Twitter Is Imploding, But Elon Musk Is Still the Richest Mofo Alive

Let’s break it down over a friendly game of Monopoly.

Elon Musk is centered on a background of one hundred dollar bills, arranged in a spiral.

Mother Jones; Avalon.Red/Avalon/Zuma; Unsplash

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.

Before you Twitter pundits start writing Elon Musk’s obituary, I think we need to have a little talk.

I mean, sure, it’s true that about a year ago, Elon—we normally use last names at Mother Jones, but only for adults—became the first human being ever to exceed $300 billion in net worth. It’s also true that, as of Friday, the poor fellow was down to just under $200 billion, according to ForbesReal-Time Billionaires List. (Yes, that’s a thing.)

Losing a third of one’s wealth seems like a huge blow, although not if you were to compare it to the plight of Sam Bankman-Fried, who had a way worse week than Elon and all the Twitter employees he just laid off.

Bankman-Fried, a major Democratic donor—actually, let’s just call him Sam—is the founder of FTX, a major cryptocurrency exchange that went up in flames this week, tanking his fortune from about $16 billion to roughly zero in a few days. 

This implosion was the result of a Succession-worthy power move by Changpeng “CZ” Zhao, the CEO of rival cryptobank Binance, which forced FTX into bankruptcy. The Machiavellian drama naturally played out on Elon’s Twitter—in which Zhao, who is Canadian, has reportedly invested $500 million. Binance also held a big stake in FTX up until last Sunday, when CZ precipitated his rival’s demise by tweeting that Binance was going to dump its remaining FTX holdings.

But wait! This post is supposed to be about Elon, whose assets, however distressed they may seem at the moment, still add up to nearly $200 billion. (And that’s just the assets Forbes knows about.) So, what does $200 billion actually look like?

While researching my book, Jackpot—which examines how upper-tier wealth in the United States has gone completely off the rails—I sat down with UC Irvine psychologist Paul Piff, who studies wealth and behavior, to play a friendly but rigged game of Monopoly. I wrote about this in The Atlantic, but here’s the part I want to highlight now: I’d proposed we set up the game such that…

I had the wealth of an average member of the top 1 percent, versus Piff’s middle-class net worth. I would get about $53 for every $1 in his pocket. But then we had a problem: If we gave Piff $500 so he could buy a few properties, I would have been due $26,500. A Monopoly set contains only $20,580.

Now picture a similar game, but one that pits Elon against a typical middle-class American—call ’em Average Pat. And let’s make it so the amount of cash each player starts the game with reflects their relative holdings in real life. If Average Pat gets $500, as above, how many Monopoly sets will we need to play? Let’s do the math!

As of September 2022, according to a real-time inequality tracker put together by UC Berkeley economists Emmanuel SaezGabriel Zucman, and Thomas Blanchet, average real wealth for a middle-class adult (50th-90th percentiles) is $385,500—which I’ll round up to $386k. (Keep in mind that average wealth figures are much higher than median figures, which this database did not include, because of the way wealth multiplies as one moves up the ladder.)

To calculate the wealth ratio between our players, we divide Elon’s net worth ($200,000,000,000) by Pat’s ($386,000), which gives us a ratio of 518,135. (Holy plutocrat!) So if Pat starts with $500, Elon gets $259,067,500—and we are going to require 12,589 Monopoly sets.

Math is too fun to just stop there. Walmart charges $17.77 plus tax for a standard Monopoly set. Which means if Pat wants to invite Elon over to play, they’ll have to spend $223,707 (58 percent of Pat’s net worth, not including sales tax) on game sets. (You can buy Monopoly money separately, but humor me. And by the way, did you know Monopoly has anti-capitalist origins. It’s true! I wrote about it here.)

Anyway, a standard Monopoly set comes in a box 333 cubic inches (0.19 cu ft) in volume, and 12,589 such boxes take up 2,424 cubic feet. The ceiling height in Pat’s suburban home is a fairly typical nine feet, and Pat’s living room measures 15′ by 18′. Which means those Monopoly sets will fill every last bit of Pat’s living room, floor-to-ceiling.

