Elon Musk wants everyone to have big families like him – but who’s going to pay for it? | Arwa Mahdawi

HHere is a fun math 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 children as siblings, how long would it take for the world’s resources to be completely exhausted?

Of course, that’s an impossible question to answer: Musk and Johnson keep surprising us with new offspring. Last week, for example, it was revealed 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 a surrogate) with singer Grimes. He now has 10 known children; his first child tragically died at 10 weeks of age.

Everyone is entitled to a private life; The young children of a public figure shouldn’t normally be anyone’s business. I want to emphasize that I’m only addressing Musk because the billionaire keeps urging us all to follow his lead have a big family. Musk has repeatedly said (with little supporting evidence) that declining birth rates are “By far the greatest threat to civilization” and positioned his expansive family as a form of practical philanthropy. It’s not narcissistic and creepy that he’s having kids with his employees, it’s civilization-saving altruism!

If you’re worth around $237 billion (£200 billion), the cost of supporting your family probably isn’t keeping you up at night. Of course, that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice anything in your job; Multiple children are much easier to manage when you don’t have to give birth yourself and can pay other people to take care of them. Of course, most of us aren’t worth $237 billion, and the astronomical cost of childcare — not to mention the ridiculous cost of giving birth in the US — means having children has become something of a luxury. According to a 2020 study, nearly three in five millennials without children say they don’t have children because it’s too expensive to raise them.

If Musk really wanted to do something about declining birth rates, perhaps he should consider using his considerable influence to advocate for more family-friendly government policies and a solution to the US’ shocking maternal mortality rate. Perhaps he would like to consider leading by example and paying more taxes to support government-subsidized childcare (a similar statement could be made for Johnson, whose only proposed solution to Britain’s childcare crisis was “more tumble tots”). Instead, Musk aggressively opposes any suggestion that people like him should pay more taxes. But don’t worry, he has some solutions! When Musk was recently asked by a Twitter user what he would say to people concerned about the cost of having children, the billionaire responded with the following: “Children are worth it, if at all possible. I plan to significantly increase the childcare allowance in my company. Hopefully other companies will too. The Musk Foundation also plans to donate directly to families. Hopefully details will be announced next month.”

Those “hopefully” are doing a lot of work there. Musk is very good at making big promises and then dropping them. There’s even a website dedicated to Elon’s Broken Promises. His last abandoned project, of course, is his grand plan to buy Twitter: he’s a master at retiring when things get uncomfortable for him. Despite his patchy track record, Musk is idolized by a worrying number of young men and is regularly positioned as a visionary who will save humanity. Even Bill Gates, with whom he has recently been at odds, has gushed that “we need hundreds of Elon Musks” to fight climate change. Well Bill, looks like your dream is about to come true!

This article was modified on July 12, 2022. Musk has 10 known children, not nine as stated in a previous version.

Arwa Mahdawi is a columnist for The Guardian

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