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Peter Thiel on the dangers of progress The tech billionaire discusses Silicon Valley, Christianity and apocalypse

Do we need to be more Christian? Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

Do we need to be more Christian? Stephanie Keith/Getty Images


July 25, 2022   13 mins

You can tell a bit about someone based on their preconceptions about Peter Thiel. Whether the reflexive response to the name is “malign far-Right plutocrat”, “philanthropic saviour of all that is good” or “who?” is a reasonably reliable guide to where that person otherwise sits in the great online psychodrama we now call “the culture wars”.

When he’s not serving as the object of fantastical (and sometimes James Bond-themed) progressive demonology, Thiel is a Silicon Valley legend. He co-founded PayPal, and was the first outside investor in Facebook, on whose board he sat from 2005 until this year. He invests in new enterprises via the Founders Fund. He started the big data firm Palantir, which successfully sued the US Army in 2016 over an intelligence analysis system procurement process, and subsequently won the contract to deliver that system. He is worth an estimated $4.9 billion.

He’s also, famously (or notoriously, depending on your political priors) interested in culture and politics. As such, in our emerging post-liberal world of lords and princes, Thiel is a prime mover across many fields, and his interests and priorities affect a great many people. And this is perhaps the trait that, above all else, invites parallels to premodern figures such as Lorenzo De’ Medici, the Florentine statesman and banker who was also his era’s foremost patron of the arts.

For Thiel, this extends to personal as well as financial interventions, and I met him in such a context. We were both on the teaching faculty for a week-long seminar at Stanford in Palo Alto, with the magnificent title “The Machine Has No Tradition: a seminar on technology, revolution and apocalypse”. We sat down together after a day spent with Stanford grad students, Silicon Valley whizzkids and young DC politicos, wrestling with the question of what technology is. Thiel had just led a four-hour session on the French thinker RenĂ© Girard.

The grand themes of technology, revolution and apocalypse hung in the air. So, too, did the parallel facts of my having enough common intellectual preoccupations with Thiel to land us both on the same academic roster, while remaining separated from him by an incommensurably vast power asymmetry. Against that backdrop, I wanted to understand the interests and priorities of this sociopolitical titan, on his own terms. More plainly: how does Peter Thiel view his own project?

The overarching answer seems to be: real as opposed to illusory progress. Post-liberal thinkers such as Patrick Deneen, author of the bestselling 2018 book Why Liberalism Failed, argue that many contemporary social ills are an effect of the way the liberal project cannibalises social goods, such as family life or religious faith, in order to pursue narrow metrics such as (on the Left) personal freedom or (on the Right) economic growth. Thiel sees many of the same ills as Deneen, but offers a strikingly different framing: we’re consuming ourselves not because the fixation on progress is inevitably self-destructive beyond a certain threshold, but because material progress has objectively stalled while we remain collectively in denial about this fact.

In Thiel’s view, this has been the case since the mid-20th century, except in digital technologies. “We’ve had continued progress in the world of computers, bits, internet, mobile internet, but it’s a narrow zone of progress. And it’s been more interior, atomising and inward-focused.” Over the same period, he tells me, “there’s been limited progress in the world of atoms”.

Thiel characterises this stagnation as a long, slow victory of the Club of Rome, a nonprofit founded in 1968 to drive political change premised on the belief that infinite growth is impossible. As Thiel sees it, this tacit postwar abandonment of the growth aspiration has resulted in “something like a societal and cultural lockdown; not just the last two years but in many ways the last 40 or 50”. There’s “a cultural version, a demographic version, and a technological version of this stagnant or decadent society,” he suggests. And the upshot of this paralysis has been “a world of technological stagnation and demographic collapse”, along with “sclerosis in government and banal repetition in culture”.

He’s been making the case for real-terms tech stagnation for 15 years now, he tells me, against a mainstream Left and Right that doesn’t want to know: “it was always striking how much it went against the stated ideology of the regime.” Perpetuating the fantasy of progress, against a backdrop of its actual stagnation, is at the heart of delusions on both Left and Right, he argues: “the Silicon Valley liberals don’t like it, because they think they’re driving this great engine of progress”, while social conservatives “have conceded the ground to the liberals, because they believe the Left-wing propaganda about how much science and technology are progressing”. And against this backdrop of cross-party denial, institutions and the wider culture are increasingly shaped by real-terms stagnation.

In his view, much of what passes for “progress” is in truth more like “distraction”. As he puts it, “the iPhone that distracts us from our environment also distracts us from the ways our environment is unchanging and static.” And in this culture, economy and politics of chronic self-deception, as Thiel sees it, we tell ourselves that we’re advancing because “grandma gets an iPhone with a smooth surface,” but meanwhile she “gets to eat cat food because food prices have gone up.”

In this context, Thiel argues, much of what passes as “progress” in economic terms is actually an accounting trick. For example, much of what looks like GDP growth since the Fifties was simply a matter of changing how we measured the value bundled up in family life. If, he points out, “you shift an economy from a single-income household with a homemaker to one with two breadwinners and a third person who’s a child-carer, statistically you have three jobs instead of one and therefore you have more GDP, and you will exaggerate the amount of progress that’s happened”.

That is: if what you’re calling “progress” is not so much a change in the activities taking place, but rather a change in how you’re measuring those activities, in what sense has anything really changed, let alone improved? After all, he points out, between 1880 and 1960 automation so far reduced working hours that analysts predicted by the year 2000 the average family would subsist happily on the wage of one worker putting in seven hours a day, four days a week, with 13 weeks’ paid holiday. But then “it somehow went really into reverse”.

Since then, many goods once common to America’s middle class have been cannibalised to preserve the illusion of progress. “We are much less of a middle-class society,” he points out, in the sense of “people who think their children will do better than themselves”. And this growing scarcity, coupled with denial of that scarcity, has profoundly corrupted once-trusted institutions. Even the Club of Rome was, in his view, “not pessimistic enough about how badly a zero-growth world would work, and how much it would derange our institutions”. For most of our institutions “depend on growth; and when the growth stops, they lie and they become sociopathic”.

In this context, what Thiel dismissively refers to as “the woke religion” is less a driving force in contemporary politics than part of this vast collective displacement activity. Notably, it’s often a delivery mechanism for resource competition, for example in universities where student numbers are ever-rising even as paid positions shrink, a pinch that “brings out the worst in people”. So much of what looks like an unhinged new ideology is actually the brutal office politics pursued by too many academics competing for too few paid positions? “Yes,” he says, “and maybe there’s some way to get people to be nicer to one another in a world of limited resources. But we never seem to be even able to talk about that.”

If, he suggests, it were more obvious to people that we now live in a stagnant world, more might be said and done to address it. But the key reason this isn’t happening is “that we’ve been distracted from the lack of progress” by “the shift from exteriority, from measurable things” such as “faster speeds, supersonic airplanes or longer life expectancies” and re-oriented on “the interior world of yoga, meditation, psychology, parapsychology, psychopharmacology, psychedelic drugs, video games, the internet et cetera”.

The governing thread in Thiel’s interventions in culture and politics, then, seems to be re-orienting the wider direction of travel away from what he views as displacement activities, back toward more concrete forms of progress of the sort that might translate into a return to this kind of widespread optimism. This includes a streak of political philanthropy that has recently leaned toward supporting candidates who campaign on the material interests of America’s languishing middle class.

Blake Masters, who co-wrote Thiel’s bestseller Zero to One, is now running for the Senate in Arizona with Thiel’s support; recent polling has Masters as the frontrunner in the Republican primary. Another politician with Thiel support is Hillbilly Elegy author JD Vance, who received a $10m Thiel donation that some credit with bumping Vance to victory in May’s primary for the US Senate in Ohio. Both Masters and Vance make the increasingly bleak state of America’s once thriving and prosperous middle class a central part of their campaigning platform. One Masters campaigning video takes as its central premise the argument that it should be possible to support a family on a single income — something that, for a growing swathe of the middle sort, hasn’t been the case for decades.

Importantly, though, he doesn’t see restoring middle-class aspiration as a matter of returning to the past, but of seeking new real-world advances in science and technology. Along with Thiel’s own investments, which include many futuristic projects such as biotech and space exploration, the principal vehicle for his efforts to drive this change is the nonprofit Thiel Foundation, which promotes science and innovation. Its programmes include the Thiel Fellowship, which gives 20-30 young people aged 22 or under $100,000 each, every year, to drop out of college and work on an urgent idea. Graduates include Austin Russell, who founded Luminar and is the world’s youngest self-made billionaire, and Vitalik Buterin, who co-founded the cryptocurrency Ethereum.

Those among us temperamentally sceptical of never-ending progress and growth may be shifting nervously in our seats by this point. Thiel seems unfazed by the idea that technology may infringe on what’s “natural”. How do we prevent runaway tech changes dragging us into some monstrously inhuman dystopia? Can we retain our humanity, I ask Thiel, in the context of just how transformative technology can be?

He seems to view this as a largely academic question, and not really in keeping with his understanding of Christian civilisation as fundamentally oriented toward the future. “I think of Christianity as deeply historical. Some sense of a certain type of progress of history is a deep part of Christianity.” And from this perspective, the notion that there exists an unchanging human nature doesn’t really fit with the Christian outlook, but belongs — as he puts it — more “in the classical than the Christian tradition”.

“The word ‘nature’ does not occur once in the Old Testament,” he tells me, while “the concept of ‘nature’ as something that’s eternal and unchanging” isn’t a Christian one either. “It seems to me that the Christian concepts are more things like grace or original sin.” From this perspective, Thiel argues, the problem with transhumanism isn’t that it seeks to remake humanity, but that it isn’t ambitious enough in this regard: “the Christian critique of transhumanism should be that it’s not radical enough, because it’s only seeking to transform our bodies and not our souls.” It appears, in other words, that while Thiel is unflinchingly realistic about what’s immediately achievable, he doesn’t see any given or self-evident limits to what we could set our sights on.

What if the Club of Rome is right, though, and we really have reached the limits to material growth? I put to him for a number of reasons — culturally and materially — it seems more than possible that we’ve irretrievably passed the point of Peak Progress. If this is so, he tells me, the first response should be frank realism. We should, he suggests, “at least be able to talk about it, and figure out ways to make our society work in a low-growth world”. But he sees this attitude less as realism than a cop-out: “I think that sounds like a lazy excuse of people who don’t want to work very hard. It sounds too much like an excuse.” Far from being a matter of humans bumping up against natural limits, he argues, “I want to blame it on cultural changes, rather than on us running out of ideas”.

What, then, does he see as driving the cultural side of stagnation? Thiel thinks the decline of Christianity is a major factor. To him “a more naturally Christian world” was “an expanding world, a progressing world” that hit its apogee in late Victorian Britain. “It felt very expansive, both in terms of the literal empire and also in terms of the progress of knowledge, of science, of technology, and somehow that was naturally consonant with a certain Christian eschatology — a Christian vision of history. Then somehow the stagnant ecological world that we’re in is one in which there’s been a collapse of religious belief. I want to say they’re somehow sociologically linked.”

I put it to him that many historians date the slow implosion of Christianity from the emergence of just the kind of scientific enquiry Thiel wants to encourage in the name of a Christian-inflected tech progressivism. Was it ever plausible, I ask him, that we could hold the worlds of faith and of science and technology in equilibrium? He appears to view this, once again, as a largely irrelevant academic question; the real implosion of mass religiosity in Britain, he suggests, coincided with the end of the British Empire.

“If you had an expansive view and you were going to make disciples of all nations, and send missionaries to the world, and somehow that project no longer made sense, then would this somehow also lead to a collapse within your own society. I think my sense is that Britain was still very Christian in the Fifties, then it had somehow completely collapsed by 1980. So it maps onto the end of colonisation.”

He sees a parallel process at work in the stalling and retreat of American empire: “I would map America in 2000 onto Britain in 1950, and America in 2020 onto somewhere like Britain in 1975 or 1980, where somehow the expansionary part of America has very much faded.” America has abandoned its mission of imperial evangelism: “in 1999 or 2005 there was still this sense that you were proselytising the world, and I think that has strangely collapsed. I’m not sure what the causation is, but there’s some way that the growth of Christianity was linked to it and when it stops expanding it’s in very serious trouble.”

