Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Will the 1% Recapitulate the 1970s "White Flight" and Move to Mars?

The world sucks right now. Terrorism. Climate change. Political acrimony. Nonstop Justin Bieber songs.

It’s nice to know Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos have a plan. They will help the richest people in the world go to Mars and start over, leaving the other 99 percent to suffer on a dying, warring planet. The only solace for those of us left here will be that the Biebs should be prosperous enough to go with them.

This is the unspoken flip side of Musk’s SpaceX and Bezos’s Blue Origin. The space travel companies say they are creating a way for the human species to endure by populating other planets. But the bottom line is that only the wealthy will have the means to move to Mars. Musk’s target ticket price is $500,000 a person in 2015 dollars, and that’s just to get there. Imagine the new outfits you’ll have to buy to go with that space helmet.

So you can picture a scenario that’s something like the 1970s white flight from inner cities, when the wealthier classes moved to freshly built suburbs, leaving the declining neighborhoods to the lower classes. In fact, the fleeing upper classes sped up the decrepitude of that era’s older cities by relocating their money and clout with them. Today, we’re seeing a similar situation in Syria, as the wealthiest and most educated people escape to the West, which will make the country even harder to stabilize and rebuild.

Such a dynamic could apply to the whole world in about 40 years. Maybe historians and scientists, charting Earth’s degeneration will trace a direct link back to this month’s climate talks in Paris. Couldn’t make a deal stick, they’ll say. Environment spun out of control. Drought. Upheaval. Anarchy. And then Wall Street bankers, tech titans, CEOs and Jay Z’s entourage decided to get the hell out and build McMansions in Martian space bubbles.

All this might sound crazy—except it’s not.

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