What are your thoughts on Elon Musk?

Musk is a brilliant, emotionally immature, charming weirdo with a net worth of $264 billion. Conservatives searching for a solution to Twitter's problems will be disappointed.

Ayn Rand is one of those unusual writers who has had about as much bad luck with her adversaries as she has with her friends. There are many valid criticisms of her thought and writing to be made — I still think Atlas Shrugged is a superior work than The Grapes of Wrath, primarily because The Grapes of Wrath is a terrible slog — but, given the circumstances, one mostly hears the stupid concerns.

(I'll come back to Elon Musk later.)

One particularly baffling "Har! Har! Hypocrisy!" charge leveled about Rand is that she, a staunch opponent of the welfare state, drew Social Security in her later years. Rand anticipated such criticism and said that she viewed her Social Security checks as "restitution" — she opposed Social Security when the government took her money and opposed it when the government sent her a check. If she had her way, there would have been no Social Security at all — but since there was, why shouldn't she reclaim some of what had been taken from her?

(Rand, the great proponent of capitalism, was reportedly bad with money, although she sold truckloads of books and likely paid a lot of taxes during her career.)

Similar criticisms are occasionally leveled towards libertarian-leaning industrialists like Charles Koch. Koch is the driving force behind a slew of policy and advocacy groups, many of which are dedicated to opposing various forms of federal intervention in the private sector. However, certain Koch-affiliated businesses receive various subsidies. (Some appear to be blatant subsidies, while others are simply the product of government policies that Koch's political opponents would prefer were different.) But, for the sake of argument, let's call them all subsidies.) Koch rejects government handouts and other types of crony capitalism, and he supports for a free market economy. As it turns out, he has largely lost that battle, and subsidies are now available to a wide spectrum of firms, from soybean farmers to Starbucks. Is Charles Koch obligated to forego the benefits associated with such programs because he opposes them in principle? Is it necessary for his business divisions to put themselves at a distinct economic disadvantage to their competitors because of his political beliefs, which place him in the minority?

No, I don't believe so. In this, at least, I agree with Ayn Rand: Uncle Stupid is in my pocket every day, and when the time arises, I'll claw back everything I can. If you vote against something and lose, you do not have to act as if you were the winner and ignore reality.

Which leads us to Elon Musk, the witty African-American entrepreneur who is currently the world's wealthiest man and is about to become the proud new owner of... an embarrassing, grotesque, vicious, money-losing social-media company for which he has agreed to pay $44 billion for some inexplicable reason. Elon Musk's acquisition of Twitter may have been similar to Donald Trump's presidential campaign in that it was part publicity ploy, part vanity project, and part fit of pique that he never intended to carry out but couldn't back out of once he was in the ring. Congratulations, sir/madam: You recently paid $44 billion for a company that lost $221 million last year, lacks a viable business strategy, and appears to be staffed entirely by individuals who despise you. For that type of money, you might have bought a real company like Kimberly-Clark ($2.6 billion in profit last year and increasing), or Ford ($18 billion in profit in 2021), which may be useful to an automaker. You could have bought Dogecoin twice if you wanted.

Having said that, I doubt Elon Musk requires my business counsel. And, anyway, he's made it obvious that he doesn't consider Twitter to be a viable financial prospect. He claims that he is more concerned in the company's social and cultural status than in its profitability.

Conservatives have mixed feelings about Musk. The fact that many of his business holdings — not just Tesla — have prospered on government subsidies, incentives, and contracts is a recurrent charge leveled at him. Musk did not push for the tax breaks that the US government provides for electric vehicles, and he has been critical of them at times. For starters, they benefit other electric-car manufacturers more than Tesla: the $12,500 tax credit covers 46 percent of a Nissan Leaf but only 6.5 percent of a fully outfitted Model X. Furthermore, Tesla owners have been ineligible for rebates for some time because to the way the tax credits are designed. Neither have GM buyers, despite the fact that both companies have sold over 200,000 units. Musk has fought initiatives in California that would make solar power less financially appealing to households than it is now – Musk has solar-power holdings, and while the California issue is more convoluted than a simple subsidy, it is fair to argue that Musk has a financial stake in the outcome.

Musk talks like a techno-libertarian at times, especially when it comes to free speech, but his sometimes muddled public political comments have largely been progressive in the most traditional and common sense, though by no means exclusively. He voted for Andrew Yang in 2020 and is concerned about climate change; he also thinks a lot of the "tell me your pronouns" stuff is ridiculous, believes the Covid-19 lockdowns in California were excessive, and isn't like of punitive taxes aimed at... primarily him and Jeff Bezos. He favours consumption taxes to income taxes and supports estate taxes on the grounds that the "chance of progeny being equally adept at capital allocation is not high," in his famous human touch. On the subject of direct democracy, he sounds Swiss, and he speaks from the heart about "the greatest country that has ever existed on Earth" and "the greatest force for good of any country that has ever lived."

He also enjoys getting high with Joe Rogan. As a result, he's all over the place.

But he isn't Charles Koch — not even close — and hasn't claimed to be a proponent of laissez-faire economics. He did not campaign for those subsidies to be created, though he did, as any smart company executive would, factor them into his business strategies.

On free speech, he labels himself a "absolutist," and you can almost smell the Absolut from here. Musk opposed efforts to ban Russian official media from utilizing his satellites when Vladimir Putin's atavistic cabal attacked Ukraine earlier this year. So he intends to administer an extremely liberal Twitter government.

I doubt Elon Musk would be able to create a nice version of Twitter, because a good version of Twitter would not be Twitter, just as a hammer that cannot be used to bang your thumb is not a hammer. It's amusing to witness the progressive outrage over the prospect of Twitter being run by someone who truly believes in free speech in the near future. But if the political events of the last few years have taught me anything, it's that my opponents' foes aren't always my allies. Conservatives who believe he would save the public space from the holy extremists who have designated themselves as its roving mutaween will be sorely disappointed. Elon Musk is a brilliant, emotionally immature, deliciously eccentric man with a fortune of $264 billion with which to amuse himself and, at times, the rest of us. Even the SEC has to smile secretly at his antics now and then.

But the issue with Twitter is not, and never has been, who owns it. The problem with Twitter is that it portrays humanity as a sinful creature in need of redemption, one that now has the technological capability to exhibit its fallenness 6,000 times every second.

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