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Thiel is probably a bit of an outlier (understatement), but, from a philosophical standpoint, Google could technically be investing more in R&D.
The problem is, to invest responsibly, there has to be a certain level of confidence that the projects will pay off. If anything, Google has become more responsible and focused on R&D.
Thiel is an avowed libertarian, and he has spoken about the importance of beating inflation (not that Google’s money is under some monster mattress somewhere in Mountain View) before.
According to Eric Jackson’s account of PayPal in his book “The PayPal Wars“, Thiel viewed PayPal’s mission as liberating people throughout the world from the erosion of the value of their currencies due to inflation. Jackson recalls an inspirational speech by Thiel in 1999:
“We’re definitely onto something big. The need PayPal answers is monumental. Everyone in the world needs money – to get paid, to trade, to live. Paper money is an ancient technology and an inconvenient means of payment. You can run out of it. It wears out. It can get lost or stolen. In the twenty-first century, people need a form of money that’s more convenient and secure, something that can be accessed from anywhere with a PDA or an Internet connection. Of course, what we’re calling ‘convenient’ for American users will be revolutionary for the developing world. Many of these countries’ governments play fast and loose with their currencies,” the former derivatives trader [referring to Thiel] noted, before continuing, “They use inflation and sometimes wholesale currency devaluations, like we saw in Russia and several Southeast Asian countries last year [referring to the 1998 Russian financial crisis and 1997 Asian financial crisis, to take wealth away from their citizens. Most of the ordinary people there never have an opportunity to open an offshore account or to get their hands on more than a few bills of a stable currency like U.S. dollars. Eventually PayPal will be able to change this. In the future, when we make our service available outside the U.S. and as Internet penetration continues to expand to all economic tiers of people, PayPal will give citizens worldwide more direct control over their currencies than they ever had before. It will be nearly impossible for corrupt governments to steal wealth from their people through their old means because if they try the people will switch to dollars or Pounds or Yen, in effect dumping the worthless local currency for something more secure.”