Can you give away money without helping anyone?

Here is my email from Jeremy Davis:

There was an idiotic movie in the 80’s (“Brewster’s Millions”) where Richard Pryor had to burn through $30 million in 30 days in order to inherit $300 million.  There were some conditions:  “. . . after 30 days, he may not own any assets that are not already his, and he must get value for the services of anyone he hires. He may donate only 5% to charity and lose 5% by gambling, and he may not waste the money by purchasing and destroying valuable items. Finally, he is not allowed to tell anyone. . . .” [Wikipedia].

Anyhow, I was thinking of a similar movie one could make.  Awful, but perhaps instructive to students of economics.

Similar premise, similar challenge.  But my twist is that the stipulation now is that he can do whatever he wants with the $30 million, on the condition that he NOT HELP ANYBODY with the money.

I don’t believe this is possible.  Consider:

If he were to simply keep in in the bank and not touch it, the supply of loanable funds would shift to the right, lowering the cost of borrowing money, thereby helping others to improve their lives in various ways.

If he were to spend the money, he would create gains from trade, a positive-sum game.  People would consider themselves better off for having sold him a good or service . . . or they wouldn’t have.  Plus multipliers.

If he gave the money away, the recipient would doubtless consider himself better off, at least initially.

If he burned the money, he would be, albeit in a small way, helping the nation’s economy as a whole, since that $30 million represents a claim on the nation’s goods and services that now will never be called in.

I guess what I’m getting at here is that I don’t believe there’s any way a rich person can avoid helping others with his money.



He could buy hand grenades and lob them in day care centers and kindergartens.

Somewhat sadly, that action would provide more employment opportunities for hand grenade manufacturers, teachers, construction, security, hospitals, and so forth. As an example, if you were a qualified, experienced security professional after 911, you were in demand big time.

Isn't that the broken window fallacy? The net result is negative?

Net result isn't the parameter- the goal is to benefit no one. What if you just happen to hate small children and are a hand-grenade manufacturer?

The solution then is to purchase hand grenades and then lob them at hand grenade manufacturers.

This is too easy. Give it to the government.

I appreciate Cowen's allowing a wide range of views in his comments section, but comments that could reasonably be interpreted as advocating the killing of children ("bombing day care centers and kindergartens") should be removed.

I totally disagree, as using 30 million dollars to do harm to other human beings is the obvious answer to the question that Marginal Revolution posed (unless your post is meant to be sarcastic). My only twist on the answer is that he must pay people to carry out the killings so as to set off a round of retaliation such that violence is revisited upon the family of the killers. So basically you just use the money to recreate Iran’s or Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy.

It was suggested as the solution to a thought experiment. It could not be reasonably interpreted as advocating those actions.

If hypotheticals are too much for you to grasp, you probably shouldn't be hanging around here. Or anywhere beyond first grade.

Just out of curiosity, how far has shaming people with virtue signaling over stupid shit gotten you in life?

You could pay for tasks on something like Fiverr or Mechanical Turk where the money paid out exactly matches the task doer's utility of not having to do work. The task could be to do something without larger meaning, or you could throw away the result.

He could pay surgeons to give up surgery.

This would benefit the surgeons.

It's easy to come up with things that cause net harm, but to help nobody?

Presumably surgeons are surgeons because they like being surgeons. Would they feel better about themselves if they succumbed to a bribe that left all of their potential patients worse off? Unlikely.

Of course surgeons like their chosen occupation. Their career choice would have been made at a time when hormones have a great influence on thinking, even if their motivation changes later on.
Anyone who likes their chosen occupation and working conditions is at a great advantage to everyone else. However the "working conditions" bit make it less clear cut for surgeons.

He could donate to value-destroying charities; that is, those with ideologies that make the world worse off. I assume each reader will know the charities I have in mind... Or, should I say, each reader can list those charities they perceive destroy value.

Benefits employees of the charities.

I think the chink in the argument is here: "the recipient would doubtless consider himself better off."

The recipient may think themselves better off, but they may not actually be better off. The player would only have to give (or trade) the money to people who will reliably harm themselves with it. For example, drug addicts. If you found a whole portion of the economy in which people reliably harm themselves with whatever money they get, you could probably find several generations of harmful transactions after your initial one. The economy surrounding opioid abuse would be a good target.

