During last week’s episode of Bari Weiss’ great Honestly podcast, multi-billionaire entrepreneur, venture capitalist, political activist, and philanthropist Peter Thiel brief talked about the effectiveness of giving in the contexts of politics and nonprofits.
Beginning at about 1:01:30 into the audio recording of the discussion, Weiss cited to Thiel how he gave about $30 million to candidates in the last election cycle and boldly asked him, given that his “claim that things are so broken, … why don’t you give 10, or 20, or 30 times more?”
“Whenever I think about it, I think I’m not doing nearly enough,” Thiel told Weiss, founder and editor of The Free Press. “We’re in a society where a lot of stuff doesn’t work, and even money doesn’t work that well …. It doesn’t sort of translate in a turnkey kind of a way,” he continued.
“[T]he bigger problem is finding people with the ideas, finding a path forward,” according to Thiel.
Politically, “I think the political problem on the Republican side surely is not a narrow money problem, but much more a lack of ideas.” While he said he “was hopeful that the Republicans were going to do better in the midterms,” he lamented that “we did not have that many ideas.
“In theory, it seems like there’s a lot of room for nonprofits to do things. And then in practice, you find they’re so badly run,” he also said.
Weiss then wondered whether George Soros’ giving might show the effect that money can have. “[I]f I’m you, I’m looking at what George Soros has been able to accomplish, let’s just say, among the DAs in progressive cities,” she said. “He accomplished a lot. You might not like his vision, but you can’t look at that and say he didn’t enact a different reality with money.”
“I think you have to always ask a very tough counterfactual question,” Thiel responded. “Would it have been different if he didn’t do it? And I think a lot of these cities were just on an arc where they were going crazy and they weren’t solving problems.
“There’s some way in which Soros got to push the button and pretend to do it,” he added. “[T]he money had a role, but I think it was much more the sort of structural things that drove it.”