What’s missing from the world now is a clear vision of the future — or even any vision. Reviving Christian faith might help, he thinks: “if we were more Christian, we would also have more hope for the future, and if we’re less Christian we’re going to have less hope. And there’s probably less action.” Failing this, any vision of the future at all would help, especially if it’s an optimistic one. Though he doesn’t particularly like science fiction, he says, more upbeat stories on this front might help: “If one could produce science fiction that were less uniformly bleak that might help on a literary level.”

Failing other options, Thiel thinks even bleak or apocalyptic visions are better than no vision at all. The picture of European climate catastrophe associated with Greta Thunberg is, as he sees it, one of only three realistic European futures; the other two are “Islamic sharia law”, and “Chinese Communist AI”. He views the social-democratic models typical of contemporary European politics as variations on the theme of stagnation: “a sort of eternal Groundhog Day”. And while Greta’s vision is “in some ways too apocalyptic, in some ways not apocalyptic enough”, it is at least “a very concrete picture”, and represents the least worst of the three alternatives to stagnation.

Failing a mass revival of Christianity, what political or material levers does Thiel think we should pull to restart some kind of future? “Zoning laws and the FDA,” he tells me. One of the biggest issues is housing, which he notes “is linked to family formation” — and, he suggests, another field in which scarcity and resource competition is fanning the flames of political derangement. “Real estate prices doubled and people got a lot crazier.” Fixing this would be a good route into addressing our sclerosis, because “it’s not pure technology. You’d think it would be easy to change the zoning laws, but in practice it’s extremely hard to do.”

As for the FDA, Thiel points out that even the pessimists in the Club of Rome thought healthcare could go on advancing. And again, as with zoning laws, he argues that if we’re stuck on this front it’s not because we’re running out of resources. “I’ve done some investing in biotech over the last 15-20 years. It’s very strange; my sense for the science is that we could be making a lot more progress, and then in practice it’s extraordinarily difficult because of regulatory constraints and other things. So biotech is an area where I think it’s not quite resource-constraints; my read on it is that’s more cultural than natural. Again: we don’t have to talk about limitless human life, but just: can we have a cure for dementia? Is that absolutely impossible? I would claim we don’t know enough about science to know that’s absolutely impossible.”

He acknowledges that there are implicit risks in forging ahead with new discoveries. “I think there are dangers to science and technology, but there are also great dangers in stagnation,” he tells me. In his view, though, the only way out is through: the fantasy of returning to some form of vanished past is just that, a fantasy. “We can’t go back to the Paleolithic era, we can’t go back to an agrarian economy, we can’t even go back to a 19th century industrial economy. And then it seems to me that we don’t know how to make a zero-growth society work.”

In that context, we need to base our vision of the future on something: “And maybe science and technology aren’t that much, but I would say if we stop believing in the teleology of science and technology it’s not that we go back to some Thomistic or medieval concept of teleology. We become fully epicurean.”

Is Thiel an uncompromising materialist and realist, or a visionary idealist? It’s hard to say, and what I say would make little difference anyway. “Speaking truth to power” has always been, ambivalently at least, a fantasy of print-era writers; less acknowledged, though, is the fact that such pugnacious independence was always premised on the writers themselves being able to make a living direct from a paying audience. And in the digital era of information super-abundance and flimsy copyright, this is a luxury available to an ever-shrinking roster.

In almost all other contexts, the lot of writers is once again shaped by the intellectual and political preoccupations of the 21st century’s lords and princes. It would be absurd to pretend that I could force an account of the Thiel worldview according to the print-era fantasies of writerly independence, or even to hold him to some “objective” discursive standard (a conceit which all sides treat in any case as increasingly outmoded). Rather, like Lorenzo de’ Medici, Thiel reorders the cultural world around himself, like iron filings responding to magnetism.

And in this, if little else, he represents a return to tradition. Those still committed to the democratic vision of politics may be tempted to treat figures such as Soros or Thiel as exemplars of dangerously untrammelled power, exerting a malign influence over a political process otherwise characterised by democratic checks and balances. But I’ve come to think that this has it backwards. To my eye, Peter Thiel isn’t an aberration in an otherwise seamless march of democratic progress, but a reversion to the historic norm. Or to put it another way: I’m coming to suspect the democratic era was a flash in the pan, and what’s now emerging is a 21st century variation on an ancient form of power, more monarchic or feudal in character than “populist”, let alone democratic.

And as I’ve argued, the alternative to such figures may not be democracy but governance by a decentralised post-democratic swarm (analogous, perhaps, to what Thiel calls “Chinese Communist AI”). Given these options, we may yet conclude that the political return of human lords and princes — however unnervingly untrammelled their power, or remorselessly tech-optimist their worldview — is far from the worst option currently on the table. The premodern world of aristocratic patronage was far from being a cultural desert, an achievement that contrasts sharply with the militantly anti-aesthetic (and anti-human) character of post-democratic swarm politics. If I’m right about the prognosis for liberal democracy in the digital age, the available options for our future may be culturally vibrant human-led neo-feudalism, or aggressively anti-cultural swarm governance. And in this case, even those of us who mourn the passing of the liberal world may yet find ourselves, however ambivalently, on the side of Caesar.


Mary Harrington is a contributing editor at UnHerd.

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Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
1 year ago

Fascinating to hear the views of a genuine mover and shaker interpreted by a genuine intellect rather than one of the morons that pass for journalists these days.

That said, it’s only reinforced my growing sense that the human race is standing on sociological tectonic plates that are moving quickly in ways I barely understand and certainly can’t control.

AC Harper
AC Harper
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

…and perhaps we are collectively straddling two plates that are slowly drifting apart. Or, possibly worse, two plates crashing together.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

It’ll be interesting to see what AI suggests as the way forward with iteƕated outcomes all allowed for: but only if programmed to provide the best outcome for the most people.
If programmed to come up with the best outcome for the 1% we the 99% are in big trouble! If it goes down to the 10% and provided the points system includes the intellectual and the amusing I might just scrape in! Lol!

Peter Rhoads
Peter Rhoads
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Automation is full speed ahead, as noted by Thiel, but progress is lacking. Thiel seems to grasp for straws at the reason for this, and propose certain solutions as a shot in the dark. It’s actually quite simple: just look at all of the cost of living categories and find the categories that are sucking everyone’s income. Now, look closely at those cost categories for market manipulations, such as monopolies, and you have your answer. Due to corruption in the form of regulatory capture, safe, good public school neighborhood housing costs are unbearable for a single parent family. Fix that and you will have excess spending power that goes to the businesses that deserve it, those that are really competing for their dollars, and the economy grows from there. The economy is driven by incentives, the higher the incentives, the more economic development will happen. Residential and commercial real estate is in the hands of uber greedy developers who are in the back pocket of city officials, not much incentive for competition. This does not have to be, there should be big beautiful high rise buildings built all over the city at competitive market prices and sold at affordable prices to people who have a good work history. If this is not happening, or couldn’t happen even with advances in automation, you know it is corrupt.

Last edited 1 year ago by Peter Rhoads
Garrett R
Garrett R
1 year ago

I think Thiel is more intelligent than he comes across in this article. Progress for African Americans has undoubtedly been better than it was in the 1950s with its enforced segregation. Women could not obtain a credit card until the 1970s, which is progress. Material comforts are in fact far better today than they were 50 years ago. The issue is that they just aren’t as exciting. Televisions have declined 90% in costs. Airplane tickets, cars, laundry units, and many more items from the 1960s are far cheaper today. Food expense has declined precipitously as well.

Where Thiel is correct is the total lack of vision from any leadership today. We really no longer know what kind of society it is we want to build. Musk actually succeeds here with his wild ideas, but they are at least ideas. Space travel is a new frontier that may one day be affordable for the masses.

I do wish Thiel covered a few items that were not discussed in the article. One is how much longer we are living and its impacts on our society. Many leadership positions across the developed world are held by people long past their prime. Younger leadership may be more willing to take risks and make changes than gerontocracies. Another item is that we need to clean up a lot of accumulated damage from the progress of the 20th century. America’s rivers and forests were devastated by population growth and manufacturing (look at pics of Pittsburgh in the 1940s). We have cleaned much up in the past 50 years since the Clean Air Act but there is much left to be done.

We have decoupled GDP growth from CO2 emissions in the past decade which is another huge accomplishment. A final point—Thiel sat on the board of Facebook despite knowing and warning against the corrosive effects of social media. I wish Thiel would be more critical of the kind of projects VC funded since the Recession. Instead of more climate tech, cheaper housing, or more efficient healthcare, we received taxis, hotels, and food delivery with apps and no accountability. We blew the best period to launch huge transformative projects with loans at 0% and instead put that money into Dogecojn.

philip kern
philip kern
1 year ago
Reply to  Garrett R

Good thoughts. I wonder, however, how you correlate that progress with the fact that work hours haven’t decreased and many people who work a lot of hours still can’t own a home. This is probably disproportionately true of Black families.
Also, I appreciate your comments on the environment, but note that one US state not only removed wolves from the endangered species list but had a hunting season to reduce numbers, reported black bears in numbers unimaginable a decade ago, and spoke of bald eagles going from the edge of extinction to nesting in their thousands. Other states tell similar stories. Migratory water birds have increased by some 40 million across Canada and the US since the 1970s. The reason I mention it is because the results of efforts to restore the environment will soon come up against the fact that people don’t want to raise children close to wolves and bears. I can only see the divisions getting deeper before they heal.

Paula 0
Paula 0
1 year ago
Reply to  philip kern

Living life for more than half a century and I have experienced fewer birds, bees, frogs and butterflies. Our beach also had limpets on rocks and tide pools full of creatures. Oceans once had vast schools of fish, and there were bison all across the plains.

I propose to divide the continents. Woke people on one, politicians and billionaires on another, criminals on yet another and regular people who want a nice life on another. Amen.

Andy Aitch
Andy Aitch
1 year ago
Reply to  Paula 0

Now that’s the kind of science fiction I like!

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
1 year ago
Reply to  Paula 0

Most notably in parts of the UK and Central Europe. Holidaying in Budapest I noticed the lack of any wildlife whatsoever. I live in a semi-rural part of the SE and the lack of honey bees mason flies, leaf cutter bees and butterflies is unnerving, compared to even 10 years ago. Usually plenty of birds because of artificial feeders but these attracted rats so they were put away.
I did wonder whether one pressure on wildlife is the byproduct of the increase in housing – habitat depletion (fields, wetlands/floodplains) plus killing zones such as conservatories and increased traffic on roads – for insects and animals.
Coming from NZ this was very noticeable. Insects and native birds are numerous outside of urban areas where habitats are present. Driving at night between towns across vast swathes of farmland and scattered forests, produces a mess of insects on the windscreen. I have seen swarms of moths etc, there, but nothing here. The night is empty – at least around urban and road areas.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago

Over use of deadly pesticides by greedy farmers facilitated by greedy politicians and cost focussed consumers! ..none of whom give a flying figleaf about wildlife, living as they do in concrete or in their cars moaning about the cost of fuel and heating..

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 year ago

15 years ago I regularly had to debug my windscreen after a long journey. No longer. A bit unnerving even if it does save me a job.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jeremy Bray
Ddwieland
Ddwieland
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Have the roads you drive changed? I know that cars are (mostly) more aerodynamic than decades ago, which reduces bug splat significantly. Many things change, not necessarily negatively.

Ruth Ross
Ruth Ross
1 year ago

Windmills are decimating every flying creature. The non-recyclable wind killers are placed in the windiest areas; migratory paths. Humans are ignorantly marching on in their blind search for renewable resources that will do far more damage to the environment than what oil and gas provided all because of a climate warming hoax. The threat of warming was set in motion in 1972 by the UN-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (idiots all). It’s conclusions were based on faulty science that has been refuted by thousands of scientists, including the 31,000 physicists and physical chemists of the Global Warming Petition Project. These experts have stated that “there is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon, methane or other greenhouse gases is causing, or will cause in future catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere.”
Destroy the windmills before they destroy our flying friends.