Even if the direct recipients don't benefit, it benefits drug dealers, opioid makers, etc.

He's got a point. Entering or perpetrating drug dealer and opioid maker careers is probably not a long term beneficial choice for those who would enter the trade at the margin. You could at the same time lobby-fund cops to divert towards arresting them without increasing cop salaries.

Ok, so maybe the drug dealer didn't benefit, either. But they go and spend some of their earnings at legitimate businesses. Surely you can't say that they don't benefit either.

Many of us don't like concentrated wealth because it empowers people to make really far-reaching bad decisions about allocation. The worst case scenario would be to fund anti-social groups (a possibility that is impeded by government financial controls over the banking system). Falling short of that, there are plenty of really bad allocation decisions that are not *entirely* detrimental to everyone, but would face stiff resistance by all who recognize the net loss to society. For example, I really doubt that Jeff Bezos will get enough cooperation to carry out his space exploration plans.

This way of thinking would lead many of us to prefer #4 , which is just redistribution. The burning of currency would be neutralized by central bankers, and the new distribution of wealth would likely lead to better service of human needs, and a broader improvement of well-being. Option #1 is not a bad approximation, as it does not disturb resource allocation toward the building of wasteful monuments or poorly-advised large-scale bets.

"NOT HELP ANYBODY" compared to what? Once you answer, that's also the answer to the challenge. Anything else helps someone via butterfly effects.

Not sure if reasons #2 and #4 are consistent. Calling in a claim on goods and services helps because other people get claims in exchange? *And* not calling in a claim on goods and services helps because other people don't have to provide those good and services? If both #2 and #4 are true it seems like the 'help' they are providing cannot be to the same distribution of population.

In any case, when considering what happens to money, you need to model the response of the Fed. If they are targeting a certain money supply or interest rates, then (on average, of course) actions that create or destroy money - e.g., lending it or sitting on it - will be cancelled out by the Fed's policy. So sitting on cash may not actually reduce the circulation in the long run - rather, it will transfer the claims from rich person to the Fed.

How about buy gold bars, dissolve them in "aqua regia" (a mixture of acids) and pour the resulting solution into the sea?

Benefits the makers of hydrochloric and nitric acid. Benefits everyone else who keeps their gold out of the drain.

Hire Bill to kill Bob’s children. Hire Bob to kill Bill’s children. Both for an amount they consider worthwhile to justify the result of someone else’s kids dying, but not their own.

This is how, in the real world, rich people end up immiserating people rather than helping them. It’s called a collective action problem. The solutions include solidarity in the face of rapacious capitalism, and/or the rule of law enforced by a state. I’m not sure libertarian economist autists have heard of either one.

Hands off our rapacious capitalism, please. It’s what we use to distinguish our economic mode of production from the top down, command economy weirdness that you’d prefer us to live under.

You take about the real world, so how about a real world non-contrived example, which doesn't feature something that is already illegal even in "rapacious capitalism"?

Also, libertarians favor the rule of law, typically far more than leftists. In fact the fact that you are citing rule of law while also apparently being a socialist makes me wonder if you really understand the term, or if you have confused "rule of law" with "large, powerful state".

Hire lots of vandals to break store windows.

Technically, the rules of the challenge don't prevent him from converting the money to cash and burning it. Unless we consider the bills to be "valuable items" that were "purchased". I realize I'm being pedantic.

Buy $30 million worth of ink and paper. Give it all to the US Engraving Office that prints Federal Reserve Notes, with the stipulation that it uses all of it immediately to print FRN's. . You have converted perfectly good ink and paper into a Noah's Ark-type flood of useless fiat. See Dr. Milton Friedman.

See also: The KLF (

'help' is a bit too squirrelly of a concept, or is perhaps here defined in such a way as to make Tyler's claim unfalsifiable. Anyone who accepts money for goods or services believes that they help their own position, else they would refuse, and we could also take the trivial position that our mere act of parting with any amount of money gets us closer to our goal, which 'helps' us. Similarly, anyone who does not like an individual, or is one's rival in any regard, could be considered to be 'helped' by their misfortune--this is true even if we use the money to trick two or more individuals/groups into acting against their own AND each other's interests so long as an individual or group exists outside of them, which scales all the way up until we start discussing human extinction, which renders all money and changes in relative status meaningless. I don't think I could manage that one with a mere 30 million, and well, it wouldn't help anyone if I did, right? :)

Yes, it's unfalsifiable and a more than a little silly, not to mention pointless.

