Taking the billion? Re: Gedankenexperiments

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From: Gordon Mohr (gojomo@usa.net)
Date: Wed Aug 16 2000 - 17:14:43 PDT

Jeff Bone writes:
> Let's brush aside all the inflationary concerns,
> etc., by saying only the first person on this list to do so is allowed to turn
> themselves magically into a billionaire; and let's posit that there's no
> downside or negative effect to anyone else in doing this. (Aside from some other
> FoRKers being pretty pissed that you beat them to it.)
> Who here wouldn't rush to be the first person to do that?

A problem with this experiment is that, as constructed, it only shows
that most people like "magical free money". Real money, especially *big*
money, takes sacrifices to acquire, and this experiment can't shed light
on money's relative value compared to other things.

Would you take a billion dollars, if it meant you could never again visit
your home country? You could never again visit your favorite places; in
order to see your local friends, they'd have to travel abroad to meet you.
I think lots of people would turn down that billion.

And yet, taking even the "magic free billion" could be a lot like
that, if you kept it and people knew you'd received it. Noone would
ever treat you the same again; it could be like being in a foreign
country the rest of your life. If your aspirations in life included
recognized accomplishment in the arts, sciences, business or poltics/
social service, you might get recognition -- but people would always
suspect it was because of the magic billion, not because of "you".

So I do think some people would prefer to avoid the taint of the
billion, either by ignoring it or taking it and then very publically
giving it all away.

- Gordon

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