Last edited 1 year ago by Ruth Ross
Philip Crowley
Philip Crowley
1 year ago
Reply to  Paula 0

May I suggest Antarctica for the politicians and billionaires? Perhaps the criminals could join them. In many cases, there isn’t much difference.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Paula 0

Can’t quite see why you want to segregate criminals from politicians? On another less serious note: why not break up the USA into 4 separate ‘countries’:
The intellectually progressive NE
The hip progressive West (CA, OR, WA)
The cowboy middle and
The Backward South.
(Maybe the last two can merge?)
Each can be well represented by much more popular politicians and all those finding themselves in the wrong part can migrate India-Pakistan style..
No more polarisation: citizens with higher IQs don’t have to have cretins for President. Each can go it their own way in accordance with policies that appeal to the vast majority of it’s voters under maybe AOC (NE), Trump (South/Middle) and some Hollywood type in the West? Now that is real lateral thinking: run that by Thiel someone…

Jeanie K
Jeanie K
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

The NE would soon collapse. The problem with intellectuals is that they rarely have common sense.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeanie K

In my 72 year experience commonsense is quite rare. Common stupidity is far more common: the ability to tell ’em apart is an even more rare quality. Surely all those Ivy League types will provide someone of quality? Maybe like Kennedy…

James Stangl
James Stangl
11 months ago
Reply to  Jeanie K

And they’ll need food and energy from those “backward” flyover states that Liam belittles. Resources will be power. As for the “hip progressive West,” those states are well on the way to bankruptcy and anarchy, at least in the coastal cities.

Anne Erskine
Anne Erskine
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

“The cowboy middle” and “The Backward South” – how absolutely foppishly ignorant of you. That area would BOOM with freedom, invention, wealth, hope, and fine academics. But “the intellectually progressive NE” is so moronically arrogant and LOL hilarious because not an ounce of “smart” breathes oxygen anywhere in the NE, especially now since the once great universities such as Harvard, Brown, Yale, Princeton have become Woke Joke grade schools of inane fiction and the cities have become centers of disease, stagnation, and crime. “The hip progressive West” doesn’t exist (although the glam of the 60s hippies Let It All Hang Out druggies ruled for a short time), and never will and that area should be called that “The Progressive Crime Family Death and Destruction Slave Center” because all PROGRESSIVE policies have to offer are those and nothing else. By the way, your comment “majority of it’s voters under maybe AOC” is grammatically incorrect (so I will assume you would live in the “intellectual” dunce NE – such irony) as the word ITS refers to possession: its voters. The word IT’S refers to a contraction for “it is,” which is a subject/verb combination.
By the way, you should all be set traveling on your electric raft in the intellectual NE since you can always plug your power cord into you know where for reliable gas to create a spark. Enjoy your “clear sailing” through AOC’S dark, bleak, sunless swamp, but you are better off staying in the green land of the leprechauns as the leader of the “little people.”

Last edited 1 year ago by Anne Erskine
Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Anne Erskine

Bure sure I’m with ye all the way! Sure all I’m sayin’ is you’d all get the President and policies ye want and not have alien cultures foisted on you. If NE intellectuals have no commonsense fine: sure can’t they elect a nonsensical intellectual and let ’em sink happily together: or swim as the case may be. And if the Cowboy-South want a man full of commonsense like Trump sure let them have him for President. Greater California will probably be happy with a Schwarzenegar or Eastwood of Reagan: sure why not: one of their own and let those folk do their own thing.
The current polarised situation in the USA is just hopeless and is clearly untenable. Surely you can see that? Or are you still hopful the other side with see sense and realise they are 100% wrong and you are 100% right??
I’m usually careful with my it’ses and itses but I screwed up Biden style I guess? Sorry.
I gotta point out though gas does make a spark: gas ignites when a spark is make electrically and applied to it: at least in Europe (might be different in the US?)..
While I’m happy to spend time in Greenland sadly, I’m not yet leader of the little white leprechaun folk: like you we generally elect someone to represent the majority (moron) population. I’m gonna check my itses and it’ses now before I post…

Maureen Finucane
Maureen Finucane
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

The rural parts you look down on feed the intellectuals in the progressive states – literally!

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago

Who says I look down on the rural folk? No I don’t. I simply make the point that they have a different take on what’s important: that isn’t represented by the NE and Far West types: who equally seem to have very different views from each other.
The EU does have Presidents (3) but, unlike the US they have no real power so most EU citizens couldn’t even name them! They are largely symbolic and speak in the name of the EU parliament/council/commission.
They are usually from smaller countries. No way would Germans be happy with a powerful French EU president! So if we can have 3 presidents why not you?

Kat L
Kat L
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

I don’t understand all the down votes. I think you make sense even if using a slightly condescending tone.

Richard scully
Richard scully
1 year ago
Reply to  Paula 0

And in one generation you will have all types on all continents. It’s how we are wired.

Last edited 1 year ago by Richard scully
Kat L
Kat L
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard scully

I’m sure there are ways to keep things steadfast.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 year ago
Reply to  philip kern

If they heal.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  philip kern

The answer to your question may be in the word (semi-useless) ‘technology’ which he alludes to. Americans are poor because they spend all their (extra) money on iPhones and social media driven ‘beauty’ competitions of every kind. If poor Americans spent their incomes only on the things available in the 1950s (unaffordable to so many then) they would all have mega surpluses these days. Just do the math as you Americans say!
List all your spending on items not available in the 1950s and there’s your answer: right there.. don’t forget the cost of keeping up with the Kardashians!

Larry Stevens
Larry Stevens
1 year ago
Reply to  philip kern

They have decreased in Europe, just not in the US.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Larry Stevens

Of course. Europe has a great many obscenely rich oligarchs just like the USA.

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
1 year ago
Reply to  Garrett R

“Where Thiel is correct is the total lack of vision from any leadership today.”

Why would anyone need such a ‘vision’? People are not animals to be ‘led’ but intelligences to be respected.

Last edited 1 year ago by Arnold Grutt
Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

True: but the current system runs on (bad) leadership because leaders control (and destroy) resources. With good anarchy or at least massive subsidiarity (local decision making).. your proposal will work a lot better.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

Deleted

Last edited 1 year ago by Jeremy Bray
Christine Thomas
Christine Thomas
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

If only leaders were leaders. One more than rather suspects most ‘leaders’ as well as their acolytes occupying legislative positions are but ‘placemen’ (oops, placepersons) marketed as Brand Leaders by power brokers whose political aims & interests remain well beyond the ‘ken” of the average voter.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago

Sadly, I have to agree with you. Jeremy Corbyn at least has vision and doesn’t seem the type to be influenced by the oligarchs. Maybe we’ll find out in a couple of years?

Russ W
Russ W
1 year ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

Wonderful reply!

Paula Adams
Paula Adams
1 year ago
Reply to  Garrett R

I’m pretty sure Mary was trying to make him look irresponsible.

Chauncey Gardiner
Chauncey Gardiner
1 year ago
Reply to  Garrett R

Reality has this way of not being so straight-forward, sometimes. For example, the median per capita income of black folks in the United States rose from 42% of the median of per capita income of whites in 1950 to 69% by 1970. That makes for a lot of narrowing of income gaps. From 1970 to 1990, median per capita income for blacks remained flat relative to that of whites. It fell from 69.12% to 68.69%. Surprising, no?
Here’s my source:
https://www.census.gov/data/tables/time-series/demo/income-poverty/historical-income-people.html
“Table P-4. Race and Hispanic Origin of People (Both Sexes Combined) by Median and Mean Income: 1947 to 2020”

Sam McGowan
Sam McGowan
1 year ago
Reply to  Garrett R

Uh, do you realize NO ONE had credit cards prior to the 1970s when banks started issuing bank cards?

stephen archer
stephen archer
1 year ago
Reply to  Sam McGowan

You learn something every day. Diners Club and AMEX are from the 50’s. https://www.creditcards.com/statistics/history-of-credit-cards/

Garrett R
Garrett R
1 year ago
Reply to  Sam McGowan

Credit cards started in 1958 and women could not open cards in their own name until 1974.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 year ago

The author is hardly the first to contend that enlightened despotism is the ideal form of human government, as thinkers from Plato to Hobbes to Nietzsche have made similar and more convincing cases. However, the fact that one who, in his own words, is among those who “mourn the passing of the liberal world” would invoke the name of Caesar is the height of irony. What was the name of the political faction Julius Caesar led in the Roman civil war? The Populares, whose base of power were the tribunes, representatives of the military and of the people, Rome’s middle class. Yes, it is the origin of our modern word, Populism, because a group of Americans saw in Julius Caesar’s struggle to save a Republic from aristocrats who had destroyed the middle class and gathered obscene amounts of personal wealth and power an echo of their own struggles against the robber barons of the Gilded Age. They dubbed themselves “Populists” and began a struggle that is still far from over. Aristocrats like Thiel, Soros, Gates, and Musk, are not some Platonist philosopher kings, an alternative to liberalism. They are liberalism, both its recent past and its probable future. They are not the ideal, certainly, but they are the reality of what liberalism has become, an unaccountable aristocracy where wealthy men can buy everything from political office to private armies, just as Pompey and Crassus did before Caesar defeated them. If those are my choices, I’m certainly siding with Caesar myself.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Jolly
Laura Pritchard
Laura Pritchard
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

How did siding with Caesar go?

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 year ago

Well he defeated his enemies and became dictator but was ultimately murdered by dissatisfied aristocrats, who didn’t last long themselves, being defeated by Caesar’s followers, who became the second Triumvirate, led by his nephew Octavian, who eventually became the first emperor, Caesar Augustus. So, while Caesar ended badly, he still fared better than those who opposed him, and his followers achieved eventual victory, and while they failed to save the Republic, they broke the power of the Senate and the aristocrats who controlled it more or less permanently. From that point on, the emperors could and did destroy any enemies who became too powerful, until they were assassinated or died, and then a new emperor repeated the process. I hardly need to point out the parallels between modern America and Rome at the end of the Republican period, a decimated middle class, unchecked aristocrats, political fighting in the streets, corruption, greed, etc. Better men than I have already done so. History often rhymes and I fear that now, like then, it is already too late to save the Republic, and we should count ourselves lucky when the next Caesar comes along. As a libertarian, I personally would prefer to liberally apply the principal of self-determination until we are left with a world of small and culturally homogenous nations, whose rule no one outside those nations need care about because none are powerful enough to do much damage in the way current and past great powers have, but that’s about as likely to happen as a meteor landing on my head. It’s more likely we will face a choice between oligarchs and autocrats, and though I have no great love for either, I far prefer the latter.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago

Pretty good outcome (soon afterwards) with the longest period of stable government under Augustus: he was the real benign Emperor ..only if you were a Roman citizen mind! A bit like the Britsh Empire: glorious period but only if you were British or a rich collaborator..

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

Rather well, it must be said.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

The problem with any form of enlightened despotism is that the ordinary people rely on the despots remaining enlightened, if they don’t it’s just despotism. Remember what Lord Acton’s wrote:
Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority.

Gary Baxter
Gary Baxter
1 year ago

There’s no enlightened despotism, not in this century. The term is an oxymoron.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Gary Baxter

Not even in Cuba?

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

I’m not so sure the oligarchs you list “are” neo liberalism but for sure neo liberalism made ’em.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

At some point, we’re just arguing semantics. Neoliberalism didn’t begin as an aristocratic philosophy. It just so happened that it empowered the rise of a new aristocratic class who began to influence the system to benefit themselves and that too was called neoliberalism and the cycle continued until here we are. Saying they “are” neoliberalism probably gives them too much credit, as if they themselves came up with the ideas. Rather their power is inextricably linked to neoliberal policies, and so it is impossible to confront or defeat the one without also confronting and defeating the other. That is the sense I meant when I said they ‘are’ neoliberalism.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Agreed. As with all political sysrs there will always be the carpet baggers. The ‘bad men’ ‘Acton refers to will use every organisation, including religious, social, political etc to further their own power and wealth and that of their ilk. For that reason I believe we need to call out the ‘bad men’ and focus less on systems.

Saigon Sally
Saigon Sally
1 year ago

“I put it to him that many historians date the slow implosion of Christianity from the emergence of just the kind of scientific enquiry Thiel wants to encourage in the name of a Christian-inflected tech progressivism. Was it ever plausible, I ask him, that we could hold the worlds of faith and of science and technology in equilibrium?”

