There have been a lot of quips about Peter Thiel decamping from Silicon Valley for Los Angeles.
It’s mostly been viewed from the perspective of liberal vs. conservative, left/right, Blue-Red.
It doesn’t appear that Thiel adheres to litmus-tested standards, but he does seem to have a libertarian streak that puts him right of center in terms of today’s political spectrum.
He’s also made a couple of fortunes as a co-founder of PayPal and the first outside investor in Facebook.
Both fortunes are likely the residue of a strong-minded sort.
It’s little wonder, then, that Thiel is just as strong-minded when it comes to politics.
And perhaps it should be little wonder that his lean to the right and support for President Donald Trump has put him at odds with his fellow innovators and billionaires in Silicon Valley to such a degree that his fitness to serve as a Facebook director has come under question up north.
Thiel, for his part, told a crowd at Stanford University last month that “Silicon Valley is a one-party state.”
“That’s when you get in trouble politically in our society,” Thiel said, “when you’re all in one side.”
Thiel’s announcement that he’ll move his personal household to Hollywood and set up new headquarters here for his Thiel Capital and Thiel Foundation incited some predictable reactions.
Start with the humorous: Can you believe someone who wants to flee a haven of rich left-wingers heads to Hollywood?
Then there’s the politically motivated overreach – apparent when various conservative commentators began pointing to Thiel’s move as evidence of their growing ranks in L.A.
Overlooked has been the simpler possibility that this might have everything to do with a favorite buzz word of Silicon Valley: scale.
Consider that the city of Los Angeles alone has a population of about 4 million, approximately 33 percent more than the combined total for the several counties and other jurisdictions or areas generally considered to make up Silicon Valley. Count all of Los Angeles County and you have 10 million or so residents, more than three times Thiel’s erstwhile home turf, according to the latest data from the Silicon Valley Institute for Regional Studies. Look at the five-county L.A. Basin and it’s around 18 million.
You get the picture – an individual has a lot more to blend in with in L.A.
Those conservative talkers’ hopes that Thiel’s arrival marks a shift of momentum in their favor might be an exaggeration. But they do offer evidence that even someone with a viewpoint that puts him or her in the minority by a wide margin can find a significant host of fellows in L.A.
Thiel’s move makes L.A. seem big.
It remains to be seen if Silicon Valley will get smaller in his wake.
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