Peter Thiel: Silicon Valley Engineers Are Libertarians, Execs Are Democrats
1:37 pm, October 3rd | by Hillary Reinsberg
There’s been lots of talk lately on where Silicon Valley stands in terms of politics. As Washington and Silicon Valley become more closely tied, we’ve been forced to wonder: are the tech titans of California Republicans, Democrats, or something else? Paypal founder and Silicon Valley venture capitalist Peter Thiel spells it out for us.
Thiel spoke with CNET, which asked him about where tech bigwigs stand on the political fence. It depends what they do, he said:
“I think a lot of the engineers tend to be pretty libertarian in Silicon Valley. A lot of the nonengineering people tend to be more Democratic, if I had to give the cultural split.”
Who are those “nonengineering people” exactly? Executives, people like Thiel, but also people like lawyers:
“That includes company executives, it includes people who are lawyers, it includes people who work in other capacities, for all sorts of complicated reasons. The actual Silicon Valley demographic, the engineering part of it, is actually quite libertarian. The nonengineering part is more demographic. I think there’s a pretty big split between the technical or engineering people and everyone else.”
Hmm…libertarians and Peter Thiel? We’ve heard those two in a sentence before, haven’t we? As you’ll recall, Thiel is funding the Seasteading Institute, a project to create libertarian colonies at sea. Inevitably, Seasteading came up in conversation. Though Thiel didn’t explicitly say he was enticed by Seasteading’s libertarian ideals — he focused on the “technology” aspect — he did manage to get pretty Ayn Rand philosophy-ish on us:
“What attracted me to seasteading is, it’s linked to the technology question. We have this question about: Where in the world can one do new things? There’s a technological version of that, and there’s also a “Where can we build new communities and new societies?” All the critiques of utopianism apply to seasteading, just as they do to a lot of people in the tech industry. At the same time, I think there’s also a problem of giving up on all utopian ideas and having no theories about how things can be different or better.