Rand Paul

Oh Noes! Rand Paul is Getting Popular in Silicon Valley! Plus: Get Rebooted in SF with Nick Gillespie!


New York magazine is getting a little antsy that Silicon Valley gazillionaires may be getting their libertarian on thanks to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). Kevin Roose notes that the libertarian-leaning politician is spending lots of time out West and is hanging not just with the likes of Peter Thiel but also Mark Zuckerberg and Sean Parker.

And why not? Unlike most establishment pols on either side of the aisle, Paul doesn't evince the technophobia that tends to dominate Washington, D.C. He understands that Uber is a good thing and that taxi commissions don't have the interests of riders in mind. He gets that ossified dealership rules that screw over Tesla (or AirBnb or whatever) are protectionism, not safety regulations. Roose writes:

Paul's biggest problem, to borrow a term popularized among tech workers, is that he's not a "culture fit" in Silicon Valley. A gray-haired Kentucky ophthalmologist is a less obvious representative for tech's political class than, say, Ro Khanna, an Indian-born 30-something who speaks easily about 3-D printing and robotics. But it's not hard to imagine that someone with Paul's political genotype and a different phenotype — younger, coastal, more fluent in tech-speak — could pick up broad support from the kinds of techies who want government to leave their start-ups alone.

The ideological overlay of Silicon Valley isn't strictly political, after all. It's more about how institutions are structured and functions are carried out. Lean and fast-moving are good. Bloated and deliberative are bad. "Permissionless innovation" is good. Bureaucratic box-checking is bad.

In this context, you can see why someone like Paul could appeal. And while it's still possible that people like Zuckerberg and Parker could remain in the squishy political middle, it's also possible that they could tip into anti-Establishment libertarianism, and take a whole coalition of tech donors with them. After all, what a certain Silicon Valley contingent wants most right now is independence. And few national politicians are prepared to lengthen the leash as much as Rand Paul.

As it happens, Paul will be out in San Francisco this weekend, speaking to the same conference that I'm also participating in:

[This weekend], Paul will get to make his case yet again as the keynote speaker at Reboot, a San Francisco conference put on by a group called Lincoln Labs, which self-defines as "techies and politicos who believe in promoting liberty with technology." He'll likely say a version of what he's said before: that Silicon Valley's innovative potential can be best unlocked in an environment with minimal government intrusion in the forms of surveillance, corporate taxes, and regulation. "I see almost unlimited potential for us in Silicon Valley," Paul has said, with "us" meaning libertarians.

Read the New York mag piece here.

For more details on the Reboot conference, go here. Among the other speakers are Kmele Foster, Matt Welch's co-host on Fox Business' The Independents; Derek Khanna, gadfly crusader for sensible copyright reform; and John Dennis, the business-furniture magnate who ran a great campaign against Nancy Pelosi in 2012.

Reason.com readers get 15 percent off all tickets by using the promo code reason when registering.

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  1. There may still be a thin glimmer of hope for this nation.

    It’s a longshot, but…

    1. Let me tell you something my friend. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane.

      1. “There is no true despair without hope”


    2. Ron Paul lit the spark. The flame will never go out.

    3. I’m skeptical.

      “And few national politicians are prepared to lengthen the leash as much as Rand Paul.”

      ‘Lengthening the leash’ is not the language of a free society. Apparently we are all dogs?

  2. I still find the libertarian obsession with Rand Paul adorable.

    1. Is there a more libertarian federal elected politician?

      1. Maybe, I don’t know all of them, and I have no problem with most of his policies. My issue with Rand is that he can’t speak his way out of a paper bag, and to make libertarian arguments (which people haven’t heard from a politician in, like, ever) you have to be SUPER savvy. It just feels like a pipe dream to me. God I hate being a cynic…

        1. At least his off-the-rack suits are more or less the right size.

        2. Rand Paul is super savvy. He doesn’t try to win people over with libertarian arguments like his father did, he just triangulates how much freedom people will vote for, and moves in that direction.

          1. I can’t understand what he’s talking about half the time because he’ll make a point about an issue, and then move on to another issue without any caveat. I hate it. I want him to be better so badly!!!!

        3. Rand is an excellent extemporaneous speaker.

          He’s not glamorous and doesn’t have a great speaking voice, but that just means that he won’t occupy the executive, not that he won’t continue to be the best senator since Taft.

    2. He’s the only legit candidate even giving lipservice to pulling back leviathan. Who should we root for? Christie? Santorum? Hillary? A random LP candidate who’s platform consists of drone striking the IRS buildings on the first day in office?

