Patrick M. Byrne is the CEO of the Internet retailer Overstock.com. Byrne received his B.A. from Dartmouth, studied at Cambridge University as a Marshall Scholar, and earned a PhD in Philosophy from Stanford University. He co-founded Overstock.com in 1997 and became CEO in 1999. In 2005, Byrne initiated a controversial campaign against "naked short selling" in which he accused a "Sith Lord" and various financial firms of sabotaging Overstock's share price. Byrne also serves as head of First Class Education, an education lobbying group that seeks to require that 65% of all educational spending be spent "in the classroom." A strong proponent of school vouchers, Byrne spent almost four million dollars in advertising for a bill that would have given Utah residents who enroll their children in private schools taxpayer-supported subsidies. The bill lost, 62-38%.
Patrick Byrne: I used to ask . . . I’ve asked Milton Freedman actually that same question, and he . . . he always said that I was lucky in that I was just a born optimist. No matter how bad things got; no matter how statist the intellectual class became in the ‘40s, and the ‘50s, and ‘60s, I was always an optimist. I always . . . I knew the books weren’t going to be burned. I thought that we would come out of it. I guess I’m not so . . . I don’t . . . I can’t be as optimistic as he was. I’ve become in the last two or three years, as I’ve discovered that the system is just turtles all the way down, I don’t think that we’re gonna be able . . . Well I think it’s a 50-50 thing whether we’re going to be able to fashion the responses that we need to deal with the largest problems we face.
Recorded on: 10/29/07