Ignorance on the part of the author. Many in the church were in the vanguard of scientific discovery in the nineteenth century and many were the leading Oxford and Cambridge professors who were also churchmen. The English parish vicarage was a hotbed of palaeontological and botanical discovery – not to mention a host of other disciplines – despite their discoveries disproving the book of Genesis. But this was England, not America.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
1 year ago
Reply to  Saigon Sally

Good observations. Another; Along with Thiel’s own investments, which include many futuristic projects such as biotech and space exploration
I checked out the link regarding “space exploration”. In my view, if this means manned space exploration then I think for even the foreseeable future this is a pipe-dream. From my Uni days I am minded of the utterly inhospitable environment of space – outside of the Earth’s magnetic field – even in the form of cosmic rays and solar radiation, would produce such insurmountable problems that make the moon landings look like a walk in the park so-to-speak.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago

Yes: bread and circusses without the bread!

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Saigon Sally

I put it to you that the rise of Buddhist style, ie true Chrianity is also a major factor: as is the blindingly obvious realisation that the so called christian churches were found out to be all too secular, all too greedy, all to hypocritical and all too self-serving to have much time left for the rebellous misfit revolutionary we call Jesus of Nazareth..

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

Spot on sir!

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

Indeed. I often wonder if modern evangelicals have actually read the book they claim as guidance. If they had, and they had payed attention, they would realize that Jesus was indeed a rebellious misfit revolutionary who had little use for the trappings, excesses, greed, and abuses of the organized religion of his time.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 year ago
Reply to  Saigon Sally

Christianity is hardly monolithic. The perceive hostility between Christianity and science and intellectual pursuit in general is not reflected through most of history except in a few famous cases. It is mainly a feature of American evangelicalism, which is a product of its peculiar, Calvinist roots, and is mainly a phenomenon of the past century or so. The relation between science and religion has, as often as not, been complementary rather than oppositional. Also, to be fair, modern hostilities are not one sided. I think (hope) that most of the perceived conflict between Christianity and “Science” is a case of the loudest and most obnoxious members of either group garnering a disproportionate amount of attention. No religion or philosophy has a monopoly on intolerance and zealotry.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Jolly
Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Just a suggestion: check out ‘Einstein not an atheist’.. his definition provides, in my opinion a really good linkage between science (physics) and God..

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 year ago

Thanks Mary for another interesting and thought provoking article.

I am a bit of an anomaly in that I have been able to bring up a family without a financial contribution from my wife from shortly before our first son was born. She has been able to devote a significant amount of time to church matters as a result such as running a toddler group in the church, helping to organise fundraising events and flowers for the church etc.

However, I have noticed how the hierarchy has lost the evangelical and expansionary approach of its founder, John Wesley, but retreated into managing decline and closing churches with more focus on the needs of the Ministers and the organisation than the congregations that are treated more as sources of funds and their churches as assets to be stripped. This very much reflects the post-colonial malaise Peter Thiel talks of. The expansionary element of Methodism lies in the former colonies while the church in the country of its origin is allowed to wither on the vine as it were.

Again it is true that while there have been material advances in the ease of doing many things statistics exaggerate real progress by counting only what is easily countable and disregarding what is not so easily countable but which represents real loss. The fact that because she did not do paid work my wife was able to care for her father when he got cancer and her mother through her period of dementia in a better than institutional way appears nowhere in the statistics. In addition statistics are continually manipulated to disguise real material loss for political purposes.

Peter Thiel identifies the overarching problem of today’s social discourse as the active promotion of lies. The idea that a man can become a woman by believing himself to be one or with a bit of surgery is manifestly false in a way that Christianity dealing as it does with the realm of the unknown never has been.
The problem with the Medici version of the future is that it encourages conflict between the competing visions of the Princes and fails to take into account the Savonarolas.

We do not have to contemplate a world of competing religions that give purpose to life. The Masonic ideal enables men to work together whatever their religious faith in pursuit of the liberal arts and sciences, benevolence and charity. Technology undoubtedly has a role in furtherance of a benevolent and tolerant future rather than the controlling hive future of the Chinese CCP vision if it is so enabled.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jeremy Bray
Laura Pritchard
Laura Pritchard
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Interesting thoughts but I’m not sure I’d evoke Savonarola as an antidote to the Princes.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

To be fair, if you’re going to pull a billion people out of poverty as did the CCP you’ll do it better without opposition be it religious, intellectual, cultural or economic. Sure, as a dissident in China you’re in big trouble but as a law abiding citizen you might be happy with the current situation? After all, if you can think what you like and do what you like within the bounds of your own (comfortable) home, that beats starvation and grinding poverty into a cocked hat doesn’t it?

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

Deng was certainly preferable to Mao and the great man-made famine of his era but I think democracy would have actually been more effective in lifting the entrepreneurial Chinese out of poverty. I recall an Economist article showing that the higher proportion of ethnic Chinese a Far Eastern nation had the greater the economic progress.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

I don’t doubt it. But you confuse the natural entrepreneurship of the urban Chinese (formidable) with the simple Chinese peasants: all Chinese are not the same any more than any other nation… but they all have 6,000 years behind them so they are all a force to be reckoned with: for sure!

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

That’s essentially like saying the Confederacy was a great place if you were a landowning white person.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

I agree completely.. after a statement such as ‘it was a glorious era’ one has to ask: “for whom?” Historical drama is often confined to the top 1% in all their finery and the really poor as happy little retards. Dickens was a notable exception but even he glossed it up a bit. But Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer is really going a bit too far.

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
1 year ago

Please spare us from the billionaires who, rather than splurging all their money on trashy frivolities, which would make them at least somewhat human, suddenly inform us that they have ‘a mission’ to guide, lead or save humanity.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

Agreed. While productivity has definitely been increasing much more slowly than in the past, it is still increasing. The main problem is that the benefits of those increases are no longer being shared throughout society. It’s getting harder pretend people are richer than before when their grandparents could raise large families on a single wage, whereas no two above average wage earners can’t even afford a family home.
Most violent revolutions are preceded by times of vast inequality and I can eventually see history repeating itself

Terry M
Terry M
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

People can raise families on one income still. What has changed is the ‘need’ for superfluous trinkets and amusements that drives the desire for a second income. In the 50’s we spent about 20% of income on food and now it’s less than 10%, for example. Same for housing and clothing. The 2nd income is merely to keep up with the Jones’s.

Paula Adams
Paula Adams
1 year ago
Reply to  Terry M

Sure, as long as you go without health insurance and have roommates to help pay the rent. My husband and I raised six children on one income and many prayers. I’m very thankful that we were able to do it. Our house payment is reasonable. But today’s housing costs are not like the old days. A one bedroom apt. costs $1000 a month and up!

Kat L
Kat L
1 year ago
Reply to  Paula Adams

Well that depends on where it is right?

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Terry M

I’m inclined to agree, but only partially. However, when it comes to housing the dynamic is very different: my 3bSD cost 3 times my very poor annual salary. I was 22 years old in a white collar job.
Now such a home costs 10 times such a salary. The build quality is not markedly better.. so where’s the x7 money gone? Greedy, speculating land owners mainly, with greedy builders following; not to mention greedy local govt who gouge home owners instead of supporting them.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Terry M

Ah, the old “entitled lazy millennials” drivel. If only they stopped buying avocado on toast they too could afford to buy a house and survive on a single income like their grandparents.
That argument always handily ignores the fact that on average millennials work longer hours than the previous couple of generations, save a higher percentage of their income, drink less, smoke less and have families later, yet due to house prices being many multiples what they were a generation ago homeownership rates among that cohort are at record lows

Carl Valentine
Carl Valentine
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Not quite true Billy, I read an article based on a report by the ONS which, contrary to popular opinion stated that millennials will work 5 years less in their lifetime to obtain the same wealth levels as baby boomers did. Plus avocados are decimating water sources and villages in Mexico so best not buy them!

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
1 year ago
Reply to  Terry M

this used to be the case before housing became a gambling item !

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Agreed and I foresee that yet another so-called Holocaust is just ‘around the corner’ involving the ‘usual suspects’.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I find it amazing that young people focus on %$# wokeness instead of the fact that they’ve just been swindled out of their future wellbeing. It’s like finding your home has been burgled and you’ve lost everything: and you just shrug your shoulders and say: “Well, I guess that’s the system. Burglars are a reality and I just have to get on with life!”
At 24 I had my own house, a stay-at-home wife, two kids, a car, an annual continental holiday and zero debts (except for a mortgage), all on a quite small salary..

Albert de M
Albert de M
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

That’s the whole point of the “woke” cult: to brainwash the victims and distract them from the ongoing reduction of the middle class to a neo-feudal peasant class.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Albert de M

I couldn’t agree more! But how come University educated, high IQ young people can’t see it? Are they blind? At a minimum they should set up their own political party: no member over 25 years old.. they are a huge demographic and would hold the balance of power in any election if only the idiots will vote! What’s the matter with them?

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

The cynic in me would suggest that the reason so many large corporations have nailed their flag to the “woke” mast is because it distracts from the fact they don’t pay their staff enough to live on.
Hanging up a pride flag costs nothing, paying their employees enough to buy a house means the CEO might have to forego his second Ferrari

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I agree: 100%! Time the woke woke up!

Donald Sheltic
Donald Sheltic
1 year ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

Agreed.
But it’s not just that billionaires believe they have a mission to lead, it’s also that there appears to be an unfortunate human trait to equate wealth and prominence with legitimate leadership… In short, we seem bound to give too much weight to the views of people who stand out in one area, but not necessarily in other areas.
I have personally known some very famous people — physicists, as it happens — and they and their followers certainly believed that their genius extended in all directions, but to the people close to them, not so much. Think Sheldon Cooper 🙂
Actors, sports stars, entrepreneurs, CEOs, scientists, whatever… I applaud their excellence at what they do, but I regret the worship accorded their views about larger matters, particularly the direction of humanity.

John Hicks
John Hicks
1 year ago

Interesting to read comments of time spent with Mr. Thiel, although hints of “the idiot who praises, with exaggerated tone, all centuries but this, every country but his own,” do suggest they belong on a list “that won’t be missed.” Opaque measurements of material growth tend to hide human dimensions of progress; literacy, reproduction management, poverty decline; systems and structures that continually elevate humanity. Greta buffoonery and the “youngest billionaire” may excite a few for an instant in time. For a species that took 43,000 years or so to develop an alphabet, maybe the world is “unfolding as it should.”

Laura Pritchard
Laura Pritchard
1 year ago
Reply to  John Hicks

I thought his understanding of humankind was extremely narrow but it still does have an awareness of what is known these days as the ‘lived experience’. It’s hard to measure the immaterial improvements in our lives, this is true, but it doesn’t mean they haven’t stagnated and been replaced by distraction as the primary ambition in life. I found this idea somewhat enlightening.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago

Me too.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  John Hicks

Pretty much my own thoughts on Thiel’s musings, which is all they are, and which are very much a product of his own insulated background; insulated, that is, against the reality of the day-to-day requirements of the majority of people. It’s where he cites a return to a more Christian approach to living that i diverge entirely from him, and that very much does NOT involve a less charitable approach to our fellow human beings!
There’s little in his analysis that includes actual culture and actual artistic endeavour, which may not be surprising from a tech-oriented individual. So whilst his thoughts are worth paying some attention to, i don’t see anything that provides a way forward or particularly reflects where we are and how we got here with any degree of accuracy.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  John Hicks

mmm.. maybe somewhere in the middle lies the solution?

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago

I think that the most important insight here was Mr Thiel’s pointing out the plethora of distractions that we have around us these days which masquerade as progress. However, his championing the idea of infinite material progress is problematic as we do have finite resources; of course, perhaps there will be some massive paradigm shift which will make continual progress possible, but with our present paradigm I can’t see how that can happen without some dehumanising effects. By-the-by, it is noticable that Mr Theil says that the word “nature” doesn’t appear in the Old Testament; just because the word doesn’t appear doesn’t mean that ideas and concepts of the natural word are not present (Jeremiah 9 certainly mentions it); furthermore he makes no mention of whether it appears in the New Testament. His interpretation of Christianity and transhumanism are, let’s just say, idiosyncratic.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

The ‘Old Testament’ is a catalogue of genocide:
1. The Flood (Genesis 6-8)
2. The cities of the plain, including Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18-19)
3. The Egyptian firstborn sons during the Passover (Exodus 11-12)
4. The Canaanites under Moses and Joshua (Numbers 21:2-3; Deuteronomy 20:17; Joshua 6:17, 21)
5. The Amalekites annihilated by Saul (1 Samuel 15)
That makes the Holocaust seem banal.

