Reason Podcast

Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne Used To Hate Donald Trump. Now, He's Kind of a Fan.

Why did a leading businessman go from calling Donald Trump "a national disgrace" to saying he's doing a good job?

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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.

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  1. Maybe he picked up a big government contract?

    1. Yeah, I am guessing it’s something like that. He is probably the beneficiary of some crony capitalism scheme.

      1. Yet the world still suffers for your inability to answer Hamlet’s question correctly, eunuch

      2. Maybe he’s educated and looks at actions instead of speech. You know the things that actually matter.

  2. Sounds like Overstock is buying up distressed inventory caused by the Con Man’s taxes/tariffs.

    He’s a fake capitalist and fake businessman

    That comments remains right on the money though. If we had to get a fucking Reality TV star why not a Kardashian?

    1. Why are you still posting here after Reason banned you?

      1. reason would ban all of us if they could.

    2. He’s a fake capitalist and fake businessman

      That’s OK: Reason is a fake libertarian magazine. And Democrats are fake liberals. It’s all fake all the way down.

  3. Why does the lefty brain struggle so hard to understand such simple cause and effect even when it is directly explained? You are all broken people…

  4. because T is doing a good job?

  5. Why did a leading businessman go from calling Donald Trump “a national disgrace” to saying he’s doing a good job?

    Maybe because objectively, life is pretty much the same for most Americans (be that for better or worse) and perhaps he expected lights to be going out all over America after 2016.

    1. My friend’s high school kids were literally in tears the morning after the election because all of their friends were about to be rounded up and deported or discriminated against for for solid years. It’s like a disease…

      1. If only! I was friends with some kids who were illegals when I was growing up in Cali… But on the whole all those peoples presence was nothing but a problem.

  6. Often mentioned as a potential presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party, Byrne tells Reason’s Nick Gillespie he will not be pursuing the nomination.

    Not when we apparently already have the most libertarian president in history.

    1. The 12th and 14th president would like a word.

      1. I think number 30 might want to chime in there.

    2. Come on, everybody knows TJ was the most libertarian.

  7. Mr T isn’t doing the dismantling and deregulating (if he could ever even understand any of it). Those that have captured the power are doing it. And those that have captured that power don’t believe in T’s populist rhetoric, they just see an opportunistic chance to do whatever they want because the executive wouldn’t know how to complain.

    T also promised to tax hedge fund managers and reinstate glass- steagall. But the capturers aren’t interested in any of that.

    T is just in charge of marketing, and he will positively market whatever it is done. The marketing part is all that really matters to him anyway.

    1. Why didn’t “they” do it under Obama, then? Why is it only under Trump that regulations are removed?

      Where was the sweeping mandate that swept in the the flood of faceless people to command power that you speak of?

      The bureaucrats that spent the lifetimes in government are the same today as under Obama. The same folks who piled on needless regulation upon needless regulation remain today and attempt to thwart or delay every positive change Trump makes.

      You lefties have a real problem with delusion.

    2. Also petty thankful “they” gave us Gorsuch, and got out of the Iran Deal, and haven’t started any more wars or created any more failed states

  8. He would kiss Trump’s ass but Ted Cruz is in the way.

  9. The owner of Overstock.com has become an enthusiastic appeaser of authoritarian bigotry and slack-jawed backwardness?

    Maybe he is preparing to start emphasizing an inventory of goofy red hats, used pickup trucks, Slim Jims, NASCAR tickets, off-brand energy drinks, do-it-yourself oil change kits, faith-healing books, street pills, rattlesnake-juggling guides, trailer awnings, and discount homeschooling outlines.

    If he isn’t, he should be.

    Carry on, clingers.

    1. This is my new favorite schtick now that OBL has gotten long in the tooth.

      1. Eh. At least OBL changes it up a bit. Sometimes.

      2. You weren’t a volokh fan. Kirkland’s bigotry has been around for over a decade. Followed volokh around from VC, to WaPo, and now here. Hasnt changed his manner of posting once in that time.

  10. Dear Alleged Journalists,

    If ever a man needed mocking to his face, The U.S. Senator from Arizona, Mr. John McCain was him. Stop bringing it up. The factoid is not having the effect you think it is.

    Sincerely,
    Moi.

    P.S. My DD214 includes a few tidbits like this:
    A, Co, 16th Eng Bn, 1st Armored Division, U.S. Army. OIF1, 2003-2004. Awarded a Presidential Unit Citation for unit actions in Karbala, Iraq 2004.

    I was just some loser there instead of college where I should’ve been. But I’ve seen great men do hard things. John McCain wasn’t that type of man. John McCain was a serial turncoat who was only ever popular in media because he repeatedly prevented the forces of sanity and reason from prevailing over the communists on television and in government. A real American would know that.

    1. Thank you for your service….and your comment. If Reason allowed upvotes, you’d get 1,000.

    2. A serial panderer who was so self-righteous and insecure that he had to throw out the 1st Amendment because he got taking money from an S&L crook

  11. Well, he’s now an apostate from the Libertarian Party for no longer condemning OrangeMan.

  12. How refreshing. Finally a Reason article suggests evaluating Trump on actions and results and not left wing disinformation.

    Glad to see there are still people who can use logic to change their minds when the facts don’t fit the narrative.

  13. He obviously is a sane realist, unlike most Reason writers. Bottom line is Trump isn’t that bad from a practical standpoint. It’s just that all the cucky, limp wristed, city slicker types are offended because he isn’t a bleeding heart who loves illegal Mexican trannies or whatever.

    In the real world all that shit is a non issue for most people. The few “rights” he is bad on are mostly not rights most people believe in, and will do good things for most Americans. He’s not an anarchist, but his mix of policies would actually achieve a lot of good if he could ever get them done.

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