In the early 19th century, Texas was frontier and a land of great opportunity and promise. It was also a magnet for folks who wanted (or needed) to leave Europe or the United States behind and start fresh. As the exhibit I co-wrote and produced for the Alamo in 2017 attested, Jim Bowie himself was but one of many who moved into Texas for fortune, glory, and to escape things that may be best left behind.
When people left their homes and headed west to the Texas frontier, they’d often leave a simple carving in a prominent tree or another spot on their property that consisted of three letters: GTT.
Gone to Texas.
In Bowie’s case, he was the original Indiana Jones. He pulled up stakes and came to Texas, then a Mexican state, on New Year’s Day 1830 and hunted for the gold and silver of the legendary lost mines of San Saba, whereupon he and his small party were surrounded and badly outnumbered by hostiles from several tribes. Bowie led a successful siege and cemented his already intimidating legend as a Texas fighting man. He’d previously made his name and his knife famous in a duel on a sandbar a few years prior. He’d pass into history just a few years later in San Antonio.
Just 190 years since Bowie’s 1830 arrival, Texas has become a neo-frontier, offering not free land this time, but freedom itself. Economic freedom and the freedom to live far from the edicts of the likes of Govs. Gavin Newsom and Andrew Cuomo. The freedom to breathe.
GTT has its place in 2020. About 1,000 people move to Texas per day, as has been the case for a decade or more, making it 29 million strong — and counting.
Elon Musk, the inventor, corporate titan, and space-farer confirmed Tuesday that he, like so many before him, has gone to Texas because California, where he still has “massive” SpaceX and Tesla operations, is intolerant of freedom and just about played out.
…he confirmed, “For myself, yes I have moved to Texas.”
Musk also remarked that while California is great in some ways, he thinks that Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area have “outsized influence in the world,” that will likely be reduced as a result of the pandemic, which has driven some investors and executives out of the state, and forced companies to figure out how to manage a remote workforce.
However, Musk noted, “Social media is still very much centered in Silicon Valley. We need to be concerned about mind viruses. You know, just memes that travel very quickly through social media that may or may not be correct.” He qualified that with a nod to free speech, saying, “We want to encourage a healthy dialogue. If there’s someone out there who wants to shut down one side of a debate or the other we should resist that.”
And that is one thing Silicon Valley cannot abide — the freedom to think. Couple this with California’s increasing hostility to the freedom to keep what one earns, and even to earn a living at all, and you have a place that is chasing smart people away by the thousands and carving away its middle class.
Musk is one man, but he’s the world’s second-wealthiest, and he’s a man of influence and the future. Bowie hunted for gold; Musk brings his with him. The frontier is settled but freedom is in doubt. He already has SpaceX operations at Boca Chica on the Texas coast and is building a massive Tesla Cybertruck factory outside of Austin. Combining just some of his companies — rockets and spaceflight, electric cars, tunneling — draws the eyes from the plains of Texas to the sands of Mars where Musk’s true ambitions may lie.
Musk says he’s looking to put a human there within this decade. I would not bet against him. And I would not bet against him succeeding because he has moved his operations to the big red state known for the big, bright star on its flag.
As for Texas, GTT will have consequences. The state welcomes its new residents as friends, but do many of the new residents know and understand the policy set that has driven them from one state, most likely declining and blue, to the Lone Star State?
Someone should definitely do something about that.