We regret to inform you that Elon Musk, literally the richest man in the world, is upset that the rest of you are not producing enough babies.
In remarks the Tesla CEO gave at the Wall Street Journal’s annual CEO Council Monday evening, Musk said he thinks “one of the biggest risks to civilization is the low birth rate, and the rapidly declining birth rate.”
“And yet, so many people, including smart people, think that there are too many people in the world, and think that the population is growing out of control,” Musk continued. “It’s completely the opposite. Please look at the numbers — if people don’t have more children, civilization is going to crumble, mark my words.”
It sure sounds like Musk, himself a father of seven including the robot child he shares with his ex, Grimes, wants you to stop what you’re doing and get to procreating. Regarding his own most recent baby, the noted Father of the Year told the Times shortly after X AE A-Xii’s birth, “Well, babies are just eating and pooping machines, you know? Right now there’s not much I can do. Grimes has a much bigger role than me.”
The Twitter provocateur’s comments on the birth rate this week are raising eyebrows for obvious reasons. They notably sound quite reminiscent of talking points from fascist Italy’s 1927 “Battle for Births” campaign to double the country’s population by 1950, and more recently, the far-right’s “replacement theory,” a white supremacist movement that insists white women aren’t having babies quickly enough.
It’s also a particularly interesting time for Musk to be expressing concern about the birth rate, which is a noted, ol’ reliable panic campaign the anti-abortion movement deploys at least once a year to justify its agenda, at a time when reproductive rights in the US are on the verge of being gutted. Musk is currently moving Tesla to Texas following spats with California’s government over COVID safety rules, and shortly after Texas enacted a near-total abortion ban, Gov. Greg Abbott claimed Musk “consistently tells me he likes the social policies in the state of Texas.”
But aside from how Musk’s population comments feel like a right-wing dog whistle, they’re particularly ironic considering how his company has treated pregnant workers and workers with newborns. In 2019, former Tesla workers came forward and claimed they were fired after getting pregnant and taking child care leave. Musk is also presently making headlines for calling for an end to government subsidies and telling the Senate to reject Biden’s Build Back Better plan, which would offer universal paid leave for families as well as the most significant investments in child care and early education in modern history.
Musk’s comments also come after reports that the pandemic squeezed a significant number of women out of the workforce, mostly to meet child care needs. Calling for more people to have children, like, right now, regardless of the impact on their existing families or careers, is pretty much calling for another mass exodus of mostly women to quit their jobs.
Of course, it’s ultimately not surprising Musk would wax poetic about the decline of civilization without giving any consideration to the wide-ranging economic factors that are driving people’s decisions to delay or abstain from having kids. Gutting government subsidies and the social safety net, as Musk demands, is pretty much a surefire way to dissuade entire generations to not have kids.
But how could we possibly expect this man, of all men, to know what it takes to raise kids? It’s not like he’s ever done it, himself. Telling people to either instantaneously get pregnant and birth 10 babies without paid family leave, child care, or any other help, or shoulder the blame for societal collapse, is convenient logic from a guy who has seven kids he probably sees once a year for 20 minutes.