What happens if we take Elon’s play money and spread it out? A Monopoly bill measures two inches by four, so that’s 8 square inches, and there are 210 bills included per set. I’m ballparking here, but Elon’s trove would contain roughly 2,643,546 Monopoly bills, which, when we convert the units, would cover 146,864 square feet. A football field, including end zones, is 57,600 square feet, so Elon’s stake in the game will paper over more than two and a half football fields.

For a more dramatic example, suppose we were to convert Elon’s enormous fortune into real $100 bills? Heck, I don’t even need a calculator: $200 billion divided by $100 equals 2 billion bills. US currency measures 6.14″ by 2.61″—or 16.0254 square inches. Multiply by 2 billion and we get 32,050,800,000 square inches, which converts to 222,575,000 square feet.

And that, my good friends, is a lot of football fields—3,864, to be exact.

Let me repeat that for effect: Twitter is imploding as we speak, yet still Elon Musk’s wealth, converted into $100 bills, will completely cover 3,864 football fields—including the end zones.

This world has truly gone mad.

Update (Nov. 12, 2022): I revised my initial calculations to eliminate rounding, and ended up with six more football fields than previously reported. 

AN IMPORTANT UPDATE

We’re falling behind our online fundraising goals and we can’t sustain coming up short on donations month after month. Perhaps you’ve heard? It is impossibly hard in the news business right now, with layoffs intensifying and fancy new startups and funding going kaput.

The crisis facing journalism and democracy isn’t going away anytime soon. And neither is Mother Jones, our readers, or our unique way of doing in-depth reporting that exists to bring about change.

Which is exactly why, despite the challenges we face, we just took a big gulp and joined forces with The Center for Investigative Reporting, a team of ace journalists who create the amazing podcast and public radio show Reveal.

If you can part with even just a few bucks, please help us pick up the pace of donations. We simply can’t afford to keep falling behind on our fundraising targets month after month.

Editor-in-Chief Clara Jeffery said it well to our team recently, and that team 100 percent includes readers like you who make it all possible: “This is a year to prove that we can pull off this merger, grow our audiences and impact, attract more funding and keep growing. More broadly, it’s a year when the very future of both journalism and democracy is on the line. We have to go for every important story, every reader/listener/viewer, and leave it all on the field. I’m very proud of all the hard work that’s gotten us to this moment, and confident that we can meet it.”

Let’s do this. If you can right now, please support Mother Jones and investigative journalism with an urgently needed donation today.

payment methods

AN IMPORTANT UPDATE

We’re falling behind our online fundraising goals and we can’t sustain coming up short on donations month after month. Perhaps you’ve heard? It is impossibly hard in the news business right now, with layoffs intensifying and fancy new startups and funding going kaput.

The crisis facing journalism and democracy isn’t going away anytime soon. And neither is Mother Jones, our readers, or our unique way of doing in-depth reporting that exists to bring about change.

Which is exactly why, despite the challenges we face, we just took a big gulp and joined forces with The Center for Investigative Reporting, a team of ace journalists who create the amazing podcast and public radio show Reveal.

If you can part with even just a few bucks, please help us pick up the pace of donations. We simply can’t afford to keep falling behind on our fundraising targets month after month.

Editor-in-Chief Clara Jeffery said it well to our team recently, and that team 100 percent includes readers like you who make it all possible: “This is a year to prove that we can pull off this merger, grow our audiences and impact, attract more funding and keep growing. More broadly, it’s a year when the very future of both journalism and democracy is on the line. We have to go for every important story, every reader/listener/viewer, and leave it all on the field. I’m very proud of all the hard work that’s gotten us to this moment, and confident that we can meet it.”

Let’s do this. If you can right now, please support Mother Jones and investigative journalism with an urgently needed donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate