Before Donald Trump took office, it was hard to find a tougher critic of him than Patrick Byrne, the libertarian CEO of the online retailer Overstock.com. He called Trump a "disgrace to America" and rebuked the reality TV star for his comments about Mexican "rapists" and Sen. John McCain being captured during the Vietnam War.
"I don't consider Donald Trump a businessman," Byrne told Reason in October 2016. "[He] inherited $300 million and ran it all the way up to zero, went bankrupt four times…shafted bondholders…He's a fake capitalist and fake businessman." (To be fair, Byrne, who endorsed Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson and bankrolled a documentary critical of the two-party system, was equally outspoken against Hillary Clinton, whom he said "should be in an orange jumpsuit."
But now Byrne has reconsidered his views on President Trump, who he says is dismantling the administrative state and deregulating the economy in powerful ways. Byrne, who wrote his Stanford doctoral dissertation on the limited-government philosophy of Robert Nozick, even says that Trump is right to challenge China on trade and that libertarians need to be willing to confront places where the world is more complicated than our theories allow. He says that while there are still many things that bother him about the president—especially his rhetorical style—it's time to realize Trump is not only a far better president than Hillary Clinton would have been, but has moved things forward on issues such as tax reform, criminal justice reform, and school choice.
Often mentioned as a potential presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party, Byrne tells Reason's Nick Gillespie he will not be pursuing the nomination.
Audio production by Ian Keyser.