Elon Musk and the Fall of Institutions

Last week Elon Musk shook the world of crypto and investing by announcing that Tesla would no longer accept Bitcoin. In terms of coverage and newsworthiness, this matched even stories about Biden in significance. Consequently, Bitcoin and Tesla fell, and this prompted debate and talk about Elon Musk having too much influence, and how much longer Elon Musk will remain as influential as he is. Will he fade, or will his star keep rising.

My answer and prediction is, Elon Musk has much more staying power. His Twitter account is the biggest and most relevant and closely followed of anyone alive now, even more so than Biden, and more so than it has ever been.

But the most influential person alive? Yes. Consider some other contenders and why they fall short:

Biden: the senile codger does not compose his own tweets, and his engagement is only 20% that of Musk or pre-suspended Trump. Biden does technically have more power than Musk, but this is through the executive branch and his handlers, than Biden’s own volition. Even many liberals will probably concede that Biden is not in charge, much like how in 2001-2004 Cheney was the de-facto president.

The Federal Reserve: the Fed is very predictable, with plans to keep interest rates at zero for a long time and or raise them very, very slowly. So although the Fed has power, it is very cautious and predictable.

The Pope and the Catholic Church: the Church has not been in the news except for scandals, the coronation of new popes, or people seeing the likeness of the Virgin Mary or Jesus on toast or other food items. Same for the Church of England and the Archbishop of Canterbury, which long ceased being any sort of moral authority.

The U.K. Monarchy: Same as above. Only newsworthy when someone dies, has a child, or gets married. It took 400 years after the rein of Queen Elizabeth 1 for the monarchy to be turned into effectively a giant reality TV show.

Bill Gates: He could have been the next Musk. But the public life of America’s foremost unelected pretend doctor has come to its ignominious denouement. His image in tatters, he’s done. Covid was his one and only shot at achieving the sort of influence that could transcend Microsoft, and he blew it.

If you think Elon Musk is a big deal now, wait until Tesla stock gets above $1,000, or if bitcoin goes to $100k , or if there is another crisis/pandemic, or a mars or moon Space-x mission, etc…Not saying that any of these will happen, but if they do, Elon Musk will only see his popularity and influence grow, similar to how in early 2020 his controversial remarks about the pandemic would see him go from just merely being a popular person/celebrity, to being on par with Donald Trump as one of the most widely followed and debated public figures alive. And then also in early 2021 during the GameStop/WallStreetBets saga, which made him even bigger still.

He is only limited by the fact he cannot run for president. But he can be the de-facto ‘president of the world,’ someone who like Jordan Peterson is very influential and widely followed despite not holding any office, nor being a celebrity in a traditional sense. Even A-list actors have considerably less influence than someone like Musk or even Dr. Peterson. When was the last time anyone cared what Tom Cruise had to say if it does not involve Scientology? Or Ben Affleck, except getting bulldozed by Bill Maher and Sam Harris.

The popularity of Elon Musk, Jordan Peterson, and Joe Rogan, who are at intersection of politics and the media yet independent from them, mirrors the decline of confidence by the public in America’s elected officials, policy makers, and cultural and government institutions. People respect Musk because he gets things done; Rogan for his candor and ability to say what cannot be said but is otherwise obvious; and Dr. Peterson for his resolve in not caving to the far-left. These career politicians do not inspire greatness or confidence, doing the minimum to be reelected and seeking short-term solutions to long-standing problems. Recent examples include Ted Cruz and his Cancun vacation, Gavin Newson for defying his own social distancing orders, or congressional insider trading allegations. Same for religious institutions, afflicted by scandal and perceived hypocrisy, are shrinking in relevance and importance and seeing attendance dwindle.

So what can be done? Idealism is unfortunately a dead-end. Just as the left seeks invert the past, conservatives are trying to revive an idealization of the past that, short of a major crisis or other improbable event, is unobtainable. Capitalism and short-term thinking, in spite of criticism, succeed because they deliver what idealism cannot: quantifiable results and status. Even great institutions cannot compete with individualistic self-interest. What would be worse news: your home being robbed or your church being robbed. Most people would say their home being robbed is worse, or at least would be much concerned about their own property than the property of the church. This is completely rational: the church, being an institution, can cover the loss, and the loss is distributed among many parishioners instead of a single individual. What if, instead of church, it was the government itself being looted over and over. Institutions by having to compete with human nature are doomed to fall short.

1 comment

  1. I agree that the left and right don’t seem to be on track to correct things. However, I strongly object to your characterization that idealism is mere romanticism of the past. Ideals can also be horrific. Like Artemis turning Actaeon into a stag whereupon he was torn apart by his own dogs. He just happened to walk into her presence while she was bathing! (But, he was also involved with “gore.”) Most myths are archetypes, possibly an accretion of dozens of stories over hundreds or thousands of years that contain hard-won wisdom. The Artemis/Actaeon story warns against defilement of innocence. Epstein, and now Gates, had reached the pinnacle but have fallen and will fall further. Musk has been able, so far, to avoid offending the gods. Hubris, or overweening pride, however, invites Nemesis. I don’t know enough about Musk to make a judgment. He was married and had five kids. Ditched his wife and took up with a babe half his age. We’ll see. Not saying he’s defiling innocence. Certainly Grimes wasn’t innocent. But, women can take down any man. My rule of thumb is that every man is allowed one vice. If you defile a god and happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time very bad things can happen.

    Now, Trump also had female problems but he apparently had no other vices and was able, so far, to escape Nemesis. Musk, on the other hand, smokes pot and he may have other problems associated with that.

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