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August 11, 2013

Elon Musk Unveils His Latest Taxpayer Boondoggle

It works like this: 1) He comes up with a big idea. 2) You pay for it. 3) He takes a huge cut. 4) It never becomes economically sustainable.

But that's not the point. The point is putting extremely large amounts of money in Elon Musk's pockets.

Yes, once upon a time Musk started a real business, Paypal, that proved very successful without any government help. That was then, this is now.

Musk has three ventures: Tesla, SpaceX, and SolarCity. All are heavily dependent on government largesse.

Take Tesla for starters. It received the $465 mm loan from DOE, but it also benefits from a $7500/car federal subsidy for electric cars. Moreover, it benefits from the State of California’s Zero Emissions Credit program. In its infinite wisdom, CA mandated that all the major auto companies sell a certain number of zero emissions vehicles. If they don’t they have to buy credits from companies that do make them-namely, Tesla. This was also essential in putting the company in the black in Q1, and the company is sitting on $250 mm worth of these credits.

IOW, Tesla’s profits are courtesy of you, the taxpayer-and also courtesy of the shareholders of Ford (F), GM, Toyota (TM), Honda (HMC), etc.

Next consider SpaceX. This venture provides evidence of Musk’s love for Occupy: he has promised that this private space venture will go to Mars, and wears an Occupy Mars shirt to make the point.

It is also touted as a privately capitalized space venture, which it is, I guess, but it is also almost completely dependent on government contracts. The private money is attracted by the scent of public money. Sorry, but a company that is dependent on NASA’s IV for support is not truly a private company: the company is basically a cutout between the investors and the taxpayers. . . .

Elon Musk has a plan to get rich. It involves you. The taxpayer. You pay taxes. The government gives huge dollops of that money to Elon. Elon gets rich. Who could possibly object? Who could deny Elon’s genius?

His Your latest venture? An ultra-expensive pneumatic subshuttle, like the one in Gene Roddenberry's Genesis II. Check out the article and the video at the link.

Mr Musk will not be patenting the design and it will be “open source”, meaning anyone can modify it, or try to build it.

That's nice of him not to patent a design that was essentially created in 1812. Sure, he wants this one to be a maglev (low friction magnetic levitation with magnets and superconductors) and to go much faster, but still...

It's not exactly a new idea. Recall that IBM couldn't enforce a patent for the personal computer, since it was just a collection of other familiar technologies. But Elon Musk has a big heart, and he will generously make this project open source. Just give him lots of money.

You have to give him credit for one thing: selling grandiose dreams to idiots. Maybe we shouldn't give him the money on this one? If it's such a great idea, we will be doing him a favor. We can let him develop it.

Follow me on Twitter.

Thanks to commenter J.J. Sefton for the Beach link.


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posted by rdbrewer at 11:29 AM

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