is nonetheless dangerous. In an article published in 2009, he famously said that he no longer believed that freedom and democracy were compatible. And he’s using his money to try to change the balance of power in the ailing US Senate in the next round of congressional elections by making two $10 million donations to the Super Pacs that support two of his subjects, JD Vance and Arizona Republican Blake Masters. In this sense, Thiel looks less like a tech genius and more like the Koch brothers – Charles and his late brother David – who have done more to reshape Republican politics than anyone other than Donald J. Trump. And that’s a good reason to take it seriously, whatever happened to Bitcoin.
what you’ve been reading
Why slaughterhouse five It resonates 50 years later and is the subject of a lovely review article on James Parker’s great Kurt Vonnegut novel in Atlantic.
Reflections on a Chameleon An unforgettable article by John Knowles from 1988 on Truman Capote in Respected.
Tweet or Tweet
For a great blog post by a clever observer, look no further than Scott Galloway who writes about Elon Musk and Twitter.