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Elon Musk, Hero?

Tesla's billionaire CEO clearly has ideas about how America could be better; why doesn't he lobby for them?

The richest man in the world, now worth nearly a quarter of a trillion dollars, Elon Musk is a larger-than-life figure in an era in which there are few to whom that term can justly be affixed. That he will be remembered by history is nearly a given. How he will be remembered remains an open question.

In examining Musk, one gets the impression of a man at war with himself, a man operating from conflicting imperatives. On one hand, he is a businessman of boundless ingenuity, a modern-day Benjamin Franklin or Thomas Edison, with sky-high aspirations of interplanetary colonization. At the same time, Musk often displays a certain nihilistic apathy. You can see this in his deliberate crashing of the crypto market, or of his own Tesla stock, with a single tweet. This is a man with a destructive edge, one who enjoys sowing chaos for fun, like an exponentially more powerful 4chan troll.

In his first appearance on The Joe Rogan Experience, Musk spoke in resigned, apocalyptic terms about the dangers of artificial intelligence: “I tried to convince people to…slow down A.I., to regulate A.I…Nobody listened…It’s too late.” He sounded like someone who has entirely given up on the human race—except that he clearly has not, or he would not be planning long-term for space exploration.

There is a battle playing out within Musk, between his creative and destructive energies, between idealism and nihilism. It is a battle which plays out in every one of us, but in most cases less dramatically. All individual choices are meaningful, and even the smallest can tip the scale for good or evil, but few of us have the power at Musk’s disposal. As we think about the future, the fate of many rest on the conflict within a single man’s heart.

Our society faces a myriad of interlocking crises right now. Musk—often alone among the elites—has shown a keen awareness of the nature of the problems we face, many of which he is uniquely positioned to solve. And yet he has done little to address them.

In March of 2020, Musk was a dissenting voice of reason, writing to Tesla employees that “the harm from the coronavirus panic far exceeds that of the virus itself.” A couple of months later, he called lockdowns “fascist” and said that the government was “forcibly imprisoning people in their homes, against all their constitutional rights…and breaking people’s freedoms in ways that are horrible and wrong, and not why people came to America or built this country.” He tweeted, in all caps, “FREE AMERICA NOW.”

To call government policy “fascist” is to imply that it is worthy of the most strenuous and sustained opposition imaginable. And yet Musk did little to oppose this unconstitutional tyranny, other than to squabble with California about reopening his Tesla factory before eventually moving it to Texas. Once his own financial interest was protected, the man who has repeatedly professed concern for humanity in the future showed limited desire to help humanity in the present.

The fact that politicians listen to billionaires is no secret. It would have been well within Musk’s ability to use some small portion of his wealth to lobby for reopening the world, saving us all from two years of what he himself termed forcible imprisonment. Instead, ordinary citizens were left opposing their government’s policies with limited resources, often at great cost to themselves.

How different might the world look today if Elon Musk had shown one-tenth as much courage and fortitude as, say, Tamara Lich, the Canadian Freedom Convoy organizer who now sits behind bars, denied bail for taking part in a peaceful demonstration?

This has been a pattern on Musk’s part. He will speak out when his friend Joe Rogan is faced with the prospect of cancellation by Spotify, but he will not help to create an alternative, cancel-proof platform. He will tweet in support of the Freedom Convoy and condemn GoFundMe for stealing their donations, but (despite being the creator of PayPal) he will leave the task of circumventing that financial blockade to GiveSendGo.

As I have written previously, we face a near-universal failure of the crucial institutions of our society, most of which have been largely captured by leftist ideology. This has set them up for a death spiral: The more woke these institutions become, the more dissenters will flee them. This will make them even more biased, causing them to lose even more legitimacy, and so forth.

Amidst all this, there seems to be nobody in power who is prepared to meet the moment, no leader whose virtuous qualities are proportionate to the extent of our challenges, as only a cursory examination of the current crop of politicians will reveal. Our era of statue-toppling boasts few figures worthy of a statue. It is as though we face World War II without a Churchill, or the Civil War without a Lincoln.

Elon Musk could be such a man, if he chooses. He could near-singlehandedly save society from this institutional collapse, by planting the seed of new institutions which might rise up to replace those currently failing. The point would not be to promote ideological conservatism per se, but to create a backup for the legacy media, or the entertainment industry, or the universities when they finally crumble.

Take the University of Austin, a proposed new college dedicated to intellectual freedom and open inquiry. Or take the efforts of the Daily Wire to hire “canceled” figures like Gina Carano. Imagine what a billion dollars, and a concerted effort by a man with the technical genius of Musk, could do for such projects. All of this is well within his grasp, and its benefits would be multitudinous.

Elon Musk, the man, has a complex life story. He grew up in South Africa, a smart but lonely boy who was bullied by his schoolmates and abused by his father. Like so many others, he came to America in search of a chance to reach his full potential. If Musk bears life any—very understandable—generalized ill will for his difficult childhood, now is the time for him to shed it. The world needs him. When all politicians have fallen short, it may be a man of private enterprise who rises to the challenges of the age.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article misstated the amount that the University of Austin has currently received in funding, and the piece has been updated.



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