5 Obnoxious Libertarian Oligarchs Who Earned Fortunes from the Government They'd Like to Destroy
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The cult of the libertarian-minded ultra-wealthy would make an intriguing anthropological case study. But it would be a case study with a twist: its research subjects increasingly control our economy, our politics, and even our personal lives.
We’re dealing with a cohort of highly fortunate, highly privileged and highly unaware individuals who have been inappropriately lionized by society. That lionization has led them to believe that their wealth and accomplishments are their own doing, rather than the fruits of collaborative effort—effort which in many cases was only made possible through government support.
Instead of thanking the government and the taxpayers for their good fortune, they’ve allowed their own good press to go to their heads. They’re biting the hand that feeds them, attempting to shut down the system of taxpayer support and government action which created their world. Our money-obsessed society gives them far more praise then they deserve. Our corrupted political system gives them far more influence than we deserve. And, slowly but surely, they are turning their considerable resources to dismantling government’s role in society.
Call them the “cool tycoons of libertarianism.” They have neat ideas (when they’re not talking about government or the economy, that is). They have neat toys and neat houses. But what they would do to our society isn’t neat at all.
Here are five of them.
1. Tom Perkins
Perkins has already received well more than his deserved 15 minutes of fame. But while he’s been appropriately reviled for his infamous “Kristallnacht” comment, comparing the treatment of America's 1% to that of Jews in Nazi Germany, too few people have taken him to task for the depth of his ignorance on economic issues.
That ignorance was in full display when he went on Bloomberg television to “apologize” for his Nazi reference, an occasion in which he spent far more time defending his ugly worldview than he did apologizing.
In his original comments, Perkins compared “the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the ‘rich’” with Nazi persecution of Jews. But much of the “persecution” that triggered Perkins’ outrage involved his ex-wife Danielle Steele's landscaping—it was a one-paragraph item in the San Francisco Chronicle criticizing her. It wasn’t a progressive critique; it was an aesthetic one.
Nobody’s criticizing all wealthy people, of course. In fact, a number of them showed uncommon good sense during the Perkins kerfuffle. The investment firm Perkins cofounded tweeted that “We were shocked by his views… and do not agree.” Silicon Valley investor Marc Andreessen called him an "asshole."
Perkins’ defense of his initial comments on Bloomberg betray the shallowness of his libertarian thought. He insisted that his fellow tycoons are “job creators,” despite the fact that they’ve been paying very low taxes for more than a decade – and there are no jobs!
Perkins also insisted that society should “let the rich do what the rich do” and enjoy the expanded job opportunities that will flow from that. But on Wall Street the rich were allowed to do what the rich do and it robbed the economy of millions of jobs and trillions in wealth. Apple and other big tech manufacturers were allowed to “do what they do” and hundreds of thousands of jobs were shipped overseas.
Guys like Tom Perkins don’t know how to say “thank you.” Instead, when they’re asked whether people like him live in a “bubble,” they tend to answer as Perkins did, by claiming that it is “a bubble that has changed the world.”
Actually the government changed the world. So did brilliant inventors like Bill Hewlett and David Packard. Guys like Tom Perkins, while they may have been smart and/or hard-working, mostly caught a lucky break. But they’ve managed to rewrite their own histories as a libertarian fantasy, a victory of the supermen upon which all others must gaze in wonderment and awe.