If he was Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro he could give it to voters so that they vote for him...

Brewster's Millions was a great movie.

Indeed. I am a little surprised the female lead did not have a better film career.

Agree - loved the movie as a kid

Establish a kool-aid manufacturing cult?

à la Jim Jones but with just using adepts to build their own suicide weapons

" If he were to simply keep in in the bank and not touch it, the supply of loanable funds would shift to the right, lowering the cost of borrowing money". [SNIP]

Rookie error. Loanable funds have nothing to do with deposits.

You are hereby sentenced to wear the GMU Dunce Cap for the next 24 hours.

Basically true. And even if they did lower the cost of borrowing money, deposits have a net downward effect on interest rates, therefore harming savers.

Which doesn't matter as long as someone else benefits.

Interesting claims, which I don't feel qualified to evaluate.

But depositing 30 million in a particular bank is at least a benefit to that bank, so for the purposes of the exercise, they point holds regardless.

" Interesting claims, which I don't feel qualified to evaluate"

Don't confuse yourself with the facts reading the article.

You might learn something!

He could use the money to achieve elected office and then enact policy solely on the decision criteria of undoing his predecessor's work.

If you squint and set your timeline from policy enactment to today it's very likely you can find negative overall benefit of the "undo"

They makers of yard signs, operatives you hire, TV stations you advertise on, etc. all benefit from this.

The premise of this email stinks of “trickle down”... a thinly veiled justification for ignoring the countless examples of the few benefitting at great expense of the greater good.

It really should be embarrassing to pretend that having and spending money is automatically “good”!

In general, this “just asking” format of stating an opinion is a form of passive aggression... a strategy used when the aggressor knows that being direct about what they believe would be to easily pinned down as socially unacceptable.

Let me be direct: I suspect Jeremy Davis is just towing an ugly political line. Maybe he doesn’t even realize it himself, but “encouraging discourse” in this way is degrading to everyone involved, myself included.

Respectfully, I did not draw the same conclusion as you, but do agree that the framing is suspect: particularly, the summary phrase "I guess what I’m getting at here is that I don’t believe there’s any way a rich person can avoid helping others with his money."

Where we differ, I think, is that I do not infer from anything stated above that 'helps someone/helping others' is equivalent to 'good' or 'net positive', though it seems a distinct possibility that Jeremy Davis intended for just such a conflation to occur.

I view this post as making a simple point about economic activity, not an attempt to justify bad behavior of the rich. Countless examples have already been given of causing net harm with money.

Also, you are responding to a straw man. Libertarians and conservatives don't actually believe what you think they do.

1) Use the cash to buy $30M of treasuries in the open market. Since the purchases occur at market value, they will not help the sellers. It's just an exchange of two assets of equal value. (No cantillon effects.) Announce that you plan to sell all the treasuries back tomorrow. Since the monetary injection is expected to be temporary, it will have no impact on inflation, thus helping neither creditors nor debtors. Repeat.

2) Give the money to rich people, at least according to some theories about inequality. Although one might naively believe this would help the rich recipients, more enlightened people assure us that, "recent studies demonstrate that inequality is bad for *everyone* in society (emphasis in original)" []. Apparently, The Science (TM) shows that inequality is so pernicious that the purported harm to society more than offsets the individual gains from having more wealth oneself. The article also cites the example of Henry Ford paying his workers more so that they could buy his cars. The corollary is that giving Henry Ford the $30M instead of giving it to potential car buyers will make Henry Ford worse off.

Is it really far-fetched that simply giving more dollars to people like Henry Ford might not be very meaningful to them? It does give them more power to influence the allocation of resources in society, but many derive meaning from their innovations themselves, and not only from how they used the wealth earned through their business ventures.

Henry Ford changed transportation (for better or for worse, but he did leave a mark). Not everyone with money can claim as much consequence to their lives. And for him to succeed at this, he needed buyers with sufficient wealth. This was part of a transaction with society where he earned status, and did not merely inherit it or win by lottery.

"Is it really far-fetched that simply giving more dollars to people like Henry Ford might not be very meaningful to them?"

