We live in curious times.
The kind of times that bring to the fore both strange new villains and heroes along with unexpected alliances. Consider the curious case of Elon Musk, the outspoken critic of the often draconian lockdown measures many local governments are currently pursuing.
The Tesla founder is among the wealthiest people in the world, ranked #31 by Forbes Magazine with a net worth of approximately $40 billion. At 48 years old, he has the unusual distinction of holding citizenship in three countries (South Africa, The United States where he’s lived most of his life, and Canada), a tri-citizenship that serves as a metaphor for where Musk now finds himself. He is balancing his “citizenship” between the business community, the international “green” activist community and those of us who value limited government and individual liberty.
It’s in that third role that Musk has found himself in a bit of a pickle. In becoming an international spokesperson for positions that someone might more typically associate with the Charlie Kirk-types, he has broken ranks with progressive corporate leaders like Mark Zuckerberg who are all-in on supporting extreme institutional and governmental control.
Musk has become a high-tech, electric car, outer space, deep tunnel version of Thomas Paine. The English-born American patriot who gave us Common Sense and helped inspire a revolution almost 250 years ago now has a 21st century, South African-born American counterpart. Musk has placed himself in a position where people like me, instead of people like AOC, are now reading his tweets while fist-pumping.
And to his credit, he was at it early.
Back on March 6 he went on Twitter to say that the pandemic panic “is dumb.” The progressive-leaning Silicon Valley magazine Recode did a story on him back on March 26 criticizing him for his “dumb” comment as well as for suggesting that “panic is the real enemy.” The closing line of the piece is instructive:
“Musk, like all of us, gets to do the coronavirus his way, but his choices matter more. He can do it irresponsibly, like the spring breakers who partied on the beach in Miami. Or he can do it responsibly. It’s up to him.”
Musk apparently doesn’t read Recode, or if he does he must also be reading Common Sense, because his public nonconformity has only grown louder in the months since. On a late April call with Tesla shareholders, Musk referred to the shelter-in-place orders that have idled his California factory since March 19 as “fascist.” He also said on the same call, “I would call it, ‘forcibly imprisoning people in their homes’ against all their constitutional rights, in my opinion, and breaking people’s freedoms in ways that are horrible and wrong and not why people came to America or built this country. It’s an outrage.”
As recently as this Monday, Musk said he would be willing to risk going to jail for the purpose of re-opening his shuttered California production facility against the decrees of an “unelected & ignorant ‘Interim Health Officer’ of Alameda County.” He has also threatened to move Tesla headquarters out of California to a more freedom-friendly state like Texas, a state he’s praised for its more aggressive reopening strategy.
I disagree with many of the actions and ideas of Elon Musk. For instance, I am not a fan of the subsidies that Tesla has received from various municipalities since its inception, nor I am not a supporter of some of his views on the environment and the need for “green” energy. While historically a hard-to-pin political eccentric, Elon Musk has never been “on my team.” In fact, I know as I type this I am going to be criticized by members of said team for saying anything supportive of what Musk says or tweets.
This is one of problems associated with political orthodoxy. By definition it becomes entrenched and calcified. It becomes “establishment”. If nothing else, establishment types are good at dismissing dissidents like Musk who could otherwise become effective allies in the fight against greater enemies.
While Musk certainly returns the favor and disagrees with me in many respects, when it comes to civil liberties, bold entrepreneurism, disruptive innovation, and most importantly, faith in the American system, we couldn’t agree more. In fact, by speaking out, Elon Musk is standing athwart history and yelling “Stop,” placing himself at personal and professional risk.
In other words, he is embracing the revolutionary spirit that made America, America.
Join me in thanking Elon Musk for embodying the American Spirit. I have no expectation of his adopting my policy positions on every issue, nor do I plan on adopting his. Perhaps my appreciation will end with the crisis. But it is in these strange times of politicians and business leaders using the pandemic to take away our freedoms, we need to join together with anyone and everyone who is willing to fight back against the tyrannical mob.
Charlie Kirk is founder and president of Turning Point USA, the author of the New York Times bestseller The MAGA Doctrine: The Only Ideas That Will Win the Future, and host of The Charlie Kirk Show