Last edited 1 year ago by CHARLES STANHOPE
Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago

All very interesting, but I’m puzzled as to how this is a reply to my post.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

“His interpretation of Christianity and transhumanism are, let’s just say, idiosyncratic”, as is both yours and mine.
QED?

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago

But all of your listed annihilations were in early Jewish times, not Christian. They predate the birth if the Christ by 100s if not 1,000s of years!

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

I did say Old Testament did I not?

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago

Yeah: but the was no Christianity in OT times. It began with Jesus in c.30AD.. Jesus effectively rejected much of OT thinking tho’ He did say he was ‘perfecting’ it..

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

Why do you and others continue to litter Unherd with biblical references? Just as Thiel’s reference to Christianity is not only unnecessary but unhelpful, so continual referencing of one mish-mash of a tome put together (with deliberate omissions) which includes many mistranslations is of little value or relevance to the world we now live in, apart from narrow scholarly curiosity.

The so-called teachings of Christ offer nothing that any reasonably intelligent and sensitive human couldn’t work out for themselves, and without the need for “salvation” through an entirely unnecessary fate.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Murray
Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Disagree. Christ’s teachings may seem obvious to you, but they were anathema to the cruel cultures that dominated in and around his lifetime time. With the dismantling of Christianity in the West, we are seeing a return to the barbaric times of the ancient world, albeit it with far better technology.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

It seems the Israeites had considerable difficulty in behaving reasonably and they, allegedly, were the good guys! Anilhilation was and continues to be their thing. Jesus’ approach is the polar opposite to the largely brutal world that preceeded Him.. it’s a mistery to me why he opted for the Jewish people but it seems he did, suggesting they were the best of a bad lot. And a bad lot the Zionists are today – I am NOT antisemitic merely anti Zionist, anti-land theft, anti child murder and anti anilhilation. Christianity is the antithesis of the Israelite/Zionist view of what is right and wrong.

Albert de M
Albert de M
1 year ago

Perhaps that’s why the Holocaust resonates so strongly with Western Christian populations.
It’s reasonable to assume that, to Christians, the Old Testament reflects the horrors of the world before Christ, whether viewed allegorically (as liberal Christians do) or literally (as fundamentalist Christians do).
Leaving aside Old Testament mythology, it’s certainly the case that the Classical world was a far more brutal one than the Christian world that followed it in the West. To see Germany, one of the most advanced Christian societies, regress in some respects to pre-Christian norms was undoubtedly a shock.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Albert de M

..add in Stalin’s pograms and gulags: he was a Christian seminarian drop-out. However neither man was invoking Christian doctrine in his annihilation policies. Ditto for Mao and Pol Pot and Buddhism. There are plenty of religiously driven massacres in the middle ages but I’ll wager they had little if anything of true religious fervour about them. It was simply a useful excuse to vent hatred.

Last edited 1 year ago by Liam O'Mahony
Albert de M
Albert de M
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

Stalin was a Marxist and an atheist. Coming from an impoverished family headed by an abusive father in a minor province of the semi-feudal Russian Empire, the only education Stalin’s mother could secure for him was a religious one.
Stalin was academically gifted, but rejected the religious aspect of his education, ultimately abandoning it to pursue Marxist revolutionary activity.
Mao and Pol Pot were motivated by the same Marxist ideology as Stalin. Their cultural Buddhism was incidental.
The common thread among the greatest mass-murderers of the 20th century was their belief in Marxist dogma.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Albert de M

I agree but not entirely: Marx was no advocate of mass murder.. evil, narcissistic monsters will use any bandwagon to pursue their Satanic goals: it matters little whether it be religion, politics, socialism or any mass hysteria.. those wicked creatures will crawl up out of Hell and appeal to the masses before surrounding themselves with thugs and infiltrating positions of power. It is the individuals we need to focus on and their sneaky methods, not the ideologies which are incidental.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Albert de M

“it’s certainly the case that the Classical world was a far more brutal one than the Christian world that followed it in the West.”

I must vehemently disagree, the fabled ‘Pax Romana’ was an unparalleled era of peace and progress, even if it occasionally enjoyed itself at the Amphitheater or Circus. Compared to say the savagery of the Albigensian Crusade and numerous other Crusades, the Classical World was a haven of civility and culture, the like of which we shall never see again.

“Sic Gloria Transit Mundi”.

Last edited 1 year ago by CHARLES STANHOPE
Albert de M
Albert de M
1 year ago

The barbarism of the arena, where the masses watched as individuals were tortured to death, wasn’t occasional. It was a regularity. So were slavery and genocide.
Scipio Aemilianus reportedly wept for the Carthaginians as he led the Roman genocide against Carthage, with the city burned to the ground and the surviving population enslaved en masse, but he carried out that genocide nonetheless.
The Christian churches have frequently used violence to suppress religious dissent, but their ultimate demand has typically been conversion or acceptance of church dogma. The wholesale destruction and mass-enslavement of peoples that was common in the Classical world largely disappeared in Christian Europe.
Fascism was linked to Roman Catholicism, with fascist leaders almost invariably being cultural or even practicing Catholics, but it was very clearly modelled on the pre-Christian Roman Empire.

Last edited 1 year ago by Albert de M
CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Albert de M

I’m afraid we shall have to disagree on this interesting subject.

However the crowds that gathered and giggled as men were broken on the wheel and woman burnt naked and alive at Montfaucon were no different from those who jeered and hooted in say the Amphitheater of Nimes. (However at least the ‘Roman’ crowd were not tormented by the nonsense of ‘original sin’.)

To describe the destruction of Carthage and for that matter Corinth in the same year as genocide is a gross exaggeration, most of the population were merely, and correctly enslaved, as you rightly say..

Fascism was a very vulgar pastiche of the Classical World, and a typical piece of modern Italian hubris, to apply the word to National Socialist Germany is absurd.

Finally was Medieval Serfdom any better than Slavery? At least with Roman Slavery you might have the chance to buy yourself out!

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Albert de M

I think you may have been inadvertently watching a little too much BEN-HUR.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Albert de M

There are people who claim to be Christians (including RC types) and there are Christians who follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. Some of the latter are Buddhist as well.. (Buddhism is not a religion).. We need to distinguish carefully between real and bandwagon Christians..

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago

Yes: but only by comparison. Crucifixion is not as bad as being flayed alive but hey, Christianity is a lot better: I don’t refer to burning at the stake! I mean Christianity ala the Christ: as per the teachings of Jesus..

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago

Agreed: however I do think Thiel did draw a distinction between purely material progress and more neaningful “soullful” progress but sadly, not adequately explored.. He also alluded ro progress within already proven technology so not more exploitative but more perfectionist to exteact more from less..

Jonathan Nash
Jonathan Nash
1 year ago

What a collection of glib observations. It sounds as if he is not being challenged enough.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Jonathan Nash

Thar was Mary Harrington’s job! Thiel’s assertions were not explored in dufficient depth let alone challenged adequately.. it’s hard to focus on hus true case without those..

Jack Tarr
Jack Tarr
1 year ago

“From this perspective, Thiel argues, the problem with transhumanism isn’t that it seeks to remake humanity, but that it isn’t ambitious enough in this regard: “the Christian critique of transhumanism should be that it’s not radical enough, because it’s only seeking to transform our bodies and not our souls.”
So, the human race is effectively turned into another species by the application of technological progress – and this is a ‘good thing’. Will H*mo Sapiens be the first species to rationalise itself out of existence? Isn’t the replacement of H*mo Sapiens by some form of “H*mo Superior” the reductio ad absurdem of untrammelled technological progress? Qui bono? Not us, people, as we will be replaced by something else. We are not Neanderthals or Denisovans even though we share a distant common evolutionary ancestry and even some shared DNA (Europeans have a few percent of Neanderthal DNA; Melanesians and Aboriginal Australians have about 5% Denisovan DNA). H*mo Superior will have some evolutionary connection to ourselves but will be as different, if not more so, than early hominids are to us.
In reality, technological progress is the result of thousands of investment and subsidy decisions. No money, no development, in particular cases and in general. Technological progress as envisioned by many ‘thought-leaders’ is a sort of supernatural activity that the human race just has to adapt to, rather than a creative activity that has the potential to bring great benefits. Control funding and you control technological progress – the only question is who controls funding – tech billionaires, governments, or real people?
(Note: the asterisks above were needed to avoid the absurd automated censoring mechanism!)

Last edited 1 year ago by Jack Tarr
Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Jack Tarr

* noted: yes, absurd.. gotta be woke man or it’s cancellation 4u!
Not sure if Thiel actually favours AI as decision makers but, like SAGE, they might make useful advisers especially if they (unlike SAGE) can see several iterations of decisions-v-outcomes into the future.. but we gotta be careful who does the programming and verification etc!

Timothy Corwen
Timothy Corwen
1 year ago

It can be helpful in the human-direction mapping of this lack of further progress, to differentiate between two of the four layers of the worth of a person. Too many successful people get stuck at the third layer: entitlement worth as displayed by trappings of success, and marking how much you deserve the attention, consideration, approval, support of others and having an influence on them.
This is rife among academics competing for number of publication citations, job titles, etc., rather than dedicating themselves, perhaps even outside the university system, to the advancement of knowledge; and among business people who go for a third super yacht rather than giving something back to the community. They thus fail to progress to the fourth, deeper layer of worth (greater-value worth).
Christianity used to provide a pathway for that dedication to something outside oneself. There are other pathways, but those involve faculty-building skills most of us have never recognised the importance of, let alone developed.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Timothy Corwen

Most University faculties are too busy trying to be woke these days yo have any time for intellectually worthwhile projects.

Ahmed Bouzid
Ahmed Bouzid
1 year ago

I know: how about we go back to progressive taxation, the fairness doctrines, and real enforcement of anti-trust laws? Since none of these is palpable to Thiel, he instead wants to talk about refactoring “progress”. Give me a break.

Johnathan Galt
Johnathan Galt
1 year ago

“
.in order to pursue narrow metrics such as (on the Left) personal freedom or (on the Right) economic growth.”

The author has been swayed by propaganda. Personal freedom is, and always was, on the right. The Republicans party today is an imperfect champion of Classical Liberalism. The Democrats are now all-in on totalitarianism.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Johnathan Galt

To be fair I think there might be a bit of the old totalitarian tendency within the ranks of the Trumpers, GOP, Proud Boys et al..

Albert de M
Albert de M
1 year ago
Reply to  Johnathan Galt

Yes and no. There is a (classical) liberal wing of the Republican Party, which is focused on individual freedom, but there’s also a religious wing. Until recently, there was also a liberal wing of the Democratic Party, but it’s largely ceased to exist, with the last open liberals purged from the party after 2016.
In the early days of the Republican Party, it was dominated by its religious wing, which was fanatically anti-slavery, but not especially concerned with individual rights that were viewed as inconsistent with Christianity. As an example, the “Comstock laws” passed under the Grant administration and in various states were responsible for things like bans on contraceptives, censorship of material deemed obscene, etc.
The liberal, pro-business wing of the Republican Party rose to prominence in the late 19th century, clashed with the progressive (T.) Roosevelt wing of the party in the early 20th century, collapsed during the Great Depression, and then gradually recovered after WWII, and especially after the 1970s.
During the mid-20th century, the liberal wings of both parties promoted individual freedom. They were united in some areas, e.g., opposition to racism and segregation, but outside of those core areas of agreement, the Republican liberals tended to focus more on economic freedom, while the Democrat liberals focused more on social freedom, and especially the freedom of individuals to reject social norms and even support extremist movements, from American Nazism to American Communism.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Albert de M

Very informative.. appreciated.

Larry Stevens
Larry Stevens
1 year ago

I see two large sources of stagnation:

  • Growth in GDP has always been enabled by increases in energy consumption. The ongoing failure of the fission/fusion project has limited that growth, further restricted by the rejection of fossil sources.
  • The explosion in health care costs as a fraction of the total has limited consumption of everything else. Huge numbers of talented people are working there (instead of anywhere else), and the cost of paying for them limits everyone’s well being in every other domain.

