FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Billionaires Won’t Save the World, Just Look at Elon Musk

Will Mars save humanity? Or will our savior be billionaire Elon Musk?

Musk, the CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, humbly believes we don’t have to choose. Mars will save us, he promises, and Musk himself will engineer this Mars miracle.

In 2019, Musk claims, SpaceX will start making short trips to Mars. By the early 2020s, his company will begin colonizing the Red Planet with a human population.

Why this feverish haste to set foot on interplanetary terra firma?

Musk sees a new “dark age” descending on our precious Earth. Another world war — or some environmental collapse — appears likely to threaten us with extinction, he fears.

Mars strikes Musk as our ideal refuge, the place where humankind will heroically regroup and eventually “bring human civilization back” to our mother planet.

And we can even have some fun in the process. The Mars colony that Musk envisions will have everything from iron foundries to “pizza joints and nightclubs.”

“Mars,” he quips, “should really have great bars.”

Reporters have become accustomed to this sort of visionary whimsy from Musk. The billionaire, In These Times says, has crafted his image as “a quirky and slightly off-kilter playboy genius inventor capable of conquering everything from outer space to the climate crisis with the sheer force of his imagination.”

This carefully cultivated image has proven extraordinarily lucrative.

Investors now value Tesla, his 15-year-old car company, at around $60 billion — not bad, note Wall Street watchdogs Pam and Russ Martens, for a firm that “lost almost $2 billion last year and has never delivered an annual profit to shareholders.”

But Musk remains supremely confident that his enterprise on Mars will take root and prosper. He’s betting a good chunk of his fortune on that.

Or rather, he’s betting a good chunk of taxpayers’ fortune.

Musk owes his billions, as commentator Kate Aronoff points out, to the billions in direct taxpayer subsidies his companies have received over the years — and the billions more in taxpayer-funded research into rocket technology and other high-tech fields of knowledge.

So Musk is essentially investing our billions in his own pet projects, everything from the Mars gambit to establishing a mass-market niche for high-tech flamethrowers.

None of this is going to rescue humanity anytime soon.

Indeed, if Musk really wanted to ensure humankind a sustainable future, he wouldn’t be plotting escapes to Mars or marketing flamethrowers to the masses. He’d be challenging the global economic status quo that’s left him phenomenally rich and our world phenomenally unequal.

This inequality may well pose the greatest threat to our well-being as a species. Stark economic divides invite armed confrontations.

Inequality and conflict, Norwegian scholars observed last year in a major report for the United Nations and the World Bank, remain “inextricably linked.” They found that “inequality influences the outbreak and dynamics of violent conflict,” going all the way back to the ancient Greeks.

In more recent years, researchers have made great strides in understanding the actual pathways in unequal societies that turn conflict violent. But huge gaps in the research are still frustrating our understanding.

What we do know: Hawking high-tech flamethrowers is never going to save humanity. Neither will bar-hopping on Mars.

More articles by:

Sam Pizzigati writes on inequality for the Institute for Policy Studies. His latest book is The Rich Don’t Always Win: The Forgotten Triumph over Plutocracy that Created the American Middle Class, 1900-1970 (Seven Stories Press). 

Weekend Edition
November 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jonah Raskin
A California Jew in a Time of Anti-Semitism
Andrew Levine
Whither the Melting Pot?
Joshua Frank
Climate Change and Wildfires: The New Western Travesty
Nick Pemberton
The Revolution’s Here, Please Excuse Me While I Laugh
T.J. Coles
Israel Cannot Use Violent Self-Defense While Occupying Gaza
Rob Urie
Nuclear Weapons are a Nightmare Made in America
Paul Street
Barack von Obamenburg, Herr Donald, and Big Capitalist Hypocrisy: On How Fascism Happens
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fire is Sweeping Our Very Streets Today
Aidan O'Brien
Ireland’s New President, Other European Fools and the Abyss 
Pete Dolack
“Winners” in Amazon Sweepstakes Sure to be the Losers
Richard Eskow
Amazon, Go Home! Billions for Working People, But Not One Cent For Tribute
Ramzy Baroud
In Breach of Human Rights, Netanyahu Supports the Death Penalty against Palestinians
Brian Terrell
Ending the War in Yemen- Congressional Resolution is Not Enough!
John Laforge
Woolsey Fire Burns Toxic Santa Susana Reactor Site
Ralph Nader
The War Over Words: Republicans Easily Defeat the Democrats
M. G. Piety
Reading Plato in the Time of the Oligarchs
Rafael Correa
Ecuador’s Soft Coup and Political Persecution
Brian Cloughley
Aid Projects Can Work, But Not “Head-Smacking Stupid Ones”
David Swanson
A Tale of Two Marines
Robert Fantina
Democrats and the Mid-Term Elections
Joseph Flatley
The Fascist Creep: How Conspiracy Theories and an Unhinged President Created an Anti-Semitic Terrorist
Joseph Natoli
Twitter: Fast Track to the Id
William Hawes
Baselines for Activism: Brecht’s Stance, the New Science, and Planting Seeds
Bob Wing
Toward Racial Justice and a Third Reconstruction
Ron Jacobs
Hunter S. Thompson: Chronicling the Republic’s Fall
Oscar Gonzalez
Stan Lee and a Barrio Kid
Jack Rasmus
Election 2018 and the Unraveling of America
Sam Pizzigati
The Democrats Won Big, But Will They Go Bold?
Yves Engler
Canada and Saudi Arabia: Friends or Enemies?
Cesar Chelala
Can El Paso be a Model for Healing?
Mike Ferner
The Tragically Misnamed Paris Peace Conference
Barry Lando
Trump’s Enablers: Appalling Parallels
Ariel Dorfman
The Boy Who Taught Me About War and Peace
Binoy Kampmark
The Disgruntled Former Prime Minister
Faisal Khan
Is Dubai Really a Destination of Choice?
Arnold August
The Importance of Néstor García Iturbe, Cuban Intellectual
James Munson
An Indecisive War To End All Wars, I Mean the Midterm Elections
Nyla Ali Khan
Women as Repositories of Communal Values and Cultural Traditions
Dan Bacher
Judge Orders Moratorium on Offshore Fracking in Federal Waters off California
Christopher Brauchli
When Depravity Wins
Robby Sherwin
Here’s an Idea
Susan Block
Cucks, Cuckolding and Campaign Management
Louis Proyect
The Mafia and the Class Struggle (Part Two)
David Yearsley
Smoke on the Water: Jazz in San Francisco
Elliot Sperber
All of Those Bezos
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail