The free-market, tech-focused think tank the Lincoln Network held the “Reboot” conference, which featured panels with titles like “The Geopolitics of Industrial Policy: All Carrot, No Stick?”
“Throughout the day, a broad picture with potentially significant political ramifications emerged: A new way of looking at the world based on venture capital doesn’t like the idea that the government has too much power but does like the optimistic nationalism of the Reagan era.
Even when discussing controversial topics like China, crypto policy, or state and local governance, there was almost no partisan animosity at the conference.
This may be the best sign of how awkwardly the “builder” plan fits into the political status quo.
Even though the event had a conservative tone, many presenters cautiously praised the Biden administration’s policies that were tough on China or the Democratic Congress’s “Chips plus Science” package, which gave much money to research.
The free-market, tech-focused think tank the Lincoln Network held the “Reboot” conference, which featured panels with titles like “The Geopolitics of Industrial Policy: All Carrot, No Stick?” and “The Future of America: Florida vs. California.”
Throughout the day, a broad picture with potentially significant political ramifications emerged: A new way of looking at the world based on venture capital doesn’t like the idea that the government has too much power but does like the optimistic nationalism of the Reagan era.
A tech-themed conference like Reboot would have (most of the time) avoided politics not so long ago. But the topics for discussion on Thursday are timed to coincide with a wave of people in the venture capital industry, like Balaji Srinivasan, Marc Andreessen, and a rocket billionaire, who are becoming more interested in influencing civic life. Some political campaigns touch on these issues, like those of tech industry veterans J.D. Vance and Blake Masters.
Some people who used to support Trump have joined the movement. For example, Julius Krein, the publisher of the policy journal American Affairs, stopped supporting Trump in 2017 and now calls for a more forceful, nationalistic approach to business and technology to rebuild America.
“Younger people working in tech or VC have become increasingly focused on ‘getting out of software’—[there is] an increasing interest in hardware, robotics, and hard tech, with a growing interest in “strategic sectors” and rebuilding the United States, as well as defense-related technology in competition with China,” said Krein, who participated in the industrial geopolitics panel at the conference.
The fact that he wants to move away from globalization and toward hardware shows that he is unhappy with the current digital titans, whose power has led to the rise of virtual, global companies like Facebook and Tinder.
The “builder” mythos, which is often used in Web3, crypto, and VC circles to describe an innovator who wants to break away from big companies that are holding them back and create a new, game-changing product, may be the one overall mythos that drives this new politics the most. Francis Suarez, the mayor of Miami, is a big fan of Bitcoin. Last week at a conference, he didn’t try to hide that he wants to run for president by urging people to visit his city.
This new kind of “builder” politics is a spin on Ayn Rand’s lone heroes, whom many of these thinkers still like. In the middle of the country’s deindustrialization, its still-unresolved effects, and its fierce competition with China, this generation wants to go beyond individual performance and take charge of defining American civic life.
The tech researcher Will Rinehart said, “The old way of thinking about open and free markets—it’s not to suggest that those things don’t matter, but they’re taking more of a backseat to more national issues.” There seems to be a resurgence of hope, but there is also a greater awareness of the threats.
The VC firm Andreessen Horowitz has a project called “American Dynamism,” which is a bold name. Its goal is to create “companies that transcend verticals and business models in their quest to solve important national problems.” These companies “view the government as a customer, competitor, or key stakeholder.”
Despite the excitement among these young, intensely ambitious “builders,” there are still a few untidy obstacles in the way of building. Simple political truths exist for people who work in politics, such as what the Republican base is looking for in a candidate. Even though Masters, who works for Peter Thiel and would normally fit into this category, is running a negative campaign to win over Trump voters who are also negative, this tension is clear in his Senate race.
The old guard who “created” the world as it is today isn’t intending to leave, and it could be even more unrealistic to expect them to change their attitudes any sooner. This is one of the oldest difficulties in business, politics, or pretty much any other area of life.
In this situation, the term “old guard” refers to wealthy people and a large part of the political party that most of these intellectuals see as their political home.
Krein said that the contributors aren’t excited about it, even though younger intellectual activists are pushing for new, positive goals wherever they can. Many people believe winning the 2020 election is the most critical problem, and there is also a misunderstanding about the Trump phenomenon.
Krein was just as cautious when it came to the IT sector. He said that for the “builder” plan to take off, the libertarian-leaning IT sector would need active help from the government, which would be a fundamental paradigm shift.
When asked about his cautious optimism regarding the “American Dynamism” project, Krein replied, “The difficulty that I don’t know if the VC world has really thought through is that with hard tech, in general, it’s just never going to have the returns on paper that software has.” “That’s where I think you’ll need some form of government policy backing for these investments, and one can dispute the specifics,” she continued.
Even when discussing controversial topics like China, crypto policy, or state and local governance, there was almost no partisan animosity at the conference. This may be the best sign of how awkwardly the “builder” plan fits into the political status quo. Even though the event had a conservative tone, many presenters cautiously praised the Biden administration’s policies that were tough on China or the Democratic Congress’s “Chips plus Science” package, which gave a lot of money to research.
The “builder” plan may have broad support, but it doesn’t have much of a following among the smart people who set activist and party goals, let alone among voters.
Former FTC chief technologist and current senior research fellow Neil Chilson explained that “[Reboot’s] overarching approach is to locate things where partisanship is less of an issue, which are popular in some areas of the left but also in some sections of the more populist right.” How well does that translate into politics when it’s sometimes more effective to cuss out your adversaries than to cooperate with them to achieve a goal?
Neil Chilson’s last name was misspelled in an earlier version of this article.
Analysis by: Advocacy Unified Network