Both problems seem likely to be resolved, but probably not this decade…

Albert de M
Albert de M
1 year ago
Reply to  Larry Stevens

Your first point is why we have to get off of the planet and start harvesting the energy and resources available in the solar system.
Fusion, whether remote (i.e., solar) or local (i.e., fusion plants) will probably provide effectively unlimited power in the long run, but in the short run we’ll have to rely on things like fission plants.
Machines can already to a lot of the manual work that used to be done by humans and other animals, and if AI can ultimately replace a lot of the mental work, then the labor constraint will disappear and the only constraint on output will be energy.
The financial and industrial revolution gave the West a temporary edge over the rest of the world, but the Western population peaked at less than 1/4 of the global total, and has declined steadily since the peak. That’s why Western power peaked and is declining.
A successful AI will remove the labor constraint for whoever creates it and give them an edge even greater than the one the West enjoyed in the 19th and 20th centuries. If the West doesn’t do it, it’ll probably be China. If China remains under the control of the CCP when it happens, then it’ll be the equivalent of 1933-45 Germany winning the rocketry and atomic bomb races.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Albert de M

In making your case you take a huge amount as given: eg the endless demand for ‘stuff’ that is ultimately unfulfilling: and you ignore the best things in life that are free. Are you sure the masses want only the former or, given a real choice (eg via National Wage?) might they opt for the latter? The post Covid non-return to work would suggest many will opt for the latter given the opportunity thereby reducing consumption dramatically.

Last edited 1 year ago by Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Larry Stevens

I believe the first solution: nuclear fusion will.never happen as the input required is so vast. The second solution will be helped by the acceptance that death is normal and the vast extravagance at pretending it can be or should be staved off at all costs is another non solution. A return to a more spiritual and simpler (less materialistic) approach in my view is a better way forward. A national wage to all will go a long way to end the ludicrous craving for endless growth and the mindless demand for a plethora of unhealthy IT gadgets and wholly unnecessary beauty efforts:

Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
1 year ago

People interested in the nuts and bolts of how this stagnation happens may be interested in reading Roger Martin’s *Fixing the Game*. Review here in Forbes which does the book much better justice than I can in a few sentences. https://www.forbes.com/sites/stevedenning/2011/11/28/maximizing-shareholder-value-the-dumbest-idea-in-the-world/
The idea that firms would improve if you tied managerial results to share holder value, and then tried to maximise share price has been tried. It failed. And it has pretty much wrecked capitalism as our grandparents knew it, as well. Everybody loses here except a class that has learned how to game the system. From financial fiddles to stripping companies of assets, and ruining their ability to compete in the long term — it is all the same poison.
The nice thing is that there are things we can do to fix this problem, but only once we realise that what we have been pursuing has been a mistake.
Note that this does not mean that the idea of ‘founder’s stock’ — where young people get together and start companies with the idea of splitting the great profits when the companies succeed is a bad idea. It’s when you no longer need to be growing new customers and earning more profits that the rot sets in. And we are pretty rotten at the top right now. Being able to redistribute wealth up to the top is not the same thing as generating prosperity (which is wealth spread around a whole community) and it is prosperity which we so badly need these days.

Last edited 1 year ago by Laura Creighton
J.P Malaszek
J.P Malaszek
1 year ago

A conversation between Peter Thiel and Paul Kingsnorth would be quite interesting!

Albert de M
Albert de M
1 year ago

The collapse of progress in the United States coincided with the triumph of democracy, which has never in history been a successful system. As John Adams put it:

Remember Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes exhausts and murders itself. There never was a Democracy Yet, that did not commit suicide.

Alexander Hamilton stressed the difference between the republican system the framers created and democracy:

We are now forming a republican government. Real liberty is neither found in despotism or the extremes of democracy, but in moderate governments.

Our republican system, like the British system it was modelled on and like most of the state systems, sought to balance the power of the various interests in society. It contained numerous mechanisms to protect us from the ravages of pure democracy. Over time, most have been weakened or destroyed by democrats (who have usually also been Democrats).
Apart from the abomination of slavery in the South — a system that was completely alien to English culture — the most important divisions in the early republic were between large and small states, and between urban and rural communities. When institutions ensured that neither could achieve dominance over the other, the republic flourished.
With democracy invariably favoring the large states over the small, and the urban regions over the rural, the balance that held the republic together has been destroyed. From the day the balance was undermined, it’s only been a matter of time until the large/urban side achieves absolute power. When it does, Americans may discover that we’re really no different from the French of 1789, the Russians of 1917, the Germans of 1918, etc. We were just fortunate in having, for a time, better institutions.

Last edited 1 year ago by Albert de M
Dominic A
Dominic A
1 year ago

that we’ve been distracted from the lack of progress” by “the shift from exteriority, from measurable things” such as “faster speeds, supersonic airplanes or longer life expectancies” and re-oriented on “the interior world of yoga, meditation, psychology, parapsychology, psychopharmacology, psychedelic drugs, video games, the internet et cetera”

This is the point where I clearly remembered/realised that, of course, this guy is a venture capitalist, obsessed with quantifiable growth, knowing the cost of everything and the value of nothing. Another line on stagnation and corruption is that it comes from lionising the money men way beyond their primary skill set, so that now they reach deeply into, often to the point of domination, politics, music, arts, philosophy, education, health care etc etc etc

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
1 year ago
Reply to  Dominic A

Yes, you are right about the money men reaching into almost every sphere. it is one of the great problems of our age. Similarly, we have the software man (Bill Gates) telling us all about viruses. What a mess.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Dominic A

Spot on!

Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
1 year ago

Prayer and meditation are, and were, significant in the Christian tradition. While prayer might be somewhat uncool,meditation is hip. Having said that, from my own experience it is no bad thing.

Mark Vernon
Mark Vernon
1 year ago

Fascinating piece, thanks. Made me wonder about the broadly two types of power in the Bible, and the need to revive the one largely lost in modern empire-based Christianity.

Exousia is the power associated with agency, as exercised by the materially powerful. Pilate and the priests are the archetypal examples in the gospels. It trusts agency, hierarchy and action, growth and transformation.

But there’s also dumanis, exemplified by Christ before Pilate – the power of allure not agency, of beauty, clear perception, realising that dying to, not possession of, leads to more life.

This is the alternative Christian strand that it’d be interesting to see revived.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago

Curtis Yarvin, and now Mary, arguing the case for monarchy. And I thought I was worried before . . .

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

I too read that with some incredulity. Perhaps she was uncharacteristically dazzled by Thiel? I’m sure she’ll regain her equilibrium fairly quickly.

Nick M
Nick M
1 year ago

Two people in the household now working and house prices have doubled. Does he not see an obvious link between the two?

Richard Abbot
Richard Abbot
1 year ago

“I’m coming to suspect the democratic era was a flash in the pan..”
So I am.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard Abbot

What “democratic era”?
We haven’t had anything even approaching democracy since Pericles.
Just an unending stream of Oligarchy, Monarchy and Autocracy, punctuated by incessant periods of rank barbarism.

Last edited 1 year ago by CHARLES STANHOPE
Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago

Agreed. We’ve had a kind of Wizard of Oz sort of Democracy with a lot of shouting and promises: with just a little old man behind it all (govt). If you look carefully you’ll see that little old man is actually a puppet operated by the oligarchs!

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

The ‘usual suspects’?

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard Abbot

Maybe: but my guess is it’ll flash again after the have a belly full of despotism.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

Little Switzerland is quite an impressive example of ‘democracy’ in action, but even here the Police are habitually armed. The spirit of William Tell dies hard.

martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago

Given that Renaissance Italy’s “clever” movers and shakers very quickly made Italy a battle ground for outside powers, and eventually devastated the country, “governance by a post-democratic swarm” is probably the worst thing that could happen to us.
“Clever” people like Thiel are the very worst danger to any society, particularly a democracy.
Certainly the dumbest idea I’ve yet encountered on Unherd.

James Anthony Seyforth
James Anthony Seyforth
1 year ago

Unherd ignored my request for allowing article responses from commenters to articles, so I decided to write my own mini article response, I guess here we go:

This is absurd: “I ask him, that we could hold the worlds of faith and of science and technology in equilibrium? He appears to view this, once again, as a largely irrelevant academic question; the real implosion of mass religiosity in Britain, he suggests, coincided with the end of the British Empire”

Another Peter (Hitchens) has written much about Britain and knows very well what killed off our country and continent spiritually and materially and obviously it was the exceptional carnage and loss of life during WWI and additionally thereafter in WWII.

A good discussion and precise numbers of WWI loss of European male population can be found here for example https://www.cairn-int.info/article-E_POPSOC_510_0001–lost-generations-the-demographic.htm

You cannot just blip and put out of existence millions of young men in what were then the world’s most advanced and technologically skilled economies and expect that blip not to rip through the future. More over after that, Spanish flu and then another war? everything points toward the nihilism of killing each other and facing actual chaos and the bleakness of it all, and not finding peace and resolution (for example the 19th century was relatively peaceful because of treaties and agreements early in and around 1815, and I guess the weapons weren’t as lethal). But, I’m not saying Hitler should have been moral or Prussia even (that’s asking the impossible), I’m saying regardless of what could have or could not have happened, this level of technological warfare combined with continued loss of life and erasure of key human resource, killed us off spiritually, and thus culturally and materially. Okay and of course the pill had a major impact 60s onwards but let’s not go there for now.

It’s evident everywhere you look, and for me the most particular example is how we struggle to raise children now because so much of that support network, those large families, multi generational, whose knowledge and intuition kept up to tens of tenacious children alive, fed and mobile is gone. Now we run around as parents in three bed houses with two kids hoping Nan and grandad visit next month, and that’s if we are lucky. You can’t create a culture on a bed with no community or family supports, and the total disintegration of the strong working family in the 20th thru 21at century is the true reason for that. Just to prove this look how well indians do here, they have something closer resembling that support structure , a lower average age within their ethnic group and they readily support each other socially and financially at weddings and crucial life junctures. Who are the top performers nowadays at school and workplace then???? (See here section 3.2 if you don’t understand https://www.ethnicity-facts-figures.service.gov.uk/summaries/indian-ethnic-group#:~:text=3.2%20Secondary%20education,42.7%25%20of%20White%20British%20pupils.&text=15.3%25%20of%20Indian%20students%20got,percentages%20of%20all%20ethnic%20groups.)

Working people drove material progress, now managerial classes drive tech progress and pay themselves well for it, with little hands on producers and manufacturing technicians earning ÂŁ25k at the bottom,. That’s all there is to it, but we could repeat the same material progress if we had a plan but no one does because again managerial mofos run everything, the BoJos and whoever shit shows.

Here is my plan, it’s very simple, and it has to start with the young as that’s the only hope, trust me:

– teach children how to build: architecture, housing, cars, engines, roads, teach them how to cook and grow food, teach them financial savyness. This leads on to:

– re-ignite national service, two years from 14-16 for low performing students, 16-18 for well performing students. This gives the first cohort time to re orientate to education in case it turns out the military discipline kicks them into action. They can study again then if it turns out they have something to pursue. I know people who joined army at 16 who wouldn’t if they had been there for two years already. And this service is about skills and cooperation, exercise, fortitude and daring, to ignite spirit.

– ditch religious studies in state schools for philosophy and politics, and add study of Christianity as an addendum, call it PPC as a middle finger up f*****g PPE (philosophy, politics and endonomics – a good course in how how to end civilisation) or whatever those cunts study who run the government.

– create compulsory political involvement in schools that creates a youth parliament, a kind of learning ground for those interested in politics. It has to be state school and private school based, it is curriculum based and has to encourage direct actual involvement in elections etc. Not just because your granny does elections if you get my drift

– ditch STEM and call it STEAM – Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths – who looks back to the last two centuries and screams “STEM”, the 19C was all about steam powered engines and J.M.W Turner wasn’t it?!?! *Face palm*

– force housing development outside of cities to be a local affair (local builders invested in the building itself) and remove these insane conglomerate housing development corporations that coalesce hundreds or thousands of contractors to build shoddy homes with no space or family unfriendly environments. This includes creating new cities which is of course complex but ultimately it’s about giving people on the ground the tools to create new places and homes, not from above in some corporate office. Also make apprenticeship programs for independent electricians, plumbers and workmen so trades aren’t lost from tradesman who forever complain that apprentices just drag them down time and money wise, make it worth their while.

