It’s not quite a permanently inhabited Martian colony, but something with a much warmer climate: a suburban development in Texas. The world’s richest man once again, Musk has reportedly purchased thousands of acres of land in Bastrop County, a rapidly suburbanizing area southeast of Austin. Executives at several of Musk’s companies—Tesla, SpaceX and the Boring Company—had long wanted to build below-market-rate housing for their employees adjacent to their Texas corporate campuses, the Wall Street Journal reports.
A kind of giant live-work community is perhaps a logical extension of the mindset of a CEO who slept on his own factory floor—and, controversially, hauled mattresses into Twitter’s offices for engineers to get some shut-eye before going back to work. But in light of Musk’s gradual transformation from media-savvy entrepreneur to Dilbert-supporting online supervillain, such a futurist project carries a strong whiff of dystopianism and social control.
Factoring in Tesla’s penchant for failing to live up to its bold promises, such a project also has the potential to flame out like the Fyre Festival. In that vein, Musk reportedly consulted two musicians he’s been close to, Kanye West and his ex-partner Grimes, to weigh in on the idea.
Elonville also comes barely a week after former President Donald Trump proposed 10 Orwellian-sounding “Freedom Cities” that would compete directly with Chinese manufacturing hubs and offer bonuses to people who have large families. Additionally, online commenters have pointed out that the government of Saudi Arabia is also constructing cities from scratch in the desert. Saudi Prince Alwaleed is Twitter’s second-largest investor.
Musk has long made his love of Texas and his antipathy toward San Francisco known. Prior to purchasing Twitter last year, he mused that its half-empty Market Street headquarters might be repurposed as a shelter for the unhoused. Although its Fremont facility continues to churn out Model S and Model Y vehicles, Tesla relocated its HQ to the Lone Star State in 2021.
In a sense, company towns are nothing new. Hershey, Pennsylvania, was founded around chocolate, and Lake Buena Vista, Florida, is controlled by Disney.
Curiously, Musk’s rocket company SpaceX already has a town of its own in Texas. Boca Chica is a small, unincorporated area near the Mexican border that in 2021 was designated as the future site of a city and spaceport called Starbase. Development appears to be moving slowly, if at all.
Astrid Kane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org