Peter Thiel on whether the United State is the next Japan

Venture Capitalist and Technology Entrepreneur

Peter Thiel is an American entrepreneur, hedge fund manager and venture capitalist.  He is Clarium’s President and the Chairman of the firm’s investment committee, which oversees the firm’s research, investment, and trading strategies. Before starting Clarium, Peter served as Chairman and CEO of PayPal, an Internet company he co-founded in December 1998 and was acquired by eBay for $1.5 billion in October 2002.

Prior to founding PayPal, Peter ran Thiel Capital Management , the predecessor to Clarium, which started with $1 million under management in 1996. Peter began his financial career as a derivatives trader at CS Financial Products, after practicing securities law at Sullivan & Cromwell.

In addition to managing Clarium, Peter is active in a variety of philanthropic and educational pursuits; he sits on the Board of Directors of the Pacific Research Institute, the Board of Visitors of Stanford Law School, and is an adviser to the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence. Peter received a BA in Philosophy from Stanford University and a JD from Stanford Law School.   He is self-described libertarian and a minority investor in Big Think.

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TRANSCRIPT

Peter Thiel: And, obviously, there were ways in which the incentives had gone completely haywire for both the lenders and borrowers to take ridiculous amounts of risk.  On the other hand, I would worry that the reaction is that the US becomes like Japan, that it becomes a country in which people just invest in cash and T-bills and maybe five or ten year government bonds and are taught that the correct answer is just take zero risk.  Zero risk works as a business model for Japan because it’s a high end manufacturing county. It does not work as a business model for the US.  What the US does, the US has comparative advantage vis-à-vis other countries in the world is that it is the place in the world where people do new things. And so, if you get rid of the idea of the ability to take risk in the US, it’s much worse than getting rid of it in Japan.  If you say that it’s no longer going to be permissible for people to take any type of risk in the US, then you basically have no business model for the US and the US will lose the global competition even more badly than it is currently losing.

 

Recorded: October 23, 2008


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