Compared to Whom? Stephens’ Diatribe About Musk

Bret Stephens’ May 25th article in the N.Y. Times comparing Elon Musk to Donald Trump was the most reprehensible attack yet, claiming they are both tweeters, both con artists who are hawking seriously flawed products and both are supported by a dim witted base of fanatics. This comparison of Musk to Trump calls for a comparison of Stephens to Musk:

  1. Stephens is the son of a former vice president of a Mexican corporation and attended boarding school in Massachusetts. Musk grew up relatively poor in South Africa and taught himself computer programming at age 12.
  2. Stephens studied political philosophy at the University of Chicago and comparative politics at the London School of Economics, hmmm, why not economics? Musk simultaneously received an economics degree and a degree in physics from the University of Pennsylvania.

What they did with their education:

Stephens, according to Wikipedia, won a Pulitzer prize for being a “prominent voice” among the media advocates for the start of the 2003 Iraq War, for instance writing in a 2002 column that, unless checked, Iraq was likely to become the first nuclear power in the Arab world. Although the weapons of mass destruction used as a casus belli were never shown to exist, Stephens continued to insist on it as late as 2013.”

Musk dropped out of a PhD program in physics to start an electronic banking company that all the big banks said would fail because there was no demand for such a service…it became PayPal and earned Musk $22 million. He invested it all in a rocket company that he said would take off and land at the same site instead of splashing in the ocean. His competitors, NASA, Lockheed and McDonald said it couldn’t be done…he did it. He started an electric car company that all his competitors said would fail because there was no demand…now they are all making electric cars.

Who do you think should be praised, the man who got a Pulitzer Prize for being wrong about the Iraq war or the man who started a revolution in the automobile industry? Who should be criticized, the man who risked all his wealth and used his skill to make a difference in the world, but criticized the press, or the man with no business or scientific background who risked nothing and used his skill with words to judge Musk a total failure. To be sure, Musk has a splinter in his eye from tweeting but Stephens has a pole in his eye from using his position to slander a great innovator who is trying to make America great…and succeeding. I think it is sad that a great newspaper like the NY Times stoops to this level of yellow journalism.

About Frank Sortino

Frank Sortino is finance professor emeritus from San Francisco State University and Director of the Pension Research Institute which he founded in 1981. For 10 years he wrote a quarterly analysis of mutual funds for Pensions and Investments Magazine and he has written two books on the subject of Post Modern Portfolio Theory. He has been a featured speaker at many conferences in the U.S., Europe, South Africa, and the Pacific Basin. Dr. Sortino received his Ph.D in Finance from the University of Oregon and has carried out research projects with many institutions like Shell Oil, Netherlands and The City and County of San Francisco Retirement System.
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