Re: Taking the billion? Re: Gedankenexperiments

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From: Gordon Mohr (
Date: Wed Aug 16 2000 - 20:27:59 PDT

Jeff Bone writes:
> The point --- really the only point --- that I've been trying to make in this whole
> shebang is this: it's awfully amusing and pointless for any of us to say "there's more
> to life than money" (assuming money == uberwealth) because, AFAIK, none of us on the
> list are billionaires.

That's just silly, a sophist's trick for excusing oneself from criticism
by declaring us all incompetent in the matter at hand -- a degenerate case
of an appeal to authority.

We all have immense powers to accurately imagine different situations than
our own. To use an example as absurdly contrived as some of yours, I know
I don't want to be on the surface of the sun, even though I've never been

The same goes for money; I know that I prefer more when it's easy to get,
I also know that there are other tradeoffs I would not make to get more
money. Furthermore, I have a lot of ideas about how my life might change
if I had much more money than I do now -- it's not a mysterious situation
at all.

You presume there's a magic discontinuity at some level of wealth -- a
wealth singularity, if you will -- beyond which us mere mortals have
no understanding. But the rich and ultra-rich don't seem that inscrutable
to me. Some are a bit odd, in their obsessions and indulgences, but
their actions and passions remain recognizable, even predictable.

> > 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.
> The first I'll challenge; are you saying that you wouldn't like to be "tainted" with
> $1B? If you wanna make that statement, Gojo, go ahead and make it. I double-dog-dare
> ya. :-)

For myself, I really don't know. I would prefer not to be known, to the world,
as the guy who had an unearned $1 billion magically fall into his lap. So, I'd
have to think about it a lot. Given my own values, it would be an easier decision
if I knew I could both receive it and then dispose of it in total secrecy.

I believe I have met people who would not want to take it at all.

On the other hand, I would love to earn a billion. I'd be comfortable with
that reputation.

> The second is an invalid counter, as "giving it all away" --- indeed, any
> charitable behavior --- is just as self-motivated at the end of the day as buying a
> MiG. It's all about what pumps your nads.

You're mixing issues here. Your philosophy already assumes definitionally that
everything anyone does is self-motivated. So I'm not trying to imply any
selflessness. Instead, if someone did choose to immediately "give it all away",
getting nothing concrete in return, it would imply that they value the pile
of money very differently, and essentially a whole lot less, than you do.

- Gordon

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