Elon Musk puts the wealth of elites over democracy. We see that this week as he flagrantly defies Covid 19 lock down orders for one of his factories, putting an entire community as risk. Does he, and people like him, wield too much power? Is there a solution to the threat their power poses to others?
Consider these the facts about Musk:
- Musk has claimed that his wealth is self-made, but he was born a relatively wealthy white child in South Africa during apartheid. His family owned an emrald mine in Zambia. He left South Africa amid the turmoil, while others stayed to reform the system.
- As of May 2020, he has a net worth of $36.5 billion and is listed by Forbes as the 31st-richest person in the world. By contrast, the median American household worth is roughly $97,300. Musk has used this wealth to create a level of influence over industry, media, and politics that dwarfs average Americans’ influence over public affairs and their futures and that drowns out their voices.
- Musk is part of the top of a power dynamic in which the world’s richest people own the same wealth and influence as as roughly the poorest half of humanity.
- Musk is seen by some as an environmentalist, but he has consistently stoked fears of underpopulation and has promoted population growth policies that would exacerbate the climate crisis and many other environmental crises more than almost anything else we could do. In addition to the impact of his various industries, his commercial space ventures are a massive and growing source of light pollution that obscure one’s view of space and interfere with the practice of astronomy.
- As discussed above Musk, in a growing display of antisocial behavior, consistently violated the law, and risked lives, to maintain production and profits at one of his factories in California. The state appears to be acquiescing to the violation. He is being treated as if he is above the law because of his wealth and influence.
These Facts Raise Questions
Why is Musk above the law? Is he a fundamental threat to our democracy — and to our right to be self-determining people rather than people whose lives are determined by a small group of people? It’s undemocratic that some individuals, usually born wealthy, wield such disproportionate influence over our lives. If Musk is a threat, and if elected officials do nothing, are free people obligated to act to protect what so many have died for?
The problem we face is in knowing what to do, but that problem comes with a solution. We resist taking action against individuals like Musk because rather than using violence, he uses money to wield massive power over others. But as the climate crisis has shown, more subtle human power and influence, like social positioning and climate emissions can pose the greatest threat of all. Money is no exception. As Musk’s defiance of the order shows, money can easily threaten lives.
So What’s the Solution?
The answer lies in Musk’s promotion of population growth, which is consistent with his response to the pandemic. Both evidence his disdain for human rights and democracy, and make him a unique target for those who want to promote human freedom.
Musk’s statements show that he mistakenly equates democracies with economies in which future children are labor, consumer, and taxpayer inputs and in which the nonhuman world is a resource. That is incorrect. Democracies precede economies and are defined by strict human-rights parameters that make them function, such as the right to speak freely (and have an equal voice). Those rights give us a baseline for what’s an entitlement, cost and benefit, rather than the random “good fortune” Musk had of being born a wealthy white man in South Africa. He has actually invoked the concept of freedom, that countless people died to protect, in order to risk innocent lives as a means of extending his undemocratic control of others. That deserves a response, and his position on family planning gives a pathway for it.
Musk is pushing for population growth and family planning policies that would try to replace democracies with economies that are devoid of human rights and would ensure that those with wealth control others. He is pushing for kids to be born irrespective of the number born, their levels of welfare and education, and their positioning relative to rich kids, He’s pushing for growth irrespective of its impact on our natural ecologies. In other words, he promotes the family planning model that created the climate crisis. He is pushing for a massive populace designed for economies and not democracies, and world where markets seem like the natural and inevitable state of affairs, and one that ensures the positioning of people like him.
And it’s the first, or lexically prior, human right – the right to a Fair Start in life – Musk may be trying to avoid when he ignores human rights and promotes the chaos of anarchic markets over the freedom of democracy. The right to have children, the right that puts the “human” in human rights, best orients from the perspective of the future child and their right to fair starts in life. That right is the engine that keeps democracies going, and it overrides competing interests, like Musk’s interest in dominating others and the skies, as well as his his passing that dominance onto his progeny. What he thinks is wealth he created is the product of a much larger and more complex social ecology that he is ignoring. And the fundamental right to a fair start in life, which represents the first peremptory norm and the constant reconstituting of our social ecology and democracy, overrides his claims to disproportional wealth, enabling free people to target Musk and other threats like him with a specific demand that would actually level the economic playing field. And it’s not about choosing government over people. That right also overrides the interests of big government and their bureaucracies, especially when the government (who these days is largely comprised of the uber-wealthy themselves) disregard the rule of law and let the wealthy take over.
People like Musk exist because we have yet to take the overriding right to a fair start in life seriously and have instead pretended it was the hand of God that determined who won the birth lottery. Perhaps, given that right’s efficacy in addressing the crises we face, we should take it seriously now.
This Isn’t Socialism or Capitalism; It Isn’t Economics at All
No economies exist without laws, and no laws exist without a people capable of making them – imagine something like a town hall setting. Both the left and the right value protecting children’s future and their right to equal opportunities in life. But to get there requires limiting the total quantum of human power exerted upon our surroundings and decentralizing it intergenerationally — or finally realizing the duality of freedom from others and the freedom to equal opportunities in life.
Both Big Business and Big Government, at the top of a Ponzi Scheme pyramid, are pushing women to have more and more kids as a means of creating future labor, and needy consumers, instead. Thy are making economies before democracy. Reasonable people on both the left and the right can work together to target key figures at the top of that pyramid to – instead – to build free democracies through better family planning. Together, we can secure that true form of freedom over its imitation: the anarchical and infantile “I get to do whatever I want to do” sort of freedom that has never made sense, that ends up hurting people and compromising their own freedom, and the form that is promoted by people like Musk who want to change town halls into shopping malls and to replace political freedom into employment and consumption.
Look for the wizard behind the curtain in the case of Musk. You will see the appropriation and rebranding of other persons’ work by one individual, using wealth enabled by a system of laws he now flouts. The disparity of wealth and influence he enjoys is the product of mistakes in our system, not something naturally occurring.
Musk appears publicly. Engage him, as you would in a town hall, personally, peacefully, and legally, and demand that he fund Fair Start family planning. Do what our government should be doing to make us free, and use Musk as an example.
We have a right to a Fair Start share of his resources, and his violating the law presents an opportunity to truly build democracy, taking down the powerful who control us in the spirit of liberation. And while you are at it, urge the United Nations to speed along that liberation, take human rights seriously, and recognize Fair Start as a fundamental human right.
Those most able must do what’s most effective to maintain a just system.