Thomas Pendergast Vladeck home


A buddy of mine said in a group chat that he was surprised that me and another friend had become conservatives, after being so liberal while in college. I joked back that it must have been business school that did us in, since we both went.

My serious answer was that a few things had changed my outlook:

Paying a huge amount in shadow taxes, to the point where it will actually prevent me from hiring at least one person in the future, made me reconsider the role of taxes and the private sector.

Reading the Strategy of Conflict made me a hawk on foreign policy.

Living through the debacle of Trump, and watching our slow-motion train wreck on the health care debate (Obamacare passed! Will it survive a court challenge? It was repealed! Not all the way, though! It’ll get repealed next time! Will it survive another court challenge?), gave me a new perspective on federalism.


As the sole owner of an LLC, every dollar of the company’s income is my income, so I pay taxes on it, regardless of what I do with it, even if I leave it in the company. I could elect to have it taxed differently, paying corporate taxes and taking a salary – but that would mean even more taxes, regardless of how I used the money.

My goal with Gradient is to grow it to be very large, and eventually to employ a lot of people. To that end, I leave most income in the company, to use as working capital and to fuel growth (we haven’t raised a dime from anyone). My actual income is much less than Gradient’s income, but I pay taxes on it all the same. The amount of taxes I’ve paid is more than the salary of at least two qualified junior programmers or one very senior data scientist. I could be creating good, lucrative jobs for people, but I can’t.

I’m not saying my taxes should be lower, I’m just saying that seeing the tradeoff first hand has at least educated me that there is a tradeoff.

Foreign Policy

“We dare not tempt them with weakness” - JFK

We all share the goal of less war, less bloodshed, and more peace on Earth. Let’s start there. Advocating a strong military does not by itself mean that you’re somehow more accepting of tragedy.

The argument is about the means to an end, not the end itself, and I believe that American military superiority – as overwhelmingly dominant as we can sustain for as long as we can sustain it – is the best path for peace. We can’t just wish war away, because not everyone will wish along with us.


I explained this in a different post, but the bottom line is that America is a big country. There is a lot of stuff that we don’t agree on, like health care. Why should we have to? We have states for a reason – let’s use them! Let Utah have a conservative system and Massachusetts have a liberal system.

One issue is that the size of the federal government (see above) gives states less wiggle room to do their own thing. Any expansion of state power would come on top of the federal government. I don’t think that the absolute size of the federal government should change, but I do think that many of its functions should move to the state level. As I wrote previously I think that this – in the past and currently – has unfortunately been tightly integrated with racism and civil rights, so consider everything I write above to be modulo that proviso.

The other thing to consider is that with more local control we truly have a domestic government that is antifragile. Uncertainty and random variation, in this case, is our friend. To the extent that something works in Idaho, people can vote with their feet or vote in the normal sense. With a powerful federal government, it’s the opposite case. We have one shot on goal.