Elon Musk has faced fierce backlash over his billionaire status for years. The business mogul defended his wealth in a new interview with Chris Andersonthe head of TED.
Musk, 50, was recently listed as the richest person in the world by Forbes, with an estimated $300 billion net worth. He accumulated his wealth by being the CEO and single largest individual holder of Tesla and also founding SpaceX. The listing by Forbes only further fanned the flames of critics who feel like a world with billionaires is an unethical one.
Elon Musk Told Chris Anderson That He ‘Works as Hard as Possible’ in a New Interview In Which He Defends His Incredible Wealth.
Musk first addressed the latest from Forbes which lists him as having more wealth than Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos and Microsoft’s co-founder Bill Gates.
“Elon, you are reported by Forbes and everyone else as now the world’s richest person,” Anderson began.
“That’s not a sovereign,” Musk responded. “You know, I think it’s fair to say that if somebody is the king or de facto king of a country, they’re wealthier than I am.”
“But it’s just harder to measure,” Anderson said. “So $300 billion. I mean, your net worth on any given day is rising or falling by several billion dollars. How insane is that?”
“It’s bonkers, yeah,” Musk replied before explaining how he deals with the pressure “psychologically.”
“I actually don’t think about that too much,” he shared. “The thing that is actually more difficult and that does make sleeping difficult is every good hour, or even minute, of thinking about Tesla and SpaceX has such a big effect on the company.”
“I really try to work as hard as possible to, you know, stay on the edge of sanity, basically,” he explained. “Because Tesla’s getting to the point where […] every high-quality minute of thinking [has] a million-dollar impact.”
Then, Anderson turns to the well of criticism for Musk and his billionaire status. Critics claim that it’s not right for one man to own such immense wealth while homelessness and poverty skyrocket both domestically and abroad.
“There are many other people out there who can’t stand this world of billionaires,” Anderson said. “They are hugely offended by the notion that an individual can have the same wealth as, say, a billion or more of the world’s poorest people.”
“I think there’s some axiomatic flaws that are leading them to that conclusion,” Musk said. “For sure, it would be very problematic if I was consuming billions of dollars a year in personal consumption. But that is not the case,” he shared before revealing that he currently doesn’t own a home.
“In fact, I don’t even own a home right now,” he said. “I’m literally staying at friends’ places — if I travel to the Bay Area, which is where most of Tesla engineering is, I basically rotate through friends’ spare bedrooms.”
“I don’t have a yacht, I really don’t take vacations, so it’s not as though my personal consumption is high,” he said, speaking to people’s assumptions over his spending. “I mean, the one exception is a plane, but if I don’t use the plane, then I have less hours to work.”
Musk does know that this is his choice, right? To be clear, most homeless people would secure a place to live if they had the resources. Perhaps Musk is the one with the “axiomatic flaws.” Regardless, Anderson did not push back too hard on Musk about this in the interview.
The Tesla founder further attempted to defend his wealth by stating that his companies are “philanthropic” endeavors saying, “If you say philanthropy is love of humanity, they are philanthropy.”
“Tesla is accelerating sustainable energy,” he said of the company’s goal to make the world cleaner. “This is a love of philanthropy. SpaceX is trying to ensure the long-term survival of humanity with a multiple-planet species. That is a love of humanity.”
“Neuralink is trying to help solve brain injuries and existential risk with AI. Love of humanity. The Boring Company is trying to solve traffic, which is hell for most people — and that is also love of humanity,” he said of his other ventures.
While Musk might have some lofty goals for his companies, the promises from each have thus far fallen short. Most Tesla vehicles remain out of price range for a majority of Americans and the company is currently under investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for dozens of crashes involving the company’s self-driving cars.
The promise of cheap electric cars with traffic solutions provided by Musk’s The Boring company has yet to materialize.
Again, Anderson declined to challenge Musk’s “my businesses are philanthropic” argument and instead turned again to ask Musk about criticism of the billionaire class.
How upsetting is it to you to hear this constant drumbeat of, ‘Billionaires, my god. Elon Musk, oh my god.’ Do you just shrug that off, or does it actually hurt?” he asked.
“I mean, at this point, it’s water off a duck’s back,” Musk replied.
The interview follows a very controversial one from Musk’s on-again, off-again girlfriend, Grimes, who he shares two children with. In the interview with Vanity FairGrimes stated that Musk lives “below the poverty line.”
She also said that Musk “wouldn’t even get a new mattress,” when they were together despite the mattress having a hole in it. She offered this as proof that “Bro does not live like a billionaire.”
“Bro lives at times below the poverty line. To the point where I was like, can we not live in a very insecure $40,000 house? Where the neighbors, like, film us, and there’s no security, and I’m eating peanut butter for eight days in a row?” she also revealed.
RELATED: Elon Musk and Grimes Have Welcomed Their Second Child Together, You’ll Never Guess What Her Name Is…
Is anyone going to break the news to Grimes that being cheap is not the same thing as being in poverty oh my God https://t.co/lAJWwzawnd pic.twitter.com/tXjY0yw62S
— Britt (@britbrittbree) March 10, 2022
Naturally, the musician received fierce backlash online. “Is anyone going to break the news to Grimes that being cheap is not the same thing as being in poverty oh my God,” one person Tweeted.
“When you have no real understanding of poverty it’s easy to conflate the two,” another Twitter user replied. “Cheap involves choice, poverty does not.”
We think it’s safe to assume that Musk did not put any of his detractors’ criticisms to bed in the interview.
Andrew is a Chicago-based writer who enjoys finding the best of the internet, obsessively making lists, and cooking for friends. After studying Film and Art History, he developed a deep love for both topics. Celebrity news, pop culture, and stories that bring people together are his passions.
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