– create a written constitution for government and make some changes so stupid cunts can’t be so stupid in government as to shut down the entire country for a cold virus.

– make smart phones illegal for under 16s… I mean, sex is illegal under that age so why is it legal to have a phone that allows you to watch endless death, porn and stupid videos in your bedroom at 2am in the morning!! *Gasps in the audience at this point I’m sure*

– build moving super walkways (think Canadian airport) in every city that travel between 5-10mph giving direct access to all layers of city without car traffic: for walkers, runner and riders. Call it concentri-city line or whatever I don’t know and allow people to get to cente of London from say Croydon (btw I was born in Croydon so this is for my home boys there X-) ), in like 30mins on a bicycle with added speed boost so you don’t sweat so much. Would help with the green revolution and give anotht option than shitty TFL say.

– do some mother commoner sense shit that should of been done like 20-30 years ago.

M. Langdon
M. Langdon
1 year ago

Interesting. Thanx for this. Caesar has always been a personal hero, as has Mr. Musk. Peter Thiel has always been unclear to us. Thanx for your lucid article. But really, is the thrust really “dangers of progress”? It seems Mr. Thiel is commenting on the **LACK of progress**. And this is something that our tiny enterprise has also observed – even more so in the last 20 years.

From what you have indicated of Mr.Thiel’s views, I have to say he is spot-on correct. We have been looking at this – and with renewed focus, given our return to 1970’s-style inflation/stagflation. I recall doing real work on the “Club of Rome” models in Economics school – we dismissed them (after analysis) as quite bogus, because their “limits to growth” argument was predicated on fixed-technical co-efficients in their Leontiff matricies. But technical-transform co-efficients are endogenous – that means as we learn more, we get *provably* better at transforming raw material into our fabricated world – we use less to get more. So we can grow.

This is how it has worked in history, once we got into the “Age of Reason”. But Thiel is not wrong when he associates Christian-promotion with a deep belief in progress. I have these old books, which articulate this theme explicitly – but they are *Protestant* texts, not Catholic. And that difference is very important, if one seeks to understand what the drivers of progress really are. I’ve actually worked seriously on this topic (but outside of the Academy, since they had no room for this kind an analysis, back in the day…)

Look: I am staggered and deeply concerned about this same lack-of-progress that Mr. Thiel seems to have described. It has jumped out of our work, as a phenomenon, also.

Examine the 1960’s. As a 5 to 15 year old child, I watched it play out. Rocketry and Gemini missions, then Moon-travel launches which were regular, and routine. The propeller-driven Viscount at the airport, gave way to the DC-9, and then the Boeing 747. Computers went from rare to common, and terminals appeared at the local University, where online & interactive real work (and play!) could be done. Lasers were invented, then demonstrated at “Open House” days at our local University, and I saw my first 3-D hologram. Mindblowing.

Understand: I was a little guy – but very interested,and I paid attention. The rate of progress I personally observed in the period from when I was 10 to 16, was like nothing in human history. We went from slow, poorly pressurized air-travel, to what we all have now. The TV’s and radio/stereo electronics went from badly designed, failure-prone black&white, to colour units with modular circuit-boards, with IC’s of multiple transitors on them. The birth-control pill was invented. The rate of progress was so extreme, a book called “Future Shock” was written, and widely read.

All this went away. There has been virtually *no* similar progress of the same rate and significance, in the last 20 or 30 years. In so many ways, our modern, Western-world economic, social and cultural model is tracking retrograde. It just is. I have worried about this, since very few talk about this, and those that do, are assaulted by folks who point to the silly distractions that are supposed to prove life is getting better.

Life is not getting better. In may ways, it is getting worse. This note you have written, actually makes it clear. It’s not just the lack of improvement in the material or social things – it is the loss of a sense of future-will-be-better-and-more-interesting optimism.
This future is driven by serious scarcity – even for many who are economically successful, and outwardly appear to be doing very well. This is what economics suggests has to happen – we are driving along the curve of diminishing marginal returns. I am not complaining – just suggesting we recognize that what Mr. Thiel is saying, is real and serious.

It’s 2022. I seriously – really quite seriously – expected that I would be able to take a Pan-Am Shuttle flight to Luna Station, if I had a couple of hundred-thousand 1967 dollars, here now in the future. But if not for Elon Musk, we would not even have any working human-transporting spaceships of any kind. This is a profound and bizarre outcome. It is not just that NASA dropped the ball, is that USA (and the rest of the American Empire) entered some kind of tragic, retrograde decline – and seems content & satisfied with – or at least indifferent to – this very negative outcome.

Is turning inward a negative outcome? Yes, I am certain that it is. Mr. Thiel is curiously correct. And he recognizes that wildly restrictive property zoning – and the regulatory dictatorship of the FDA – are extremely dangerous and problematic. That is a clever and wise observation, and we all should consider the costs of FDA *blocking* and urban NIMBYism. Vaccines that took 3-months to develop, took two years to reach ordinary citizens. Middle-class people cannot afford houses, despite the rot that affects many cities. This is not just insane – it explicitly stops scientific progress from offering immediate benefit. Changes must be made.

But we seem to have lost the collective desire to fabricate an exciting and attractive future. Things are weirdly and wildly wrong with Western European culture, if we cannot harness the benefits of science to drive positive rates of economic progress. We need only look at the technical transformations of the 1960’s to see what was actually possible. We should forget about the silly hippy-student-protest child-action. It was noise, based on the Vietnam War, and the demographics of the time, and is of little importance. What is interesting and key about that timeframe, was the astonishing technological leap that took place – in almost every field, from the “Green Revolution”, to the rapid and successful commericalization of nuclear power. These engineering developments make the world a vastly more wealthy place.

If Mr. Thiel is attempting to system-generate a little bit of this kind of “future optimism”, then he deserves our full support, regardless of the noisy and mostly pointless politics of the Left and the Right. We can have that extreme technical progress, that benefits the middle (and all other) classes, but we have to remove the absurd and abusive barriers that seem to have been erected everywhere, by virtue of the political actions of people who don’t really know what they are doing.

Maybe we do have to re-think the mechanics of democracy. Maybe that was really what that January 6th intense protest in the USA was really all about. Protests are necessary in a democratic model. If the people really rule, then the leaders will have to be careful about offering them only a “Limits to Growth” kind of future of Green Fascism. Because that is sure what it looks like to an awful lot of middle-class folks, who are seeing the results of the modern no-progress world.

It will be when things really start to run retrograde, that they will start to look around for a new Caesar.

And we suspect that fellow won’t be Mr. Thiel, or any business leader. We have an ugly but accurate picture of what that kind of person might look like – in the shape of Mr. Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation – a man who is willing to destroy and murder whole cities, to advance his twisted view of “progress”.

Violent, dishonest and dangerous leaders like Putin may be controlling our collective future, if we don’t re-engage the needed economic and technical engines of scientific progress. Caesar is history. What we worry about most, is a future run by people like a Putin.

Last edited 1 year ago by M. Langdon
Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  M. Langdon

I read your piece carefully but may have missed a few points: please correct me if I’m wrong:
1. You do not believe there is a Climate crisis?
2. You believe endless growth is possible in a finite, already gouged planet.
3. You believe deregulation is a good thing despite all of the massive abuses perpetrated in the past due to the lack of effective regulation?
4. You see no similarity between Putin and Trump (or other US leaders) responsible for the invasion of several sovereign nations and the direct killing of a million, mostly innocent people.. and the indirect killing of 5 million more?
5. You think the developmental stage of vaccine production is the only valid part: testing (as with regulation) is of little or no importance or perhaps even a negative part of vaccine generation?
Because of those points (I’m hoping you will educate me further on them), I really disliked your contribution..

Last edited 1 year ago by Liam O'Mahony
Kevin M
Kevin M
1 year ago
Reply to  M. Langdon

I have no big argument with your post except when you say that Putin is some kind of bad guy. The West is entirely provoking this war, and Russia has every right and reason to defend its borders. Clearly the US is seeking a forced regime change in Russia. Ukraine is just a proxy, and a very corrupt one at that, corrupted intentionally by the US/UK warmongers and industrialists. The next step is that Russia will be provoked into invading Europe, mark my words, and finally the US itself, by decades end. The Davos/Club of Rome elites have always ideally wanted to eliminate the democratized world. Their best opportunity has now come, and they are arranging things to gain their ends. We cannot ignore the top-down actions of the Elite Class in our decipherings of geopolitics, they are always the single most influential factor.

Ash Register
Ash Register
1 year ago

Ideally I’d be able to delete my comment.

Last edited 1 year ago by Ash Register
Andras G
Andras G
1 year ago

Always interesting to hear from Mr Thiel.

Isn’t this an overly West-centric view of the world? The notion of insufficient growth in the recent decades is widely shared across the West, but it ignores the experience of the likes of China or India, which did benefit from massive economic growth in the past 30 years.

Christopher Chantrill
Christopher Chantrill
1 year ago

Based on other stuff I’ve read here from Mary Harrington I would expect that she has totally misunderstood Peter Thiel. My judgement on Harrington is that she understands nothing outside educated-class conventional wisdom.
In respect of “zoning laws and the FDA” I’d say the problem is the entire regulatory structure. You can’t move an inch in this society without the say-so of the regulatory agencies.
And rather like Mary Harrington, the regulators know nothing except regurgitated educated-class conventional wisdom

Javier Quinones
Javier Quinones
1 year ago

Thiel would benefit from studying the work of Eric Gans (Generative Anthropology https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generative_anthropology#:~:text=Generative%20anthropology%20is%20a%20field%20of%20study%20based,development%20stemming%20from%20the%20development%20of%20language%20.) and the author of this article should consider Hans-Hermann Hope’s Democracy: The God That Failed (https://archive.org/details/HoppeDemocracyTheGodThatFailed).

Henry Haslam
Henry Haslam
1 year ago

We should stop talking about economic ‘growth’. It is not a helpful measure of the success of the economy. Nor is it a helpful measure of improvement of living standards.

How have our living standards improved in the last half-century? This can be attributed to the scientists, engineers, inventors, entrepreneurs and business people who have brought us improvements in healthcare, information technology and so much more.

How should we measure the success of the economy? I would judge its success by: full employment for those that want it; low levels of poverty and inequality; maintenance of the value of the currency (keeping inflation low); avoidance of damage to the environment, local and global. None of these particularly correlate with economic growth.

But the attack on growth by the Club of Rome and others is also misplaced. From the environmental point of view, the issue is not the amount of economic activity but the kind of activity. We should reduce environment-damaging activity, such as manufacturing and construction, and expand activities that do less damage: services, experiences, sport, the arts; we can earn money and spend money on-line. We need plenty of taxable activity in order to finance our public services, but GDP growth is not the important issue.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
1 year ago
Reply to  Henry Haslam

You sound like the sort of person who believes in mass immigration. How can that not be accompanied by high levels of the construction you obviously don’t like. As for all this stuff about sport, experiences and the arts, I have no words. It is this type of thinking – all play and no useful work – that enables Putin and the Chinese to hold the whip hand in more or less every productive sphere of activity.

Henry Haslam
Henry Haslam
1 year ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

It’s difficult to condense a lot of thinking and writing into a few paragraphs, but (1) No, I have never supported mass immigration; I would favour reducing the present rate. (2) No, for environmental reasons I don’t favour importing manufactured goods. It’s better to buy local. (3) The trend for more than a century has been for less manufacturing and more services in the economy. It is sensible, and environmentally sound, for this trend to continue. There’s no reason for you to be alarmed.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Henry Haslam

I was far more alarmed by Fraser’s piece I can tell you!

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

So… go on: I’m guessing you want more arms and smarter attack systems and perhaps nuclear deterrents and cyber weapons etc.. Are I wrong?
Sounds like you’re at least a live-to-work rather than a work-to-live person. Am I right?

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Henry Haslam

..not least because material growth is wholly unsustainable. 3% growth doubles growth every 20 years! We cannot grow the planet! In this climate crisis the wartime motto was “make do and mend (improve what we’ve got)”. We need to rediscover that..