      1. I just fear that he will run, say things in his typical, bumbling manner, and then the media go “see! Libertarians are dangerous idiots!” And we go back to square one. God I hate being a cynic…

        1. What are you talking about? His speaking is fine. His dad is the rambler.

          1. I mean, ya, he’s LEAGUES ahead of his dad in the speaking arena, but come on! He just moves aimlessly from one topic to another, never explaining WHY what he’s right or grabbing on to a couple of key winning issues. He has verbal diarrhea.

            1. And yet his popularity grows. Confounding, isn’t it?

              1. I hope to God you’re right and I’m wrong 🙂

            2. His Dad is leagues ahead of every who has been elected president post-Reagan.

              Other that Reagan who could actually put two sentences together?

        2. the media already say what you fear about libertarians. Are you new? There has been a host of articles from right-leaning as well as left-sided outlets that consistently mischaracterize libertarianism.

      2. I keep saying: Scott Walker.

        1. Not good enough.

          1. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. You’d rather have Hillary or Fauxcahontas?

            1. What is a “Fauxcahontas?”

              1. Lurk first, post later.

                1. + eleventy billion

                1. OH YA!!! “Like all the Indians do.” Now I remember!

              2. It refers to Elizabeth Warren claiming to be part Indian for affirmative action purposes. Also.

                1. Taxagawea FTW.

            2. The primary isn’t over yet.

            3. Wow straight to false choice. I’d take Walker over many but he still ain’t good enough.

              1. Either Hillary or Warren is the likely Dem nominee. The GOP needs someone with some executive experience who’s a fiscal conservative and not a scary SoCon or too libertarian. Walker fits well. He mostly turned the state economy around, defanged public unions in a lefty state, and survived the recall.

                It’s not a false choice to say he’s perhaps the best libertarians can do as far as someone who is both ideologically compatible and electable. I’d be happy to hear about who you think is a better choice.

                1. Rand is better and electable. Cruz isn’t as good or electable but still awesome. Walker did some great things but he’s let spending run away and isn’t that great for the economy. Need to be pro-civil liberties and sane on immigration. No border walls or e-verify please thank you.

      3. I would vote for that platform, Last American Hero

    3. I still find the libertarian obsession with Rand Paul adorable.

      Given the voting public’s devotion to the status quo wrt their politics, Rand is the best we can hope for. And I think he’s a lot more libertarian than he shows.

      Not to sound like a conspiracy nut, but I think there is a Paul master plan (loosely speaking). Realizing you cannot force libertarianism on people, the way you can with conservatism and progressivism, people will need to be more libertarian in order to put such a system in place. The way to do this is a little at a time.

      This isn’t about one election, or even two or three. It’s a long-term education campaign to slowly convince people of a better way.

      1. But that’s the point. He’s such a bad spokesperson. I know when we hear him speak we think “yes! absolutely right.” But the average person thinks “what the fuck is this guy talking about?” He needs to get way better at messaging.

        1. Rand Paul is not that bad.

          Believe me, no one is more critical of the slobbery-mouthed SoCons than I am.

          When I hear Jeff Sessions talk I want to look behind him for an outhouse.

          1. I just feel like we have so much momentum right now, but it’s tentative. I don’t want to get screwed because Rand Paul was the wrong guy to send up, and then we lose all of it. God I hate being a cynic…

            1. No you don’t.

              1. Oh but I do! I wish I were a more optimistic person. But i hate getting let down even more than being cynical.

                1. This guy sucks.

        2. Are you confusing Rand with his father Ron?

          1. I think concern troll is just concerned, that’s all.

            1. NOT TROLL! NOT TRROOOOOLLLL!!! 😉

          2. NO! He always hops from one point to the other without coming to understandable conclusions. The other parties don’t do any better, but people are used to their rhetoric. You have to really kick ass for someone to understand why an actual limited government is superior. Unfortunately, everyone currently looks to the government to fix their problems, and that’s a hard mold to break.

            1. You have to really kick ass for someone to understand why an actual limited government is superior.

              or you could point to the results brought on by the various gifted orators of the past few decades. Words do not substitute for actions.

              1. And why we’ve had so many libertarians winning elections…

                1. it’s not been to due an inability to speak. If you can say “free shit” long enough, nothing else really matters. Don’t recall too many libertarian candidates for anything espousing that viewpoint.

                  1. Exactly

        3. He’s such a bad spokesperson.

          Interesting world you live in, cause here on Earth he is the only person speaking for libertarian ideas in a mostly coherent and relatable fashion.

        4. He’s such a bad spokesperson.

          You keep saying this. Do you have any evidence.

