David Brooks on The Malleability of The Capitalist Paradigm by Political Observer

The Creative Monopoly is the title of the David Brooks essay of April 22, 2012 a title that speaks volumes about the inflated yet prosaic thought of Mr. Brooks. He can take the subject of creativity and render it almost lifelike. The filter that he puts his ideas through seems to take away the spontaneity from any subject and renders it flat, insipid. This is a talent that seems to afflict so many at The New York Times Opinion pages. Mr. Brooks takes as his starting point the career of Peter Thiel, the founder of Pay Pal.

As a young man, Peter Thiel competed to get into Stanford. Then he competed to get into Stanford Law School. Then he competed to become a clerk for a federal judge. Thiel won all those competitions. But then he competed to get a Supreme Court clerkship.

Thiel lost that one. So instead of being a clerk, he went out and founded PayPal. Then he became an early investor in Facebook and many other celebrated technology firms. Somebody later asked him. “So, aren’t you glad you didn’t get that Supreme Court clerkship?”

Mr. Brooks cannot resist an over-achiever, no matter the context. And Mr. Thiel fills the bill with some extras. He is a Libertarian, and a backer of Republican candidates. But take the opportunity to acquaint yourself with the full breadth of Thiel's career and political interests via Wikipedia. Here are two quotes from the Wiki entry that are instructive:

In 2009, it was reported that Thiel helped fund college student James O'Keefe's "Taxpayers Clearing House" video – a satirical look at the politics behind the Wall Street bailout. O'Keefe went on to produce the ACORN undercover sting videos”

In 2012, Thiel, along with PayPal co-founder Luke Nosek and Scott Banister, an early adviser and board member, put their support behind the Endorse Liberty Super PAC, alongside Internet advertising veteran Stephen Oskoui and entrepreneur Jeffrey Harmon, who founded Endorse Liberty in November 2011. Collectively Thiel et al gave $3.9 million to Endorse Liberty, whose purpose was to promote Texas congressman Ron Paul for president in 2012. As of January 31, 2012, Endorse Liberty reported spending about $3.3 million promoting Paul by setting up two YouTube channels, buying ads from Google and Facebook and StumbleUpon, and building a presence on the Web.”

Mr. Theil doesn't appear to be just your ordinary millionaire or successful entrepreneur, but a rather conservative one, with ideas and opinions very close to those of Mr. Brooks. Perhaps even more radically conservative than our essayist might admit to.

One of his core points is that we tend to confuse capitalism with competition. We tend to think that whoever competes best comes out ahead. In the race to be more competitive, we sometimes confuse what is hard with what is valuable. The intensity of competition becomes a proxy for value.

In fact, Thiel argues, we often shouldn’t seek to be really good competitors. We should seek to be really good monopolists. Instead of being slightly better than everybody else in a crowded and established field, it’s often more valuable to create a new market and totally dominate it. The profit margins are much bigger, and the value to society is often bigger, too.”

Mr. Brooks argues that the canny capitalist will transcend the notion and practice of competition for the practice of Monopoly as argued by Mr. Theil, but can one simply observe that Monopoly is the end stage of competition, at least as part of the mythology of Capital as Social Darwanism. Even if your product is utterly unique that cannot last in competitive marketplace. Mr. Brooks makes that clear in his next sentences.

Now to be clear: When Thiel is talking about a “monopoly,” he isn’t talking about the illegal eliminate-your-rivals kind. He’s talking about doing something so creative that you establish a distinct market, niche and identity. You’ve established a creative monopoly and everybody has to come to you if they want that service, at least for a time.”

The already established hegemony of the victor of the struggle can be inventive in the maintenance of his dominate position : diversification of investments and strategies, etc. Mr. Brooks has established the parameters of the victor in his melodrama, so he begins his moralizing on the question of the seeming conundrum of the relation between creativity and capital, as key to understanding the victory of creativity in his argument. While the critical reader might find the notion perplexing, even indefensible, of a benign Capital and a benign Capitalist, in the person of Mr. Theil, too great a strain on the believable. Mr. Thiel is a contributor of $3.9 million dollars to support the candidacy of Rep. Ron Paul, via a superpac, a man dedicated to the philosophy of Ayn Rand. He named a son after her. And her mythology of 'drones' and 'producers' featuring the 'producers' as winners in a competition between unequals, mimics rather closely the philosophical imperatives of the Social Darwinist's dog eat dog social ethic of winner take all. Monopoly is the end product of competition in the world view of the followers of Ayn Rand and Mr. Thiel is a true believer in the notion of the natural inequality of himself, and the populous other. Mr. Brooks feeble attempt at a portrait of Mr. Theil as advocate of a benign creative monopoly is unconvincing. Read the Wikipedia entry on Mr. Theil it is instructive, even compelling reading.

Political Observer

Mr. Brooks has established the parameters of the victor in his melodrama, so he begins his moralizing on the question of the seeming conundrum of the relation between creativity and capital, as key to understanding the victory of creativity in his argument. While the critical reader might find the notion perplexing, even indefensible, of a benign Capital and a benign Capitalist, in the person of Mr. Theil, too great a strain on the believable. Mr. Thiel is a contributor of $3.9 million dollars to support the candidacy of Rep. Ron Paul, via a superpac, a man dedicated to the philosophy of Ayn Rand. He named a son after her. And her mythology of 'drones' and 'producers' featuring the 'producers' as winners in a competition between unequals, mimics rather closely the philosophical imperatives of the Social Darwinist's dog eat dog social ethic of winner take all. Monopoly is the end product of competition in the world view of the followers of Ayn Rand and Mr. Thiel is a true believer in the notion of the natural inequality of himself, and the populous other. Mr. Brooks feeble attempt at a portrait of Mr. Theil as advocate of a benign creative monopoly is unconvincing. Read the Wikipedia entry on Mr. Theil it is instructive, even compelling reading.

Political Observer

About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer. 'Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.' https://www.lrb.co.uk/v15/n20/perry-anderson/diary
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