It's hard to find a state more liberal than California, but the entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley have shown a libertarian streak that drew Glenn's interest. On his TV show Tuesday night, he brought Aaron Ginn, founder of Lincoln Labs, to Dallas to discuss what it's like to be a young conservative in Silicon Valley and what libertarians in one of the most liberal parts of the country expect from the government.
Below is a transcript of the interview:
Glenn: So, I have to introduce you to somebody. Aaron Ginn, he is the cofounder of Lincoln Labs, a Silicon Valley tech organization that wears conservative libertarian views on its sleeve. We were just talking about that I’m surprised and I think most people in the audience would be surprised that there are conservative—I mean, just show what’s on your neck.
Aaron: Oh yeah, my cross my mom gave me.
Glenn: You’re from Silicon Valley, California, Silicon Valley. Most people would say that they don’t think those people exist.
Aaron: Yeah. And we do. That’s why we started Lincoln Labs was that there are. Like most of these people are hiding behind their job titles or their careers, and they don’t want to talk about their beliefs.
Glenn: This is kind of like Friends of Abe in Hollywood.
Aaron: Yeah, exactly. When we started Lincoln Labs, we didn’t know anything about Friends of Abe, which is ironic because we started Lincoln Labs, Friends of Abe, and the main reason why we chose Lincoln Labs was we researched, and we’re like okay, so what president best shows the Silicon Valley attitude? We saw Abraham Lincoln. He was the first one to do tallies on door knocking, like who says yes to me or like maybe. He was the only president to hold a patent. He tried out all the weapons. He went there during the Civil War, he put the telegraph in the White House. He was very innovative. He also was a uniting force for the country. He thought that my goal is to protect liberty. So, when we started Lincoln Labs, the goal was to find more people like us. Over the course of, I guess now we’re going on two years, we found lots of people like us all around the nation.
Glenn: You know what’s really amazing is I spent some time out in Silicon Valley and I thought I would be a pariah out there. To some, I am. To some, I am, but to those who are really—there’s a lot more libertarian out there. The problem is they will see a Republican that will say something stupid like, for instance, the only thing that comes to mind is Ben Carson when he said you can go to prison, and all of a sudden you’re gay, and you’re like come on, man, really? That’s what’s stopping them from—they’ll tend to go to the left because, correct me if I’m wrong, because they’ll see somebody who looks like that doesn’t make any sense to me.
Aaron: Yeah, and our goal is simple, liberty, like we want more liberty, whether you’re blue, purple, or red. And a lot of the engineers, designers, technical people in Silicon Valley, they see stupidity on both sides, and they know.
Glenn: I’m glad to hear that because I didn’t think a lot of them did see the stupidity.
Aaron: It’s my opinion that I think a lot of them begrudgingly vote for people who they know are fundamentally against their values, and it’s because they think that both of them are just so bad. And that’s why we’re simply there to be like hey, the fundamental basis of what technology does is enables people to make their own decisions. That’s why a lot of the Web 1.0 guys are very liberty oriented, like Marc Andreessen or Peter Thiel.
And even if you look at the innovations that are transforming our entire world, like Uber or Airbnb, right, those are very liberty-minded companies. They’re like hey, this random middle-class person in Las Colinas can now become a cab driver for people and just like logs onto the app and becomes a cab driver, right—revolutionary things that before we would need massive amounts of bureaucracy, people doing verifications and checks. Now we can do that all automated, and I think that fundamentally the technology community is very liberty oriented because the goal is to empower consumers to make their own decisions and to effectively—to decrease costs and increase productivity.
Glenn: So, in Silicon Valley, is it as tough to be conservative or religious as it is in Hollywood? Because in Hollywood, they fear for their jobs.
Aaron: I would say it’s similar and a little bit different in a sense that I’ve never been afraid of my own beliefs, both politically and my Christian faith. People also saw like when they met me and started talking to me, they were like, “That guy’s Christian.” So, they sort of like accepted it, and they just moved on with their life; however, my background and my training is a little bit different than the average Christian. I’ve been trained in theology and apologetics, so I can effectively communicate. I read Alvin Plantinga for fun. Not many people do that. And so whenever I get a question, I can articulate my views, but I know several people, whether my church or in Lincoln Labs, that are very scared about expressing their political beliefs or religious beliefs because there is a sense of hostility against these positions.
