Perhaps I put too much faith in the wisdom of the super rich, but it seems like they might know a bit more than the rest of us. I think like most people, I can’t help but be a little mystified by the sheer magnitude of their wealth. While following their every move is not yet a project I’ve taken on, I do read the articles about them when I get the chance. Something I’ve noticed is that recently more and more CEOs and Silicon Valley superstars are expanding their support of markets from implicit to explicit. Or at least they’re making moves in that direction. Looks to me like the billionaires are starting to get it, a little ahead of the curve.
Big shots from PayPal creator and Facebook funder Peter Thiel to quasi-socialist Starbucks CEO Howard Shultz are expressing frustration with Washington. Well, to be fair Mr. Thiel has been expressing his frustration for a long time. You can see his keynote speech at a 2009 Seasteading Institute conference here. Seasteading, Patri Friedman’s ambitious self-governance project, seeks to develop autonomous communities in the ocean. The focus is on innovation in political systems and community-driven social organization. As a major funder of Seasteading, Thiel is most frustrated with the ways in which our current system hamstrings and restrains technological advancement, which is noted in a recent Details.com article about him. This article is now bringing his frustrations, finally, to the mainstream with mentions in Forbes, the Washington Post and Yahoo! News (alas, with unfortunate BioShock references). The article mentions his “delphic status” in the Valley which is based on his uncanny ability to find the next big thing. Hopefully some other valley dwellers really will follow him to the ends of the Earth– literally perhaps– and get on the Seasteading bandwagon.
On a less-extreme note, Howard Shultz has cut off Washington politicians indefinitely. Angry over the failure of congress to pass a “fiscally, disciplined long term debt and deficit plan” Shultz not only pulled his funding ($183,650 worth), he urged other major contributors to do the same! With such big, not-quite-fiscally-conservative guns pulling for a tighter debt reduction plan, perhaps spending can be reigned in a bit at last! In fact, it’s been recently noted that a certain other billionaire now has more in cash reserves than the US government. But Bill Gates hasn’t made a huge defense of markets recently (at least not yet?), so let’s go back to Howard Shultz. This isn’t the first time he’s pulled a move like this. In 2008, Starbucks teamed up with several other major corporations to oppose the Employee Free Choice Act, which would have made it much easier to unionize and was widely opposed by the business world.
Among the other corporations standing in opposition to this legislation was Whole Foods, whose co-founder and co-CEO, John Mackey has been a long time friend to free markets. Another CEO who has gained a lot of star power, this particular free marketeer is of special interest to those involved with Students For Liberty, as he is a contributor to The Morality of Capitalism, the book behind our joint project with the Atlas Economic Research Foundation. So if you want to learn something from a very rich man, and some other important people too, make sure to get a hold of a copy of The Morality of Capitalism!
In conclusion, it’s no big surprise that those who gain wealth from markets see the value in them, it’s just nice that they’re starting to talk about it more and be willing to affirm that capitalism is moral. Hopefully with all this press coverage they’re getting, these billionaires will lead others to follow their footsteps and lean toward liberty. So, lean hard, fellow liberty lovers, and know that some big dogs are leaning with you!