Open letter to philanthropists - if you want to help, put some thought into it

18 Oct 2018





Appreciation for the good intentions of the rich and influential. But Elon Musk's latest move is yet another example of how their ignorance will none the less still accelerate humanity's demise. Why?


Musk's proposition is to remedy complex problems (e.g. unprecedented concentration of wealth in the hands of a few while the rest have little or none for the necessities to live at all, let alone live with dignity) with more complexity - i.e. a Bitcoin trading system reliant on a highly complicated algorithmic platform that they assume (1) will operate with a high degree of functionality and integrity, and (2) the precariat and poor people in the world can access (what's the plan to ensure people who can't even afford food can yet afford a computer to access the Bitcoin trading world? What if they live in such isolated rural areas, and/ or their country is so poor that the communications infrastructure isn't even available to them even if they had a computer? A couple of minor but important details which will just create new inequities if they're not resolved. But I digress...). But if there's anything we ought to know, it's that all computerised systems are ultimately vulnerable to risk, both foreseeable (e.g. hacking, a severe climate crisis-related weather event that could significantly compromise or totally disable the whole Bitcoin network) or unforeseeable.


No, there's a more elegant and obvious solution. Get Governments to, with all due haste, return to printing their own money and allocating it to the precariat and poor people, and towards projects that will produce outcomes that really matter - like clean water for all, nutritious food for all, healthy homes. You know: all that inalienable human rights stuff which apparently Governments have signed up to? Yea. That.


My rant may sound unfairly aimed at Elon, because Elon's achieved some great things. However, please understand: I acknowledge the good Elon’s done. But it’s not enough to simply acknowledge the nominal “positives”.  For any critical analysis one must look at the net benefit from a systemic standpoint, i.e. both the positives and the negatives. Elon could put all his influence and money behind campaigning for Sovereign money, for example. He has enough public notoriety and reputational currency to do that. But he doesn’t.  He goes for the sexy ‘financial tech’ option.  It’s beyond frustrating. But there are thousands of ‘Elons’ out there.  You know the ones: the ‘usual suspects’ of multi-millionaires and billionaires. They could make a real difference right now, but all they do is optimise the same old failed spaces and failed constructs. 


I am so tired of all these super rich and powerful people, making their own choices around what to do with the money they accumulate – money which (may I remind everyone) was only made possible with the environmental, social, cultural, economic and political ‘infrastructure’ of civil society to which we all belong and have a right to benefit equitably from. Why are we all so justifiably entitled? Because either we’ve paid our taxes, or we’ve sacrificed our contribution to that society (whether in voluntary work or in paid employment), or modern society is still indebted to us as Indigenous Peoples whose wealth was forcibly (and in many cases brutally) taken and transferred to the colonizer, or as per the understanding that the inherent human right to live a dignified life is predicated on an equitable distribution of wealth (including sharing all necessary resources in ‘the commons’ to realize the same). 

Hey: good on you rich (mostly white male) people for being able to optimise the dominant capitalistic economic operating system for your own personal benefit first and foremost. But, the brutal truth, when you really think about it, remains: all these rich people making unilateral decisions about how to spend all ‘their’ money is at best highly undemocratic and at worst (when their decisions are based in ignorance) stupendously dangerous to everyone else’s well-being. And, at a time when humanity as a species is staring down the barrel of climate crisis extinction…I feel just a tad justified in shouting out my utter fury about it.



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