It’s not like hostility of like, you know, I think that when people on the right see someone they disagree with, they’re like I just disagree with you, but when people in the left see someone they disagree with, it’s almost like you like killed a kitten in front of them. It’s like a moral hatred, right? I don’t want to be called a bad person. So, I think it’s out of that. They don’t want to hear that they’re like this awful, terrible human being for just thinking that I don’t want to pay as much to the government.
Glenn: Yeah, this is crazy.
Aaron: Yeah, it’s crazy, because I think that’s what I’m seeing now in what’s going on in Silicon Valley is that I think that a lot of the engineers and technical people who used to associate themselves with the left now have seen this rising intolerance that they don’t agree with. They’re like I’m liberal because I’m classically liberal.
Glenn: I’m classic liberal.
Aaron: As I am too, right?
Glenn: I saw today that in my old high school in Bellingham, which is a very, very lefty area of Washington state, that the juniors in both of the high schools now are planning a walkout against Common Core, and I thought to myself my oh my gosh, our viewpoint is starting to be cool. The man is coming down so hard that it’s our side that is starting to be the cool side, and they just don’t realize that’s coming.
Aaron: One of our advisors has called us a countercultural movement in that it’s kind of interesting and cool to be liberty oriented and having these different beliefs, there’s this large swath of I don’t know what to call them, maybe social norm of like in Silicon Valley, it’s cool to be different, right? And Elon Musk is cool because he’s trying to build rockets to the moon and do things that are very different. In that sense, I think a portion of people are seeing us as like a valid alternative now versus when we originally started.
I was going to host an event at one of my previous companies, and I received an email from the CEO being like hey, we can’t host your event. It was basically like we were going to have Rand Paul come speak. Because he received an email from one of the engineering leads, being like one-third of the company has threatened to quit if we host this event, right? And the ironic thing is that the slogan of our company was basically to discover things that we did not know and to be open to new ideas was basically the premise of what our product did.
And so I had to scramble. It was two weeks before the event, and I had to scramble to find another location. That was like the original days. Now, we get invites from a lot of the big tech players to host events with them and to partner with them on issues.
Glenn: So, I have two minutes. I just want you to talk a little bit about the difference that the left, how the left views this fight and how the right views this fight.
Aaron: Like in the sense of—?
Glenn: The right usually says okay, well, the election is coming, so I’ll go out and vote.
Aaron: Yeah. I think what people need to understand, especially the liberty-oriented side within the United States and really all across the world is the left is very motivated to starve for their cause.
Aaron: Yeah, literally because to them it’s like a religious commitment, versus the people on the right generally have another higher calling to which they want to go after, which is one reason why that they’re right-leaning. The battle is constant.
Glenn: I think that’s what we’re missing, and that’s what kind of was talking about the monologue here. The first was we don’t even know. We’re supposed to serve. It’s not about going to church. It’s about serving. So, that’s making the world a better place, helping people, helping people in need. That’s what the left thinks they’re doing, but they’re crippling people. If we’re actually seen making a difference, some of these people will go, “Oh crap, I’ve got it wrong,” and they’ll come over here because some of them are sincere in their help. Some of them are just doing it for power. You know what I mean? Same on the other side, but those who really want to make a difference, this works, this doesn’t.
Aaron: Yeah, we need to constantly be telling people about the cause. We need to be constantly showing people investing in community, basically caring about people. I think the right has been, and liberty has been so far associated with big corporations and rich people taking home as much money as possible rather than the fact of why we believe in liberty is because we care about people who do not have access to those things. We care about empowering individuals to reach that possibility, and the left is, I think, very sincere. Like you said, they think that they’re doing good work. In reality, they never look at—I like Dennis Prager. He always says as soon as you ask whether or not something works, you start becoming a conservative.
Glenn: That’s right.
Aaron: Because the left is about creating this vision for the world that may or may not come to be, but they don’t care because this is what they’re going after, versus the right’s sort of like let’s be a little bit more rational about it. Let’s think about this a little bit more.
Glenn: I’d like to have you on the radio show and talk a little bit more about how we can help you and how we can get involved with Silicon Valley and the movement there, because I think you’re doing great stuff.
Aaron: Thank you.