Elon Musk, Bill Gates… “We have to imagine ways to control the propensity of billionaires to replace states”

IThey think they are the masters of the world, but no one has chosen them. They are not dictators and they beg us to call them “benefactors”. From Carnegie to the Rockefellers, the weight of the great American philanthropists is nothing new. But their 21st century successorse century have global, even interplanetary ambitions, and do not bother with morality. Above all, they deploy their power in a world delivered to the power of social networks, where democratic states and international organizations are weakened.

The most problematic is also the richest on the planet: Elon Musk is not content to be the boss of Tesla, whose valuation exceeds that of all the other car manufacturers combined, and to lead SpaceX, an essential partner of the Pentagon and The NASA. The man with a fortune estimated at 220 billion dollars (that is as much in euros) according to the magazine Forbes prides itself on geopolitics, and it has the means. Connected to more than 2,200 satellites in its Starlink network, the 25,000 terminals it delivered free of charge to Ukraine provide civil and military communications in the country’s devastated infrastructure. They make it possible both to guide missiles towards Russian targets and to keep hospitals and banks in operation. But the versatility of the benefactor of Ukraine, his possible double game make people shudder.

In mid-October, the 51-year-old billionaire publicly waved the idea that he might stop funding Starlink in Ukraine, before changing his mind and boasting about it. “Happy to help Ukraine”, he launched on Twitter, a network which he finally bought on Thursday, October 27, for 44 billion dollars. Previously, he had angered Volodymyr Zelensky – and no doubt delighted Vladimir Putin – by championing his own “peace plan” that included the Ukrainians handing over Crimea to Russia.

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The geopolitical whims and conflicts of interest of Elon Musk – he proposed to attach Taiwan to China, the country where Tesla has a factory – worry even the American authorities. As well as the presence of foreign investors in its takeover bid for Twitter. The billionaire’s plans for the blue bird social network where he has 110 million subscribers, and whose moderation procedures he wants to weaken to better ” release “ expression, puzzle. Between the libertarian conceptions – maximum individual freedoms, minimum state – of Elon Musk and the international responsibilities that his success gives him de facto, allowing him to short-circuit American diplomacy, the clash is inevitable.

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