EDITORIAL: Musk fights back: Government authority is limited

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Twitter, now X. Corp, and Tesla CEO Elon Musk poses before his talks with French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday, May 15, 2023, at the Elysee Palace in Paris. (Michel Euler/AP File Photo/Pool)

Many people admire Elon Musk and his ability to succeed in so many, and varied, enterprises. That success has enabled the self-made entrepreneur to become the world’s richest person.

Other people, however, dislike Musk, who reportedly spends much of his time at the Starbase complex west of Brownsville.

Musk’s fans and detractors largely are driven by the same qualities: He’s brash, prefers honesty to discretion, and fiercely resistant to government overreach. The latter sticks in the craw of many people, particularly those who advocate socialism such as U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has picked at Musk like a child attacks an itchy scab. Warren has insisted that one person can’t run so many different businesses, and has called for investigations to determine if his many diverse operations might create any conflicts of interest. She has asked the Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate whether he is too involved in those businesses, “undermining shareholders’ ability to make informed voting and investing decisions ….”

Most recently, Warren has called for a congressional investigation into Musk’s recent refusal to allow the U.S. and Ukrainian governments to use his Starlink satellite system to plan and launch a sneak attack on Russia.

The senator said officials needed “to make sure foreign policy is conducted by the government and not by one billionaire.”

Until the block, Musk had supported Ukraine’s resistance to Russia’s invasion, and allowed the country and its people to use is private internet system free of charge. When military officials began using it to coordinate attacks, he balked.

Musk biographer Walter Isaacson has written that Musk feared the planned attacks using his system could provoke retaliation from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has said he’s willing to use nuclear weapons if he deems it necessary.

Many people surely will argue that Musk’s reasoning is sound, and doesn’t want his system to be involved in such a provocation. Others surely will argue that a successful attack might have weakened Putin enough to hasten the end of hostilities. One thing, however, is certain: Starlink system is his, and our military — much less that of another country — can’t commandeer it against his will.

This photograph taken on Sept. 25, 2022, shows an antenna of the Starlink satellite-based broadband system, donated by U.S. tech billionaire Elon Musk, in Izyum, Kharkiv region, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)

Perhaps congressional hearings are in order — not to browbeat Musk into submission, but to remind government officials that our Constitution restricts the kind of overreach to which they have become accustomed.

Our supreme law clearly protects the people from unreasonable seizures, and the Third Amendment, which states the people can’t be forced to provide shelter to military troops, could be interpreted to include the commandeering of other personal resources, including business assets such as the Starlink system.

Congressional hearings into a person’s right to protect his property from government intrusion shouldn’t be necessary. Most people know that is one of the hallmarks of our founders’ prescription for American governance, and such hearings should be a waste of officials’ time and taxpayers’ money. But if they can remind Warren and other socialists that their way isn’t the American way — like it or not.