Matthew Lynn Matthew Lynn

A Musk-Trump White House collaboration will only end badly

Elon Musk (Credit: Getty images)

He has created a major automobile company. He has built space rockets, taken over X, made himself hundreds of billions, and even found time to father lots of children. Elon Musk has plenty of achievements. And yet he may soon have one more. A cabinet post in the next Trump administration. But hold on: Musk may look an attractive candidate, but it will surely ends badly.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, Musk and Trump have been discussing an advisory role for the billionaire if he wins the White House in the election in November. Musk apparently might help out on economic policy, as well as border security. Heck, who knows. Perhaps Musk could be treasury secretary, or maybe even vice president. Whatever it is, he would be a high profile member of the government.

If it ever happens, however, it will end in tears

Of course, it is easy to see the attraction for both men. For Trump, Musk brings money and influence, especially on his social media site X, formerly Twitter. He may well be able to swing a chunk of the liberal tech industry behind the Trump candidacy. And for the restless Musk, a government role would bring real power (plus perhaps a few lucrative rocket contracts). It would be another chapter in an already illustrious career. 

In fairness, Musk is very clever, and a great organiser. You don’t get to be that rich without a lot of talent. He might have something to contribute to a Trump government. 

Even so, it would be a mistake for both men. Here’s why. Musk is a libertarian. It is pretty hard to find any coherent political philosophy in Trump’s rambling speeches. But one thing is for sure. There is not much that could be identified as individualistic liberalism, and plenty that is very authoritarian. It is hard to see a match. Musk is also a wild card. Like most great entrepreneurs, he is not a team player. He is not used to working as a subordinate to other people and is unlikely to enjoy it.

Added to this, the record of business tycoons in government is very poor. The skills required to run a major business – primarily ruthlessness and vision – rarely translate into the messy business of running a government. It is far harder than it looks, and it involves lots of delicate compromises. Trump was not much good at it, and Musk would be even worse. 

A deal between the two men might have some superficial appeal. If it ever happens, however, it will end in tears – and with some bitter and furious arguments along the way.