5 Obnoxious Libertarian Oligarchs Who Earned Fortunes from the Government They'd Like to Destroy
Photo Credit: Wikipedia
Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email.
The cult of the libertarian-minded ultra-weatlhy 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.
But instead of thanking the government and the taxpayers for their good fortune, they’ve allowed their own good press to go to their heads. And 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 and then they deserve. Our corrupted political system gives them far more influence than we deserve. And, slowly but surely, they are now 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 as we first reported, much of the “persecution” which triggered Perkins’ outrage involved his ex-wife’s hedges; it was a one-paragraph item in the San Francisco Chronicle criticizing author Danielle Steele's landscaping. 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 which Perkins cofounded tweeted that “We were shocked by his views … and do not agree.” Silicon Valley investor Marc Andreessen called him an unprintable name. (Well, okay: it isn’t unprintable. Andreessen called Perkins 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.
Perkins defended the incivility of the San Francisco tech crowd by saying that “maybe have to put up with some techno-geek arrogance to get those sorts of folks thinking.” But what, exactly, are these geeks thinking about? One of the most stunning things about Silicon Valley triumphalism is the way it celebrates itself for what are, after all, a very mediocre set of inventions.