"What [President Barack Obama] is doing to the U.S. energy economy couldn't be done with a nuclear bomb," says author George Gilder, who adds that if "Newt [Gingrich] wasn't such a jerk" he'd make a great president.
Over the past 40 years, Gilder has been not just one of the most influential public intellectuals but one of the most perplexing. He's a utopian visionary who simultaneously predicted the rise of the World Wide Web and the liberatory power of networked computing while fretting that the erosion of traditional gender roles is destroying the country; as co-founder of The Discovery Institute, he's a major proponent of anti-scientific intelligent design theory as well.
His 1981 best-seller, Wealth and Poverty, made such a persuasive case for what became known as supply-side economics that it became the bible of the Reagan Revolution. In it, Gilder used the work of anthropologist Marcel Mauss to argue that capitalism is a "gift economy" in which entrepreneurs create demand by offering up new goods and services, typically at a loss. Visonary volumes such as Microcosm (1989) and Life After Television (1990) anticipated the rise of the Internet as a mass medium that would replace hierarchy with "hetarchy" or distributed intelligence and power. His latest book, The Israel Test, argues that anti-Semitism and the anti-capitalist mentality are effectively the same thing and that Israel provides the best-available model of social organization, a blend of knowledge-based economy and group identity.
A proponent of intelligent design, he railed against Barry Goldwater's anti-intellectualism in 1966's The Party That Lost Its Head and argued that American society was committing "sexual suicide" in a 1973 book of the same name by embracing female equality. The supposed existential threat posed by unmarried men in American society is a recurring theme in Gilder's oeuvre, as is the dread fear that gays are actively recruiting boys to the "homosexual lifestyle." Fully appreciating how the World Wide Web has broken the monopoly of the culture industry in our lives, Gilder nonetheless bemoans the state of "secular culture" as "corrupt" and "depraved."
At FreedomFest 2011, Reason's Nick Gillespie sat down with Gilder to talk about the mix of the utopian and the apocalyptic in his work.
Held each July in Las Vegas, FreedomFest is attended by around 2,000 libertarians and advocates of limited government. Reason.tv spoke with over two dozen speakers and attendees and will be releasing interviews over the coming weeks. For an ever-growing playlist, go here now.
About 21 minutes. Shot by Zach Weissmueller and Jim Epstein and edited by Meredith Bragg.