Slobodian Explores Techno-Libertarians’ Relationship with Government in Recent Article

Cambridge, MA — 09/22/2023 — Historian and writer Quinn Slobodian poses for a portrait on September 22, 2023, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

In a commentary published on June 13, 2024, Quinn Slobodian, Professor of International History at Boston University’s Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies, examines the changing attitudes of Silicon Valley’s techno-libertarians towards government involvement in their ventures.

Titled “How Techno-Libertarians Fell in Love with Big Government,” the article follows the journey of figures like Balaji Srinivasan, Peter Thiel, and Marc Andreessen, who have shifted from advocating for a minimal state to actively seeking government contracts and influence.

Slobodian argues that this change is driven by the realization that the state can be a significant source of revenue and power for their companies. He cites examples such as Palantir, co-founded by Thiel, which now derives nearly half its income from government contracts, and Andreessen’s venture capital firm, Andreessen Horowitz (a16z), which has been increasing its lobbying efforts in Washington to secure contracts for its portfolio companies.

The article also discusses the role of China’s rise and advancements in artificial intelligence in shaping the views of techno-libertarians. Slobodian suggests that these factors have led to a recognition that state support and access to citizen data are important for maintaining technological supremacy.

Slobodian contends that the idea of Silicon Valley’s “ultimate exit” from the United States was always a form of free-riding, and that techno-libertarians are now revealing their true nature as “techno-contractors” seeking to benefit from government support.

“How Techno-Libertarians Fell in Love with Big Government” provides a critical look at the evolving relationship between Silicon Valley and the state, and is relevant for those interested in the intersection of technology, politics, and power.  The full article can be accessed here.

Quinn Slobodian is the author of several books, including “Crack-Up Capitalism: Market Radicals and the Dream of a World Without Democracy” (Metropolitan Books, 2023). His latest commentary for Project Syndicate demonstrates his expertise in analyzing the interplay between market forces, technological innovation, and government influence.