Billionaire Peter Thiel, founder of PayPal, has been named to the transition team for President-Elect Donald Trump on the Friday following Trump’s election.
In an interview with the New York Times, Thiel said, “There is an opening to think about some of our problems from a new perspective.” Thiel will now be able to help define that new perspective for the technology industry in this position. He has said in the past that he is not interested in a full-time post in Washington.
Thiel garnered both criticism and praise for his support of Trump during the campaign. He was named as a delegate for Trump at the Republican National Convention, and later gave Trump his full endorsement during the campaign. While other Silicon Valley executives like Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk have expressed skepticism that Trump is qualified to be President of the United States, Thiel chose to back the controversial candidate. Talking to the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Thiel said, “It’s not a lack of judgment that leads Americans to vote for Trump; we’re voting for Trump because we judge the leadership of our country to have failed.”
In an election cycle that Thiel described as “a bad dream,” he strove to bring rational meaning to some of Trump’s more radical declarations, admonishing listeners and the media not to take Trump literally. Thiel has made it clear that he disagrees with many of the extremist policies put forth by Trump. He does not support a religious test to enter the country, nor does he defend the racist or misogynistic statements by Trump. However, he feels that these characterizations are mere rhetoric. At the same press conference, he explained his support: “Trump’s agenda is about making America a normal country,” said Thiel. “A normal country doesn’t have a half-trillion dollar trade deficit. A normal country doesn’t fight five simultaneous undeclared wars. In a normal country, the government actually does its job.”
Thiel has long identified as libertarian in his political leanings. He backed Ron Paul in 2012, telling Slate Magazine, “The campaign really is for 2016 … we’re just trying to build a libertarian base for the next cycle … For the first time in perhaps 80 years, we have a chance to move the country in a more libertarian direction, with a less intrusive government, in both social and economic areas.”
Thiel is a German-American entrepreneur and venture capitalist who helped found PayPal, the global online payments system, and Clarion Capital, a global macro hedge fund. He has been an investor in such projects as LinkedIn, Yelp Inc., Palantir Technologies, and Quora. He is currently backing the Artificial Intelligence project OpenAI, anti-aging research, and other projects, as well as sitting on the board of Facebook and PayPal. Thiel’s philanthropic activities are carried out through the nonprofit Thiel Foundation.