Crony Capitalism

Elon Musk Wants You To Believe


Elon Musk — founder and CEO of SpaceX and Tesla Motors and chairman of SolarCity — wants you to believe.

He wants you to believe that governmental funding is an impediment to technological advance and achievement. He wants all of his competitors and potential customers to believe. Musk wants the American people to follow his example of independence and pioneering individualism.

Unfortunately for any and all “believers,” Musk is a lot more like the Duke and the Dauphin than Thomas Alva Edison.

He has received a staggering amount of federal and state largesse. Musk brings feeding at the public trough to an art form, the likes of which would make Huey Long and the “too big to fails” blush in admiration. The AIGs of the world at least had enough pride to ask for and receive billions to rescue them in times of economic collapse as opposed to billions to simply for daily operations.

Elon Musk is the Picasso of Pork; the Handel of the Handout; the Dostoevsky of the Dole. His business empire reportedly has received $5 billion of free government cash in the form of tax relief, freely tradeable environmental credits and actual monetary subsidies and grants — all of which are paid for by the taxpaying public.

Musk is the quintessential crony capitalist, operating for profit while existing at the public weal. Musk’s erstwhile “profits” are derived not from product sales but from revenue streams received from government largesse. Yet he preaches independence. He is of the same cut as Elmer Gantry and his ilk — preaching abstinence and asceticism for the masses while engaging in orgiastic licentious excess, in this case a cash grab of public funds unparalleled in history.

The methodology of Musk is to always be near the political machine. Despite his public renunciations of governmental dependence, Musk cannot exist without the umbilical cord of public funds. He curries political favors by promising politicians jobs and investment in their districts or jurisdictions and makes political contributions directly or through PACs to congressmen from the states that will best serve his purposes and keep the public money pipeline flowing.

The politicians who support the Musk subsidies get an upfront benefit by the initial jobs and plant, and most will be long out of office by the time financial failure arrives and will escape political retribution.

Elon Musk is the celebrated hero of millennials, for reasons that bespeak more the starry-eyed lack of accountability of that group than any bona fide success he can prove. 

Musk stands bathed in the ethereal light of public devotion because he intends to do better for the Planet and the People.

Musk’s fans and devotees are uncritical of his methods and motivations. His intentions are his hallmark and the legions of his doe-eyed fans and apologists grow angry at any criticism of him. Much like the Kardashians (modern-day Gabors who are famous for being famous), Musk is successful because of his success at convincing America he is a success. His fame is fame.

His crowning accomplishment is that he has created a business model that involves public contributions to fuel his for-profit empire. He has therein bested the Church, the Charity and the Con Man, who are also competitors for the public cash gift accompanied by the promise of a better future.

However, the astounding thing is that these public “donations” are not individual gifts given by an unwitting public expecting a tangible or intangible reward or benefit — spiritual, social or otherwise. No, they are delivered by the truckload to Musk and his three companies by city, state and federal governmental entities that clamor to him in belief of his visionary tale of a better world, public acclaim by association — and jobs.

He is masterful at the promise and the dream based upon the promise, yet he has delivered little.

Bet that the taxpaying public will never receive repayment of its munificence and Musk will be more a billionaire if he ever gets to the point where his companies can walk or toddle without government support.

Perverting the free market through governmental funding to make some participants more free and marketable than others has a predictable ending. The taxpayers will get shafted and the government will mumble apologetically as we stumble toward another shiny fool’s gold promise.

Meanwhile, we must all believe. And hope. Trust him! He is trying! That is what SolarCity, SpaceX and Tesla sell — hope divorced from observable metrics and legitimate effort coupled with quantifiable result.

You must believe.

Elon Musk wants you to believe.

Bruce DelValle is a litigator and founding member of the Washington, D.C., constitutional law, commercial and civil litigation firm Fein & DelValle PLLC. He is a native Texan who grew up on the Gulf Coast of Florida. DelValle graduated from Penn State University and worked as a nuclear engineer prior to attending Washington and Lee School of Law.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by the owners of this website.

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