Thomas Perkins founded a venture capital company that CNN has called “the most storied VC firm in Silicon Valley.” His personal worth is estimated at $8 billion. He was once married to the bestselling romance novelist Danielle Steele. This is a guy who, at 81 years old, would seem to have the world at his feet.
And yet, Thomas Perkins feels oppressed. In fact, he says Americans are so oppressive toward their wealthiest citizens that the way America treats its top one percent of income earners is no different from the way Nazis persecuted Jews in the Holocaust.
Perkins, founder of the 40-year-old venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, aired his thoughts and made what The Atlantic Magazine called “the worst historical analogy you will read for a long, long time.”
In a puzzling, seemingly apropos of nothing letter to The Wall Street Journal Friday, this is what he said:
“I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its ‘one percent,’ namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the ‘rich,'” the former member of Hewlett-Packard’s board of directors wrote, drawing a comparison that The Atlantic‘s Jordan Weissmann called “the reductio ad absurdum of a rich-guy’s persecution complex.”
As Weissmann explained Perkins’ logic, “The Jews were a minority. The rich are a minority. Therefore, criticizing the rich is akin to committing genocide against the Jews. QED.”
In the letter headlined “Progressive Kristallnacht Coming?” Perkins complained, “I perceive a rising tide of hatred of the successful one percent.” This is a trend that Perkins sees as dangerous because it apparently could lead to mass extermination of wealthy people.
“Kristallnacht was unthinkable in 1930,” wrote Thomas Perkins. “Is its descendent ‘progressive’ radicalism unthinkable now?”
Kristallnacht, or “Night of Broken Glass,” was a watershed event in the Nazi persecution of Jews. On November 9 and 10, 1938, instigated by Nazi Party Stormtroopers, thousands of ordinary German citizens went on a rampage of rioting, looting and murder throughout the country — all directed at the Jewish population in Germany and Austria, as well as in other areas occupied by the Nazis.
About 7,500 Jewish-owned businesses were attacked, 267 synagogues burned, and many Jewish cemeteries were desecrated — and 91 Jews were killed during the rioting, which was designed to appear spontaneous, but was actually well-organized by top Nazi officials, according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum account of Kristallnacht.
Another Kristallnacht. That is the fate that Thomas Perkins feels awaits America’s richest citizens if people who are not as “successful” don’t stop criticizing them.
The Wall Street Journal letter was not Thomas Perkins’ first awkward literary venture. He is also the author of the 2006 novel, Sex and the Single Zillionaire.