The world’s richest man won’t struggle to feed and clothe his offspring. The rest of us have to worry about childcare, medical bills, billionaires who don’t want to pay more tax …
Here’s a fun maths problem for you. If each of Elon Musk’s children reproduced at the same rate as their father, and each of Boris Johnson’s children had as many kids as they have siblings, how long would it take for the world to completely run out of resources?
It’s an impossible question to answer, of course: Musk and Johnson are constantly surprising us with new offspring. Last week for example, news broke that Musk fathered two children in 2021 with a top executive at Neuralink, his brain-machine interface company. Those babies were reportedly born just weeks before Musk welcomed his second child (via surrogate) with the singer Grimes. He now has 10 known children; his first child tragically died at the age of 10 weeks.
Everyone is entitled to a private life; a public figure’s young kids shouldn’t normally be anyone’s business. The only reason that I’m bringing up Musk’s, I want to stress, is because the billionaire keeps urging us all to follow his lead and have a big family. Musk has repeatedly said (with little supporting evidence) that declining birth rates are the “biggest danger civilisation faces by far” and positioned his expansive family as a form of hands-on philanthropy. It’s not narcissistic and creepy that he’s having children with his employees, it’s civilisation-saving altruism!
When you’re worth approximately $237bn (£200bn), the cost of supporting your family probably doesn’t keep you up at night. It certainly doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice anything when it comes to your day job; multiple kids are a lot easier to manage when you don’t have to give birth yourself and you can pay other people to look after them. Of course, most of us are not worth $237bn, and the astronomical costs of childcare – not to mention the ridiculous costs of just giving birth in the US – mean that kids have become something of a luxury. Nearly three in five millennials without children say they don’t have them because it is too expensive to raise them, according to a 2020 study.
If Musk really wanted to do something about declining birth rates he might want to think about using his considerable influence to lobby for more family-friendly government policies and a solution to the shocking maternal mortality rate in the US. He might want to think about setting an example and pushing to pay more tax to help support state-subsidised childcare (similar could be said for Johnson, whose only proposed solution to the UK’s childcare crisis was, “more Tumble Tots”). Instead, however, Musk aggressively fights any suggestion that people like him should contribute more in tax. Don’t worry, though, he does have some solutions! When a Twitter user recently asked Musk what he’d say to people who are worried about the cost of having kids, the billionaire replied with the following: “Kids are worth it if at all possible. I’m planning to increase childcare benefits at my companies significantly. Hopefully, other companies do same. Also, Musk Foundation plans to donate directly to families. Hopefully, details to be announced next month.”
Those “hopefullys” are doing a lot of work there. Musk is very good at making grand promises, and then abandoning them. There is even a website dedicated to “Elon’s Broken Promises”. His latest abandoned project, of course, is his grand plan to buy Twitter: he’s the master of pulling out when things become inconvenient for him. Despite his patchy track record, Musk is idolised by a disturbing number of young men and routinely positioned as a visionary who will save humanity. Even Bill Gates, who he has been feuding with lately, has gushed that “we need hundreds of Elon Musks” to combat climate change. Well, Bill, looks like your dream is coming true!