Maybe not, but that would directly contradict the notion that conservatives cut taxes in deference to wealthy donors. Why would the wealthy fight so hard for tax cuts when the money doesn't mean anything to them? They should actually voluntarily pay more taxes so that the government will be able to buy more of the goods that their companies produce. You tell me which is correct: does wealth redistribution really cause lots of harm to the wealthy or do the wealthy not really try that much to influence public policy to increase their own wealth since money is not very meaningful to them?

I for one believe that the wealthy want to influence public policy because they want that as part of their legacy, and also because they might believe that policies like flat taxes are more fair than progressive taxation. They may have a genuine conviction that overgrowth of government is bad for society, and that policies that support entrepreneurship are good. I'll note however that some of these beliefs might be a bit self-serving, even if the general outlook is correct. These beliefs support the notion that captains of industry have truly earned their own success and deserve the status they have now.

“This year’s display of yachts is collectively worth more than £2bn; the combined annual spending on the world’s 6,281 superyachts could wipe out all developing countries’ debts.”

Suppose some Global Socialist Workers' Party (GSWP) got into power around the world, and confiscated the yachts and exterminated their owners and their families. How then could their former value be converted into money to wipe out developing countries' debts?
Suppose instead the GSWP built a time machine, sent an agent to the past to create a law, or otherwise, forbidding people to make super yachts?
Would the workers thereby employed get more useful jobs? Or would they be on benefits? Probably a mixture of the two.
But the present status quo provides a mixture of super yachts (globally useless) and worthwhile projects, such as disease prevention and cure, amelioration of ageing damage, space technology and so on. It is difficult to imagine a GSWP providing anything but misery and poverty, as was observed in the USSR.

Ugh. After a quick look at Wikipedia, I realized I’ve been trolled by a DC beltway economics professor with an obvious (and ugly) political agenda. I should have known better. Bye bye forever!

"...masterpiece is her story of the relations between Yahweh and Moses, a narrative beyond irony or tragedy that moves from Yahweh's surprising election of the reluctant prophet ... to the subsequent vexations that afflict both God and his chosen instrument." (Harold Bloom, The Schools of the Ages, page 6). (describing the economics professor's favorite book)

I personally know one or two people who are profiled on Wikipedia but the related facts are skimpy, basic and easy to verify. The longer the Wikipedia article (and I do not personally know anyone with a long Wikipedia article, nobody still alive, anyways), the more likely the article is to discredit itself with vigourously ignorant (but all too humanly plausible) inaccuracies. That being said, what is there to say about Hearst's well paid Krazy Kat and Ignatz Mouse, neither of whom are given their true name in the relevant Wikipedia articles?

Last year, working on some woodcuts for Proverbs 8 (the Vision of an Angel of Wisdom, soaring without effort over the green night-time world, or over the fresh clean linoleum in County General, like a happy nurse in a long hospital corridor, at two in the morning, where all the patients still alive will be well the next day) I tried out, in turn, stealing the image of Krazy Kat first for my Angel of Wisdom, then the Mouse Ignatz, then the Constable, then again Krazy Kat: each of these images I later destroyed, as I am no pasticheur and, in these efforts, no borrower either: I will never re-draw those sketches, but I learned, particularly from the Kat and her beloved 'Mouse', how someone looks when they return, after many years, to a pond they imagined when they were young, and "the great pond and its waste of the lilies, all this Had to be imagined as ... knowledge."

I am not a libertarian or a liberal or a socialist or one of these Nietzsche losers or anything like that. "forever": "the river that flows nowhere, like a sea"

lack of irony: telenovelas, Dreiser, Jules Verne, that day playing golf where everybody was focused and every later day you were someone who, in nothing else, had once had a good day of golf

irony and tragedy: Shakespeare, that long train ride with your friends and that long conversation

beyond irony and tragedy : Exodus, and so on

"live not by lies": Solzhenitsyn said it, wikipedia may or may not tell you: the AIs of the future will have more self-awareness, one hopes: and one hopes, if that is too much to hope, that the AIs of the future with equal or less (compared to the generic Wikipedian) self-awareness of their honesty will not, will not, will not be named after anyone I care about or even know that honest people such as them once lived

e.g., 1856-1925, 1870-1957(!), 1960-1960 (I remember that one, and still miss that long-gone future)

He could offer large chunks of it to teenage girls if they get pregnant and drop out of school. The long-term damage they do to themselves and society as a whole outweighs the short-term cash-rush they gain.

Likewise he could give a cash grant to anyone wanting to claim they have a bad back or stress.

He could pay for people to do a Masters degree in interpretive dance of advanced puppetry. Or an y post-graduate degree in philosophy for that matter.

Paying people not to work, not to marry and to have children out of wedlock would hurt most of the recipients, but not all of them.

Likewise degrees in puppetry, etc.

Find two hitmen who value their lives at more than $15m, and who are about to retire were it not for the lucrative offer you are about to offer them. You pay each $15m to poison the other, with a poison that takes at least a month to work.

They both achieve it and so are worse off. Since they were retired from being a hitman there are no hitman labour supply effects.

Sounds good. But did they spend any of their money in that month? Who inherits their money when they die? Uh oh.

I don't think these secondary effect gotchas are supported (as violations) in Tyler's post. I would argue instead that each transaction makes the recipient better off in isolation, and op can't pool the effects (for the same reason 'net loss to society' doesn't count as a violation)

Give the money to a senile old man in the park, in a bag that looks like it's full of garbage. A minute later he forgets about it and throws it away.

Solution found: give the money to Elon Musk.

Give the money to a radical anti-capitalist who you know will burn it. But it is secretly laced with a highly flammable substance, so when he does this, it kills him in the process. You used some other money, not the 30 million, to buy the flammable substance.

Give the money to the government.

There's a board game with this theme titled "Last Will".

I'm a rightist who thinks Soros does more harm than good with his charity. Leftists probably think some conservative foundations do more harm than good.

I have learned much from the works of Karl Popper and I agree about poor Herr Soros.

Of course this is impossible.

Suppose there was some way assured that you could harm some specific individual, firm, industry or country without making the others better off. Well then, who benefits from this unbalanced destruction?

Everyone who shorted anything related to that person, firm, industry, or government.

We have a large number of people with options and shorts that benefit directly from anything bad happening. And it is not like this is limited to the market. Suppose I could magically ruin a charity - then other charities would have higher budgets in the future because of rivalous donations. Suppose I ruined a marriage, well at the margin that increases the dating pool (or rental demand). Suppose I make someone lose status - chances are someone else who has been saying they are overrated will gain status.

Life is not zero sum, but it is invariably hedged and ranked. Forget about some magic power of money; the world has enough hedges and positional goods that something bad is always good for someone.

Suppose though you killed everyone who benefits from bad things. Obviously killing everyone who holds shorts is going to benefit somebody (e.g. life insurance). But if you kill those too. So quickly we get into the territory of just killing most everyone and collapsing civilization.

Even with civilizational collapse there will be some people who come out ahead (e.g. death row inmates who get their sentence effectively commuted, a few incel types who value sex too highly and find themselves surviving in areas with disproportionate mating chances, people bored to suicidal levels who now get a grand adventure). Killing a high enough percentage of the population is costly, and we are not talking about enough money to bioengineer some doomsday virus. Even if we were, it is exceedingly difficult to get the last 10% of the population even including starvation and I imagine you need over well over 99% to ensure that nobody has a positive utility function.

Worse, there are some people where dying itself may be viewed as a positive utility (e.g. negative utility from suicide for religious reasons, debilitating suffering making living less desired than dying).

So yeah everything benefits someone. Money has nothing to do with it. We live in hedged and ranked world with people who all have very different utility functions. Of course somebody is always better off.

Build a doomsday device, and destroy all life on Earth?

Wouldn't that benefit doomsday cults? I guess there's a philosophical question here of whether an increase in status because you correctly predicted that everyone would die is actually beneficial since no one is around to observe your status.

From Wikipedia: Brewster's Millions is a novel written by George Barr McCutcheon in 1902...It was adapted into a play in 1906...and the novel or play has been adapted into films twelve times...

I remember the Superman comic version where someone gave the money to Jimmy Olsen.

The unspoken assumption here is that you benefit no one living. You could make a $30 million contribution to a country’s national debt. If it’s the United States, that amount is small enough to effectively be zero.

He could hire people to work in an Office Space like environment. They don't do real work and resent him for lording over them, so the money makes them feel worse off as they dream of better jobs

I guess a corrollary here is that some people are always unhappy, I imagine them to be vast seas of unsatisfiability.

All you need to do is buy things with a negative externalities, causing a drop in social surplus.

