David R. Henderson  

Peter Thiel on Foreign Policy

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Thiel, Stringham, DRH.jpg

Thiel, who supports gay marriage, plans to say that although he does not agree with all the policies in the official GOP platform, he believes fighting over cultural issues such as "bathroom bills" is a distraction from more important matters.

Thiel intends to make the case that the most paramount challenges facing the country center on the economy and foreign entanglements. He strongly opposes an expansionist military policy and plans to say that he agrees with Trump that the United States should avoid unnecessary wars.


This is from Matea Gold, "Peter Thiel plans to make history as first GOP convention speaker to announce that he is proud to be gay," Washington Post, July 20, 2016.

HT2 Tyler Cowen.

Just when I think there's nothing to like about Donald Trump, I see him holding back on risking war with Russia. Here's how the editors at the Wall Street Journal put it in an editorial titled "The GOP's Putin Confusion":

This week Republicans were given a glimpse of the GOP's changing foreign policy during a platform fight over language regarding Ukraine. A delegate proposed an amendment that called for the U.S. to provide Ukraine's military with the "lethal defensive weapons" it needs to protect itself from Mr. Putin. But in the end that was watered down to a more milquetoast "appropriate assistance."

This is a telling change because it shows the subcommittee that edited down the language seemed to be worried that the call to give Ukraine lethal weapons (the only kind that will make a difference) would be too provocative. That's the same argument that President Obama has used to justify withholding lethal aid, and it's a victory for Mr. Putin. It's wrong on the merits because the Russian will keep pressing Ukraine until the price becomes too high. Lethal aid would raise that price.


A friend who has been following the Republican convention more closely than I have tells me that it was the Trump forces that pushed for watering down the language.

Thiel is a strong supporter of free markets. The above picture is of Ed Stringham, Thiel, and me (I'm the one with the white hair) at an annual meeting of the Association for Private Enterprise Education.


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CATEGORIES: Foreign Policy




COMMENTS (6 to date)
Benjamin Cole writes:

Love the white hair.

Even more important than free trade to the US economy would be some sort of elimination of property zoning, and the embrace of push-cart vending. These are local issues, but perhaps some sort of national incentives could be worked out. This is what David Henderson should devise---a way to radically reduce property zoning nationally.

And after Afghanistan, Iraq and Vietnam, if the right-wing, or Hillary Clinton,does not get it, then I am not sure they ever will.

BTW, the US spends $1 trillion a year on national defense (DoD, VA, black budget, debt service), but there are those that say it is not enough, the equipment is antique and global risks are escalating.

I wonder if a spartan citizen-soldier military, of true volunteers and conscripts, is a necessary "evil" as opposed to professional, hyper-mobilized and very politically powerful military complex.

Scott Sumner writes:

It's a huge mistake to assume that anything Trump says reflects his actual views, or what he plans to do in office. Unless you think he will default on the national debt (which he recommended) or pay off the entire national debt in 8 years (which he claimed) or the many, many other statements he's made, which he flip-flopped on just days later. Remember that he also claimed that he opposed the Iraq War, whereas he actually supported it. Nothing he says should be taken seriously.

It's probably more useful to look at his personal characteristics. He's strongly vindictive; he lashes out at tiny perceived slights, often overreacting. He's authoritarian in his inclinations. He's wildly unpredictable. He demonizes minorities. He uses hyper-macho language about crushing our "enemies". Are these the sort of Eisenhower/Coolidge/Washington-like personal characteristics that, throughout history, have been most effective at preserving the peace? Then consider previous world leaders that did have Trump-like qualities. How did they do?

Brad D writes:

I wonder what Mr. Thiel means by "unnecessary wars." Personally, I can't recall a "necessary war", strictly defined, save the Revolutionary War with Britain.

I wonder what future history books will say about present day American military interventions? An honest appraisal would paint a very dim picture.

Phil writes:

I do not think the planks in the party platform are a basis for liking or disliking Trump. I doubt he would find them binding and I doubt he even comprehends the significance of the change in the illustration. It was not a change he proposed; it was a change offered by a subcommittee of delegates.

Where the platform has any effect is its role as a litmus test for the amount of party support provided to GOP candidates in contested congressional and gubernatorial races.

Roger McKinney writes:
fighting over cultural issues such as "bathroom bills" is a distraction

Thiel may think he favors free markets, but this quote betrays him. The "bathroom" issue is not about who can go to what bathroom. It's about who gets to define gender. Obama has declared that he will define gender and force those who disagree with him to abide by his decision. It's one of the most egregious grasps of power in the history of the US.

Whoever gets the right to determine definitions of any word has enormous power. Defining words was one of the primary techniques of control in the USSR and China under Mao. That's why it's a very important topic. If Obama can by himself define marriage and gender, then he can control anything and everything.

Thiel may think this has nothing to do with markets. But the Nazis claimed that people retained their property under their system even though the state controlled all aspects of it. They redefined property to suit their political needs. The US has redefined property, too, so that the state can confiscate the value of property under EPA regulations and still claim the owner retains his property.

If the majority decides it doesn't like historical definitions of property, marriage and gender, it will force that definition on the minority who wants to retain historical definitions. The majority redefined African slaves, native Americans and others as not human and therefore they could treat them as animals and kill them if they wanted.

But at least the people discussed it and the majority decided. That's the best we can hope for in mob rule like democracy. But allowing a junta of nine old men or a monarch who thinks he is president to define terms causes us to regress in time three hundred years.

LD Bottorff writes:

Scott writes:
"It's probably more useful to look at his personal characteristics. He's strongly vindictive; he lashes out at tiny perceived slights, often overreacting. He's authoritarian in his inclinations. He's wildly unpredictable." All true. And the same could be said of his opponent. I understand that she does not lash out at minorities, or use hyper-macho language about crushing her (or our) enemies, but she has other alarming qualities.
Many libertarians have said that there's no real difference between the Democrats and the Republicans. In the past, I disagreed. Not this year.

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