          He isnt Jesse Jackson, but then again, he isnt Jesse Jackson, so he has that going for him.

          1. I’ve heard him speak…it’s more subjective than anything else.

            1. Ive heard Obama speak…Im not sure how he got IN to law school.

              1. Affirmative action? Is that racist?

  3. We might as well get these feverish pipe dreams out of our system now, because its not going to happen.

    1. You seem certain. Wanna wager?

      1. I can think of a bet that Jesse might take.

  4. Rand’s position on The Ghays and abortion will never allow the Zuckerbergs of Silicon Valley to embrace him. The culture thing will dominate. They’ll line up behind Hillary just like they lined up behind Obama.

    1. Why can’t there be a libertarian who embraces all of the liberties?

      1. You mean like most people here, with the exception of you?

    2. Paul doesn’t need to win over all of them. A sizable minority may be sufficient. Also, I doubt that the Silicon Valley big shots enjoyed it very much when Brendan Eich was defenestrated.

      1. It’s not just the big shots.

        Friends of mine who culturally identify as liberal (up to and including joining the SF gay pride parade) were incredibly pissed he was forced out over his views.

    3. The techies I’ve seen (the 20-40, predominantly male crowd), aren’t as big on the culture war as you believe.

      They’ll disagree with Rand on those issues, but since his position is “push it back to state level”, and they live in California, they won’t care that much.

      Compare that with how angry they are about the NSA (and government intervention vis-a-vis the internet), and I think this could be a toss-up.

      Throw in an anti-trust lawsuit (or just credible threats of one) by the Feds against a big tech company, and the field could tilt the other way.

      Votes-wise it won’t matter (because techies are a numerically small group stuck in the middle of the Left Coast), but they might make a difference for fundraising.

      1. There is also the coolness factor.

      2. Votes-wise it won’t matter (because techies are a numerically small group stuck in the middle of the Left Coast), but they might make a difference for fundraising

        Not just the fundraising (although that’s a big part of it), but I think Rand is playing the long game here too. One of the big failures of right-leaning and libertarian-leaning types over the past 50 years has been the Left’s domination of the organs that form popular opinion, i.e. media, entertainment, and academia.

        The internet is quickly rendering all of those institutions somewhat antiquated while at the same time the tech world is fast becoming the critical outlet for shaping popular opinion. By gaining the support of the tech industry, libertarians could well see considerable gains a generation henceforth in electoral and public opinion successes resulting from the tech world’s embrace of libertarain first principles.

        Ok, now I’ll take the rose colored glasses off.

        1. Those aren’t rose colored glasses. Proggies and Liberals are built to take over institutions. ‘De-system’ them and there’s nothing left to take over. Disruption!

  5. Hey Nick, any progress on the idea of a non-conference meetup that weekend for us Reasonites who won’t be at the conference, and any interested attendees? About 4-5 of us have already expressed interest.

    1. Do you really want to be seen with Nick outside of the internet?

      1. Bask in reflected glory, as you stand near The Jacket.

      2. I used to live in the same small town as him. Never ran into him somehow though…

        1. The Jacket is a slippery fellow…

          1. I assume he just avoided the university. It’s a non smoking campus, and just full of over privileged d-bags.

  6. Beyond Thiel, would any real Silicon Valley money line up with Senator Rand? And for all I know, Theil doesn’t give money to politicians.

    At present I think it is something like 9-1 in terms of money between the two parties [and as a side-note, of anywhere where one might expect a viable Libertarian party, it would be California. But is this really the case] Perhaps a candiate Rand could move this to 7-1.

  7. What odds would you give that Senator Rand is even going to run for President in 2016?

    It would be an awful experience for his wife and children. They would be laughed at and consistently derided. Tumblrs will be created just to say vicious things about them. They’ll lose the majority of their friends.

    Perhaps Mrs Rand will decide that it just is not worth it given the billion or so dollars aligned against her husband in a possible campaign.

    1. Ummm…I live in the same city with them, not that I have run into them.

      He is very popular here, they arent going to be losing friends.

      1. I have to admit, as much I have absolutely no interest in the families of politicians, I didn’t know until I looked up in the senators homepage, that they were as old as they are. I thought his children were younger and going to school in DC. I didn’t assume that other children would shun the Pauls, I just thought that other professional parents would think it best to keep their own offspring from such a “radical right wing’ influence.

        As it is already now in google, the first items that come up in a search for the children was a mugshot and questions about the Paul children going on welfare.

    2. I do wonder if it would be a major setback for the liberty movement if Paul ran and lost

      All the more reason to try and help him win, I guess

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