From there you hand wave and invoke the standard assumption that all potential Pareto improvements (or the opposite) will somehow
magically turn into one. I teach Econ 101 so I’m very good at this part.

I teach Econ 101 so

Split it equally among every person in the workd

A stuff the mattress approach, store in an existing hidden vault on his property. No one can borrow, no one can benefit if he doesn't touch the money. The property is part of family holdings and no one else has knowledge of the vault.

The key is that organizations develop a list of rules for when they should expect gains from trade, and even if those rules work in general one can identify edge cases where the organization does not gain.

1. Travel hacking.

2. Getting a casino rewards card and playing blackjack by the book (or card counting) such that you receive rooms, meals, etc that cost the casino more than it wins off of you.

3. Buying bananas in bulk doesn't quite work (the grocery store loses money, but the distributor and grower win, I think?) but there's probably some "loss leader" product or service that you can buy on its own such that nobody wins.

I was thinking of something similar with hotels, and in particular single owner on the side places that get listed on airbnb. You could search for listing with insufficiently strict rules, book them, be loud, make a huge mess, eat or take everything that's not nailed down, etc. The owner doesn't benefit because they wouldn't have made the trade knowing the result.

(and you'd have to avoid using a middleman like airbnb, although causing their rental owners to have stricter rules or leave the business may hurt them too)

Different Anonymous here.

I have no idea what the real answer is, but for what it's worth I asked myself this question in my youth, before I had any exposure to real economics.

My answer was that almost all legal uses of money helps someone. I exclude things like strip clubs, because I think there you are contributing to someone's downfall.

Nothing I have seen in life would lead me to change that answer. Perhaps I've seen more modes of downfall.

If we assume away people who might take joy in other's death (including me, as the the payer? There's a bit of difficulty in determining which absurdities to suspend disbelief over.[1]):

Pay two people to gather and prepare poison, and poison each other.

[1] Think of it this way: suppose I have method N of disposing of money while benefiting no one. For there to be no contradiction, If I employ method N, I have to have no increase in any positive emotions while doing do, gain no benefit from any exercise involved in doing it, etc.

You could donate about a million dollars each to the 30 richest individuals on the planet. The marginal benefit of the additional million dollars to someone like Bezos who already has 75 billion dollars, would be next to zero, I would think. I think this is the closest one can get to "benefiting no one".

In fact, thinking about this at the limit, I think the key to benefiting no one is to ensure that the money is distributed to as many people as necessary such that the benefit the recipients receive at the margin remains (almost) zero. For example, we could give the 3 billion richest people on the planet one cent each - I imagine that that would yield a benefit of basically zero.

So we could, interestingly, distribute money to _every person on the planet_ and still benefit no one and have a total social benefit of zero.

Explain that you've hidden the money somewhere on public land and periodically provide cryptic and extremely complex-seeming clues online that if "decoded" will provide the coordinates of the stash. But it's all fake, and the money is really under your mattress. Many people would waste significant time on the economically unproductive activity of trying to puzzle out the location, at no benefit to anyone.

I notice that Opportunity Cost does not yet appear on this page. One subtext of the question, Straussian or not, would be "what would be doing the most good, and should you be doing that?"

The best thing to do is to give the money to a poorly run authoritarian regime, and then decide to define good in a Socratic fashion.
The regime will use the money to enrich the dictator and strengthen his hold on by rewarding his coalition. His citizens will be harmed to the extent his power is enhanced. The dictator and his lackeys will fall under their own tyranny further, which happens even more to tyrants than those they tyrannizes. You lose $30 mil. The only winner is me, who gets proven right.

Loanable Funds Theory is wrong, so keeping it in the bank would probably not do much of anything. I guess the bankers would still collect their fee.

Give it to the US government. Or the UN. Or the governments of countries that have been known to piss away foreign aid as corruption. The money will get wasted and/or stolen, and those who steal it will have it stolen in turn before it can do anybody any good.

The money is still in circulation. I think the best answers have been to take it out of circulation and keep it that way. But the resulting deflation then benefits other people. Maybe a better answer is to use it to buy gold and hide it, but even then this benefits the seller of the gold and again could be deflationary.
Using it to buy useless reports, such as those demanded on house sales, seems at first sight a way of destroying it, but yet again this benefits the jerks that get paid to write them, and the GST/VAT authorities that are in on that particular legalised scam.
The more one looks at this, the more of an impossible problem it becomes.

