Is it Elon Musk's responsibility to give WFP $6 billion to help solve world hunger?


Fact Box

  • Elon Musk is a South-African-born American entrepreneur who founded SpaceX in 2002 and became a prime funder of Tesla Motors in 2004. 
  • Musk stated he would sell $6 billion of Tesla stock and donate the money to the UN’s World Food Programme “if WFP can describe on this Twitter thread exactly how $6B will solve world hunger.”
  • In an interview with CNN on Connect the World, WFP director David Beasley challenged Musk to “step up now, on a one-time basis” to help solve world hunger. Beasley mentioned, “$6 billion will not solve world hunger, but it WILL prevent geopolitical instability, mass migration and save 42 million people on the brink of starvation.”
  • Elon Musk is the richest man in the world with a total net worth of $335 billion as of November 1, 2021. Jeff Bezos runs in second place at $193 billion, and Bernard Arnault at $169 billion. 
  • A report published in the middle of 2020 by the United Nations recorded that “almost 690 million people went hungry in 2019” which has increased by 60 million within five years.

Jimmy (Yes) 

The UN estimates 957 million people do not have adequate amounts of food, with 239 million requiring 'life-saving humanitarian action…this year.' As UN Food Programme Director David Beasley pointed out, this is a crisis that Elon Musk and other billionaires are well-positioned to fix. Musk alone has a net worth amounting to the GDP of Ethiopia, Puerto Rico, and Ecuador combined. According to Beasley, $6 billion in aid from Musk could 'solve world hunger' and only account for 2% of his total wealth.

Responding to a potential billionaire tax, Musk paraphrased Margaret Thatcher on Twitter: 'Eventually, they run out of other people's money, and then they come for you.' Like Musk, Thatcher was a proponent of supply-side, trickle-down economics. But this system of benefiting the rich to bolster society only works in theory. In practice, it has been shown to only favor the wealthy—increasing disparity between rich and poor. This disparity fuels poverty and hunger.

Ironically, Musk has used government credits and incentives to build Tesla while he some years didn't pay a single dollar in federal income taxes. Elon Musk takes advantage of his position as a respected business leader to frown upon personal responsibility, but he isn't making intellectually based, good-faith arguments for his inaction. He merely espouses the smokescreen ideology of a billionaire. In reality, he's a union buster that would rather conquer space and maximize profits than help the earth or its inhabitants. It's right to expect the wealthy to give back to the planet by helping to fix the issues their very wealth has created.

Veronica (No)

Elon Musk’s fortune belongs to him, and he doesn’t have to give any of it to anyone (except for taxes). In the same way, winning the lottery or making a killing in stocks does not obligate someone to share the earnings with family or give some portion to a local charity. If one does decide to give away some of their money, it is also up to them to decide where it goes. Musk donated $150 million earlier this year to various charities and gave away another $50 million to St. Jude after a successful SpaceX flight. Through his charitable foundation, Musk has advanced causes such as renewable energy, electric vehicles, space flight and exploration, and medical research. He shouldn’t be obligated to take on another cause for the WFP. There are plenty of noble causes out there, and it’s not the responsibility of Musk or Gates or Soros to support every single one. 

Throwing money at the problem of hunger won’t necessarily fix it in the long term. The WFP raised over 8 billion each year in 2020 and 2019 and says it needs some 15 billion total in 2021 and urgently needs 6.6 billion. This urgent 6 billion amount that could come from Musk would only temporarily help those most in need but not actually solve world hunger. The WFP also said it needed an additional 6 billion at the end of last year and in 2018. So they chronically do not receive enough in donations to meet current needs, but to actually solve world hunger would likely take an amount larger than even Musk’s fortune.

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