Harry Chartrand
Harry Chartrand
1 year ago

The Scientific Revolution was the result of a theological revolution in the West. Robert Boyle in the midst of the English Civil War noted God wrote two books: the Bible and the Book of His Creation – Nature. To understand one MUST read both. Key was the belief that when God created the Universe and set the Laws of Nature in motion, He walked away leaving it to His children to read His Book of Nature. No more Divine Intervention; no more Miracles. This was the so-called ‘Latitudinalist Compromise’ reached by the Church of England.
From this emerged the ‘experimenal philosophy’ that Charles II recognized with his 1660 Charter of the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge’. With the approval of the Head of State (the King) and the Head of the Church of England (the King) the instrumental, experimental scientific method espoused by Francis Bacon 40 years earlier received legitimacy, theological and secular. No more Inquisition of alchemists; no more burn the body save the soul!
In 1503 when Da Vinci began the Mona Lisa there were 10 civilization (each a plague, famine, etc. away from extinction) and 400 million humans. Today, 8 billion, one planet, one biosphere, one human race with interstellar probes beyond the heliosphere. How? The instrumental, experimental Natural & Engineering Sciences!
The ‘Psychosphere’ may eternally remain a black whole because at its root lays inevitable SUBJECTIVITY. For my part, God begins where Science ends.
HHC

Kevin M
Kevin M
1 year ago

The scientific revolution happened after Thomas Aquinas established that faith is Reasonable and matter is inherently Good, and therefore it was not wrong to study it. See Stanley Jaki.

Martin Terrell
Martin Terrell
1 year ago

Fascinating piece, I just hope our new class of philosopher prince is as thoughtful as Thiel. I doubt it, the new feudalism will keep the wealthy wealthy while the rest of us grow steadily poorer, too busy working to ends meet or playing with our iPhones to notice. We will work harder, technology will be better and yet delays for everything get longer and anything that is really important – your own home, having kids – becomes harder and harder.

Nanda Kishor das
Nanda Kishor das
1 year ago

You fail to explain how we could arrive at a culturally vibrant human-led neo-feudalism when the people on top are complete airheads, as this interview so vividly illustrates.

I don’t think the digital age as we’ve come to know it will even last very long, because in the next decade or so its underlying material web of industry and commerce will just not be operative anymore. Just saying…!

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago

…”in 1999 or 2005 there was still this sense that (the USA was) proselytising the world, and I think that has strangely collapsed. I’m not sure what the causation is (?) but there’s some way that the growth of Christianity was linked to it and when it stops expanding it’s in very serious trouble.”
In drawing the parallel between the collapse of the British Empire and a similar collapse of the American Empire Thiel misses a clear similarity: despite his repeated invocation of Christianity which should have given him the obvious answer….
Both GB and the USA finally identified the fact that, despite bleating protestations to the contrary, their great “Christian civilizing” projects were clearly fraudulent: and recognised as such by the populaces could no longer continue: their ‘rightous’ justification having evapourated.
The intent, all along was brutal domination and theft of resources. Maybe Genghis Khan could motivate the Mongol populace with such goals but the good folk of GB and the US could not be so motivated. It seems tarnished wealth wasn’t worth having. The decline of Church Christianity was mirrored by a growth of Buddhist style (true) Christianity and that was what brought down both empires. Church style Christianity could always find ways to justify slavery and believe in the ‘civilising’ scam but no way was any true believer, spiritual, Jesus following Christian hoi g to fall for the lies.
Thiel is either superficial in his very wide ranging beliefs or the interviewer failed to get to the nub. I was therefore disappointed and frustrated with the piece although his take on (true?) progress and effective stagnation did ring through for me. I just wish both had been explored in more depth.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony


”in 1999 or 2005 there was still this sense that (the USA was) proselytising the world, and I think that has strangely collapsed”
No, there was a sene that the US was invading and blowing up the world. As for all this Christianity nonsense…

Martin Terrell
Martin Terrell
1 year ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Yes, but in the belief that it was doing the right thing. We all agree it didn’t work, but we may miss the optimistic assumption that somehow we’d make the world a better place.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Spot on. The US citizenry was duped or they turned a blind eye but evil cannot prevail forever.

Dave Riner
Dave Riner
1 year ago

Encouragingly, this article side-swipes the largest truths in play. Perhaps there is a relationship between a commitment to reaching the nations with the gospel and God’s willingness to bless? “And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Genesis 12:2‭-‬3 ESV

This article gives up on the idea of a real God with a real agenda bigger than “expansion” in this world. Probably because the action item would be to seek him, which is clunky and unpopular in practice.

I turn 60 soon. I used to be 20, then 40. Maybe I’ll be 80 someday. One thing is for sure, more certain than any word by writers who write in vain … I am going somewhere else soon. The biggest failure of society by far is the discounting of this most personal truth. Why do we act as if we’re going to live forever?

Because there’s a spiritual battle and a real enemy. I’m prioritizing the reality of my coming death above all things and in the meantime investing in the great commission. There is a rescue plan in play right now written in John 3:16. Join me in the next life! Jesus truly loves you. When people believed this, things expanded because God blessed.

Last edited 1 year ago by Dave Riner
Kevin M
Kevin M
1 year ago

No one here mentions that the human race has become simply too large for the planet to sustain. That is what “natural progress” results in, just more and more humans. “Climate” Crisis is Elite shorthand for “Too Many Humans” Crisis. And in that respect, the Club of Rome is simply correct. On the other hand, the Club of Rome/London/New York represents the oligarchs who simply dont like their loss of power and competition which democratization/America represents. They hate the concepts of “equality” of all men, and “self rule”, because it threatens their material dominance and “divine right” to rule. Such are all oligarchs from the beginning of time. They also know that the Western/US/Dollar economy is on the verge of exhaustion and collapse.

“Yes we can” go back to an 18th century economy, or 16th, or 14th, but to do that we must reduce the population to an 18th century equivalent. Im not saying its good, or that i will pull the trigger, the Elites will take care of that. But it is unavoidable, and there is simply no polite way to do it. So it will happen unpolitely, by chaos and large scale destruction. The Elites actively want this to happen, and we are right at the cusp of it. Imagine a medieval economy and population, but surveilled and controlled by computers, a true nightmare scenario, is where we are directly headed. The Elites plan to ride out the storm on the surface by hiding in underground luxury bunkers which they are feverishly building out. Theil, Musk, and their kind are merely surface dreamers and distractors whistling in the wind. If they cooperate, theyll have key places in the “New Economy”.

By the way, for more on the subject of progressive or populist vision as it has historically clashed with elite anti-progressivism, see Matthew Ehret and Cynthia Chung of the excellent Rising Tide Foundation, also writing for Canadian Patriot.org and Strategic Culture Foundations.

Emre 0
Emre 0
1 year ago
Reply to  Kevin M

Sorry to reply to you in particular, but Unherd comments are broken and won’t allow logging in or putting a new comment, but it looks like replies are working.

Last edited 1 year ago by Emre 0
Stephan Flagel
Stephan Flagel
1 year ago

While reading, I felt that Thiel is underestimating, or ignoring, the progress that has been made in productivity gains. The economically participating world in 1950 consisted of North America and Western Europe – less than 500 Mn people then. In traditional “atoms” economy, the world is now able to feed, transport, house, educate, medicate, and entertain over 7 Bn people. Since the fall of communism and the growth of globalisation, the whole world now participates in economic growth. This made productivity gains a social, political and economic priority – there is more money to be made selling cars to 6.5 Bn More people than selling faster flights or a cure for cancer to 500 Mn people. Innovation had a lower rate of return than efficiency gains. 
Once the new globalised market is saturated, the shift will go back to innovation.

Stephan Flagel
Stephan Flagel
1 year ago

While reading, I felt that Thiel is underestimating, or ignoring, the progress that has been made in productivity gains. The economically participating world in 1950 consisted of North America and Western Europe – less than 500 Mn people then. In traditional “atoms” economy, the world is now able to feed, transport, house, educate, medicate, and entertain over 7 Bn people. Since the fall of communism and the growth of globalisation, the whole world now participates in economic growth. This made productivity gains a social, political and economic priority – there is more money to be made selling cars to 6.5 Bn More people than selling faster flights or a cure for cancer to 500 Mn people. Innovation had a lower rate of return than efficiency gains. 
Once the new globalised market is saturated, the shift will go back to innovation.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 year ago

Superb article.

Paula Adams
Paula Adams
1 year ago

Yes! I like this optimism! I will be listening for more from Thiel. Also, the noa app is wonderful.

henry solospiritus
henry solospiritus
1 year ago

The secular academic mind yearns for Caesars. Time to find your inner crone (wise woman).
The Academy has desiccated. The material world is the most illusory.
The visions I seek emanate from the hierarchy of the Divine.
For me, my meditations are on icons and images.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago

Not entirely sure what that means but it has a good ring to it! Tell us more, please…

Gerard Dupin
Gerard Dupin
1 year ago

Failing other options, Thiel thinks even bleak or apocalyptic visions are better than no vision at all. The picture of European climate catastrophe associated with Greta Thunberg is, as he sees it, one of only three realistic European futures; the other two are “Islamic sharia law”, and “Chinese Communist AI”. He views the social-democratic models typical of contemporary European politics as variations on the theme of stagnation: “a sort of eternal Groundhog Day”. And while Greta’s vision is “in some ways too apocalyptic, in some ways not apocalyptic enough”, it is at least “a very concrete picture”, and represents the least worst of the three alternatives to stagnation.
A very provocative and somewhat enigmatic paragraph. Can anyone expand on this and explain its significance, especially the last part about Greta’s vision?

Last edited 1 year ago by Gerard Dupin
Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
1 year ago
Reply to  Gerard Dupin

I have said for some years that Europe’s future is either Sharia or China. The Greta vision is an equally unappealing option. But this is what our leaders have done unto us.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Depends where the most money is: selling out to Putin? Selling out to the CCP? Or going green? Our governments will sell to the highest bidder (on behalf of their puppet masters the Oligarchs). The last option therefore looks a bit unlikely perhaps?

Miles Taylor
Miles Taylor
1 year ago
Tristam Pratorius
Tristam Pratorius
1 year ago

Returning to tradition only makes the stagnation even worse and even more painful. Tradition eventually leads to an intensification of decay as obsolete institutions are preserved for the benefit of elites. This is not rejuvenation.
Neoliberalism itself was a form of traditionalism. The Reagan-Thatcher conservatives insisted on returning to the tradition of 19th-century classical liberalism and laissez-faire to combat the New Deal and other ”collectivisms.”
And how did that work out? It accelerated the shrinking of the middle-class described in this article.
The solution is to look froward, not backward. The idea that neo-feudalism and absolute monarchy should be used to manage stagnation is the kind of crazy shit that people suggest when the alternatives to capitalism are not strong enough. Our bourgeois post-modernist world is so cowardly and afraid of leaving capitalism behind that it is now a ”serious” proposal to just abandon the last 300 years of progress altogether than do something new. Insane.

Last edited 1 year ago by Tristam Pratorius
Kevin M
Kevin M
1 year ago

Capitalism is the basis of every economic system. Everybody is looking for a fair price for their goods and to make an extra buck in the process. There is no way to “get rid” of capitalism. Survival is always by competition.

Melanie Mabey
Melanie Mabey
1 year ago

Thiel doesn’t see energy as Steve Keene (economist) said “Capital without energy is a statue; labour without energy is a corpse.” 

domenico laruccia
domenico laruccia
1 year ago

Basically Thiel is saying what I wrote suddenly after the 11/09 , when I wrote that EU should have put a distance from the US capitalistic and consumistic culture and try to find a way to introduce a soft scandinavian hygge approach to EU nations, putting that as wire link between EU countries, people and and getting distance from the US society and culture oriented to war and consumism with no respect nor consideratio of the masses, the environment we live in. The EU did lost then a huge opportunity to find its own way, instead did follow US in the crazy war of Iraq and Afghanistan and definitively lost it’s chance to have a soul. Amen

Jon Grant
Jon Grant
1 year ago

UnHerd has assembled a superb team of writers. An excellent essay.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

superb

David Simpson
David Simpson
1 year ago

This might cheer him up : https://www.lulu.com/shop/david-simpson/metanoia/paperback/product-1ngn8drj.html?q=Metanoia+david+Simpson+&page=1&pageSize=4

(An optimistic history of the 21st century – I actually wrote it in the early 2000’s – so far everything’s working out pretty accurately)

Last edited 1 year ago by David Simpson
LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
1 year ago

This is interesting; thanks for posting it.