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What else could Elon Musk buy for $43 billion?

Literally anything else

Photo by Sean O’Kane / The Verge

This morning, Elon Musk, the current wealthiest man in the world, offered to buy Twitter outright for $43 billion and take the company private. That is quite a lot of money to spend on a company that allows users to post their thoughts in 280-character increments.

The shocking move had many at The Verge wondering: what else could Musk spend $43 billion on? We thought we could provide some options in case Twitter’s board decides they don’t like the offer.

Return to the Moon

Elon’s biggest dream is to start a settlement on Mars, but first, he is eager to construct a base on the surface of the Moon. “If you want to get the public real fired up, we got to have a base on the Moon,” Musk said in 2017. “That’d be pretty cool.” He’s reiterated that sentiment multiple times since then.

Turns out, $43 billion would go quite a long way to getting people on the Moon. In fact, NASA is currently trying to send humans back to the Moon with its Artemis program — and Musk’s SpaceX is getting big bucks from NASA to participate. Back when the program was first created in 2019, then NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine estimated NASA would need an extra $20 to $30 billion to fund the agency’s return to the Moon through the first landing. And one government audit anticipates NASA will spend $93 billion on Artemis between 2012 and 2025.

Musk could pour $43 billion into SpaceX’s own quest to send people to the Moon, which may or may not send the effort into overdrive and could even beat NASA to putting people on the lunar surface. Or he could use that money to get a jumpstart on all the other things he needs for his deep-space ventures, like habitats, lunar space suits, and infrastructure. But instead, SpaceX continues to bid on NASA contracts to help partially fund the development of its new Starship vehicle, designed to take people to the Moon and deeper into space. Last year, NASA gave SpaceX a contract worth $2.9 billion to help SpaceX develop Starship as a lunar lander for the Artemis program. Musk could have easily paid that contract nearly 15 times over, and even his rival, Jeff Bezos, offered to build a competing lunar lander for NASA for free. But I guess it does make sense not to spend your own money when the government will eat some of the cost for you. — Loren Grush

Help solve world hunger

The most infuriating thing about Elon’s offer is Twitter is not broken. It’s a cursed hellsite, sure, but that’s kind of Twitter’s entire schtick. There are, however, several institutional problems plaguing this country (and the world) that $43 billion could go a long, long way to solving. For instance, after one of his own tweets, the United Nations’ World Food Programme detailed a plan where Elon could support 42 million people facing famine by giving them one meal per person per day for a year. The cost of that plan? $6.6 billion. So, ostensibly, $43 billion could go a hell of a lot further. Elon did end up donating $5.7 billion to charity in November, but the UNWFP reportedly didn’t see a part of that check.

But okay, maybe Elon doesn’t want to do this very real tangible thing that’s already been laid out for him in detail. There are plenty of other institutional problems he could throw money at that would have a demonstrable impact on people’s lives. (See Antonio’s suggestion below!) Buying Twitter will just give the rest of us more brain worms than we already have. — Victoria Song

Buy a struggling media company to support journalism

Back in 2013, the previous title-holder of “Richest Man in the World” Jeff Bezos spent $250 million to buy The Washington Post to support the free press. Laurene Powell Jobs, another billionaire thanks to tech, spent a reported $100 million and now owns a majority stake in The Atlantic. Are these vanity purchases partially meant to support their egos? Probably! But they also undoubtedly protected age-old institutions of journalism that might have otherwise been crushed by ad duopolies and the troubling economics of running a media business in the modern age. The $43 billion Elon wants to spend on Twitter could go a lot further if spent on a media company or two, and it would do a much better job of backing up his claim of being a champion of free speech than putting Trump back on a platform he didn’t add much to in the first place. — Alex Cranz

Literally build bridges

According to the 2021 Bridge Conditions Report by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, one in three US bridges are in need of repair or replacement. Don’t just think about the big touristy ones like the George Washington Bridge or Golden Gate. Think about the little ones you drive, bike, or walk over every day in your local area — like the Fern Hollow Bridge that recently collapsed in Pittsburgh. The cost to repair and replace all these failing bridges? About $42 billion.

Elon’s money could get all these bridges across the country in order and still have another billion dollars left over to do with what he pleases — all the while leaving Twitter to just keep on being Twitter. Only about 217 million people worldwide are daily Twitter users. By comparison, there are about 329 million people in the US — plenty of whom use bridges!

We all know the USA’s infrastructure is a joke compared to other developed nations (Infrastructure week, anyone?). If you’ve ever driven on a road in Germany, you instantly know the difference. But if money like that can just be thrown around by the richest man in the world, why shouldn’t it be on things that actually help people and can save lives? I’d even be okay with him renaming a bunch of bridges S3XY, 420blazeit, Model B for Bridge, Bridgey McBridgeface, or whatever else he can think of. — Antonio G. Di Benedetto

Pay for an actual Tesla PR team

Tesla’s public relations team is infamously nonexistent. It consists of Elon Musk. While most automotive and tech-adjacent companies have dozens, if not hundreds, of PR experts on payroll to respond to press inquiries and to help position the company on its best footing each and every day, Tesla is completely lacking in this area.

Elon Musk is charismatic, depending on your tolerance for shitposting, but he doesn’t represent everyone who works at Tesla. Not even a PR team can really do that, but what it can do is communicate more effectively with sites like ours at The Verge. The best news for Elon is that establishing one probably won’t cost even one of those $43 billion. — Cameron Faulkner

Fund a real transportation project

Elon Musk is a person who purports to care a lot about transportation. He owns a car company and a tunnel digging venture that aims to alleviate road congestion by building a network of underground car tubes. Neither of these projects — Tesla and The Boring Company — would actually fix the litany of transportation problems that exist around the world, like crumbling infrastructure or the decline of public transportation. Cars make traffic worse, and digging tunnels for more cars would actually just shift most of our problems underground.

So instead of spending $43 billion or whatever ungodly sum he’s considering to buy Twitter, Musk could pump some or all of that money into making a real difference in the world. Like reducing carbon emissions by making it easier for people to find and use public transportation.

Over a 10-year period in the US, 19 percent of transit vehicles and 6 percent of fixed guideway elements like tracks and tunnels were rated in “poor” condition. Currently, there is a $176 billion transit backlog, a deficit that is expected to grow to more than $270 billion through 2029. Musk could reduce that amount by at least a third with the money he’s using to buy the bird website.

Taking a bus or a subway, instead of driving a car (even an electric one), is one of the most effective actions a person can take to conserve energy and reduce climate-destroying carbon emissions. Musk is a very wealthy person who could make a serious impact on our survivability as a species if he invested his money wisely, instead of doing whatever nonsense he’s thinking of with Twitter. — Andrew J. Hawkins