The secretive tech billionaire who recently admitted to funding a lawsuit meant to crush the media company Gawker is known for having some radical opinions. But in an essay published in 2009, he surprised many when he wrote that giving women the right to vote -- by constitutional amendment in 1920 -- was a blow to democracy.
Here's Thiel, writing on Cato Unbound, a blog affiliated with the libertarian think tank:
Since 1920, the vast increase in welfare beneficiaries and the extension of the franchise to women — two constituencies that are notoriously tough for libertarians — have rendered the notion of “capitalist democracy” into an oxymoron.
Thiel is well known in the tech world: he was an early funder of Facebook and sits on its board. His remarks on women earned the billionaire a lot of criticism at the time. That he also seemed to blame Social Security and other New Deal-era benefits for the decline of democracy -- a fairly common conservative and libertarian view -- got less attention.
Cato later updated the essay and Thiel clarified that he does not want to disenfranchise women:
It would be absurd to suggest that women’s votes will be taken away or that this would solve the political problems that vex us. While I don’t think any class of people should be disenfranchised, I have little hope that voting will make things better.
Yet he didn't walk back what he wrote, instead lamenting how much attention the comment on women received.
He had hoped the essay would get folks talking about cyberspace, he wrote, or "seasteading," which is when a lot of people live on the ocean (another theme in his tome).
Thiel, it was revealed Wednesday, is backing wrestler Hulk Hogan's lawsuit against Gawker, which published a video of him having sex. Thiel told The New York Times he is seeking justice for a piece Gawker wrote in 2007 titled "Peter Thiel is totally gay, people" and for other Gawker articles over the years.
“It’s less about revenge and more about specific deterrence,” he told the Times. “I saw Gawker pioneer a unique and incredibly damaging way of getting attention by bullying people even when there was no connection with the public interest.”
Apparently, Thiel does not see any kind of contradiction in attempting to shutter Gawker -- which some are calling an assault on press freedom -- and his drive to support freedom. Even more intriguing, Thiel has in the past actually funded a press organization, the Committee to Protect Journalists. The author of the Gawker piece about Thiel's sexuality said the billionaire was out to his friends at the time.
"It was known to a wide circle who felt that it was not fit for discussion beyond that circle," Owen Thomas told the Times. "I thought that attitude was retrograde and homophobic, and that informed my reporting. I believe that he was out and not in the closet.”
Thiel is also a delegate for Donald Trump, the Republican presidential candidate who has proposed building a wall to keep Mexican people out of the United States as well as a total ban on Muslims coming to the U.S..
In the 2009 essay, Thiel wrote that democracy and freedom are not compatible. Like many libertarians, he lamented laws prohibiting drug use and taxes. He also decried the financial meltdown and subsequent Wall Street bailouts.
He also noted that he doesn't believe in the "ideology of the inevitability of death."
Thiel could not immediately be reached for comment.