Elon Musk on Income Inequality, Cryptocurrency and His Tweets: Excerpts From the 2021 Person of the Year Interview

Elon Musk, TIME’s 2021 Person of the Year, already has a reach that extends beyond Earth. The controversial billionaire, who helms both Tesla and SpaceX, has plans for what he calls “a futuristic Noah’s ark.”

But that doesn’t mean he’s focused solely on the interplanetary. Musk talked to TIME about his wealth, SpaceX, SpaceX, and his latest relationship with Grimes during a TIME interview in Boca Chica Texas on December 3.

TIME’s Kluger, left, interviews Musk; two Starships loom in the background

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Here are excerpts from Musk’s interview, edited for clarity.

On beingThe richest person on the planet

“Well, “I think there’s like some, you know, sovereigns. I think [Russia’s]Putin is significantly wealther than I. I can’t invade countries and stuff.”

The income inequalities

“When looking at income and asset distribution, it is very important to normalize that for age. As societies get older, more people are getting older. The richer someone is, the better. But a lot of the push for higher government involvement and expropriation of assets by the government is pushed by a bunch of politicians who are actually saying that resources shouldn’t be in control of private individuals. They should be in control of the government.”

Being a “utopian anarchist”

“If there’s a utopia where people have access to any goods or services that they want, there’s plenty for everyone. A highly automated future will have robots capable of doing anything. Any work that you do, it won’t be due to anyone. I don’t mean to suggest chaos, but rather that you’re not under anyone’s thumb.”

Tesla’s valuation

“I’ve tried to just tamp down expectations, saying I think the stock’s maybe too high. Current valuation is pretty high, which suggests that the market has faith in future execution of the company because it’s certainly not based on historical profitability, that’s for sure.”

There is fierce competition in electric-vehicle markets

“If somebody makes better cars than we do and they then sell more cars than we do, I think that’s totally fine. Our intent with Tesla was always that we would serve as an example to the car industry and hope that they also make electric cars, so that we can accelerate the transition to sustainable energy.”

Mark Zuckerberg’s leadership

“I’m more concerned about the fact that Facebook, now Meta, has an equity structure that makes it such that his great-great-­grandchildren will still control the company. Share structures that give super-voting rights should be removed.”

SpaceX is overconfident

“If we have ships and boosters but no engines, we would be losing billions of dollars a quarter. If this continued, bankruptcy wouldn’t be an option. I feel as though we’ve had many years of success and a lot of people at the company have never seen a launch failure. Most people never experienced a recession in their careers. After 2009, things seemed to be going up for those who joined the workforce. I was concerned that we may be getting complacent.”


“I’m not a huge hater of fiat currency like many in the crypto­world are. Crypto has some benefits over fiat, in the sense that any government can dilute fiat currency. This can end up becoming a tax that is harmful to people especially if they have money savings. Because I was a key part in the creation of PayPal, I can go on for hours about money’s nature. Few people can truly grasp this. [the money system] better than me.”

These are his tweets

“I’m not really trying to do brand optimization. Sometimes I accidentally shoot myself in self-defense. As is obvious from my tweets, they’re humor that I find funny, but not many other people find funny.”

Love and his relationship to musician Grimes

“Grimes and I are, I’d say, probably semi-separated. She is more mobile because of her work than I am due to my job. So we weren’t seeing each other that much, because what she needs to do is mostly in L.A. or touring, and my work is mostly in remote locations like this. I’m human and all; I’m not a robot, but this place is basically a techno monastery.”


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