I only prefer to put money into something I believe is truly worthy. And it is not hard to guess that the Crypto industry is just that. There are all kinds of projects here including one to help charity and others. One great project I feel proud to be part of is Blockvest, it’s simply awesome creation. It is an upcoming Cryptocurrency exchange allowing one to trade smoothly with some of the most fascinating tools you are ever to see! With additional of 36% bonus, it just makes everything so special.

I think there is an edge case to the "every trade benefits buyer and seller" point. When I think of the full spectrum of trades on eBay, some sellers don't get the bids they need and make mistakes on the minimum bid. When they ship the item they do so at a loss. If you then destroyed the item, I think that would be a net harm.

You do have an infinitesimal gain to the transactional company (eBay) that connects you to these sellers-at-a-loss. If you could get around that (hard to do) you might be able to burn that $30M at a net harm to everyone.

I pondered maybe going to garage sales, flea markets, etc., and doing this. Perhaps if you walked everywhere, used only your own time, never replaced worn out shoes, never paid admission, etc., you could eventually burn $30M buying things that through seller error or ignorance were priced too low and actually harm the seller. When you destroy the purchased item that is a loss to you, and also to whomever would have profited by buying that item after you passed on it.

The problem is with the word "help." If you mean someone spending their money somewhere is helping then of course by definition spending money is "helping" and therefore it is impossible not to "help." But (of course?) that is not the usual definition of help. I am not helping a company buy giving them money in exchange for a service I am engaging in a transaction. Helping has an element of charity. Simply spending money does not reach that threshold.

He could hire a PR firm to run ads that convince people to eat mercury and avoid vitamins and immunizations.

Take many Uber rides. Drivers full economic costs exceed the fare, unless they are in a high tax bracket. Uber also loses money I believe on every fare.

So this should be good for car mechanics (more repairs), car salesmen (more replacements of cars), and of course anyone who shorted Uber in any way. And that is assuming your full analysis is correct.

Because humans hedge and position, there is normally someone who stands to win from someone else failing.

So doesn't this just demonstrate that money, in anyone's hands, makes someone better off?

It's easy to come up things that would do net harm.

The problem is the value of money being separate from money itself.
It is easy to get value from money by, for example, spending it to build a house.
It is also easy to destroy the value by spending it on services such as litigation between neighbours. However in the second case the value passes in total from the clients to the lawyers. If one regards both litigants as one financial unit, the net loss of value to that unit is 100% regardless of which one wins.

I don’t believe there’s any way a rich person can avoid helping others with his money.

As many commenters have pointed out, the fact that a rich person must help someone with his money is not much of a claim. It's obviously possible to do net harm, and even if he does net good as opposed to no effect that doesn't mean that there are not lots of ways to do more good with the money. In fact there probably are.

I recall several decades ago a Truro UK couple leaving instructions in their wills for their house to be demolished upon the second death. I can't recall whether this was ever carried out.

If one replaces the word "millionaire" with "Politburo", I'm sure the concept of opportunity cost will magically be rediscovered...

The answer is .. do nothing. Put it in a pile and watch it. Or put it in a bank vault and don't allow them to lend it out. That's basically what many of the worlds rich are ACTUALLY DOING.

I first started with 'start a war'. But then someone could win the war, so I went to 'start a war no one could win', but of course there are still war profiteers. So then I figured you'd need to kill the profiteers in the war, which lead me to the much simpler: a chain of killings-for-hire that ends with you yourself killing the final person on the last day.

Heh- looking for a Pareto anti-efficient move. Like Pareto efficient actions, tend not to exist in the real world.

From a macroeconomic point of view though, surely there is an optimum money supply, and burning the money could potentially make the economy worse, just as increasing the supply of loanable funds could make it worse.

Give it to another person under the stipulation that they cannot use it in any way to help another person.

Well, it's not traditional economics, but he might try giving it to people in ways that they accept but are still contrary to their desires about what they want.

The easy example is using the money to fund drugs or other vices for people that want to quit but don't have the willpower to do so. Whether this helps or harms them depends on whether you view revealed-preference as the ultimate metric of utility. It's easy to say "well, the opioid addict bought and consumed more drugs, hence their utility function is increased by more opioids", but they might protest and say they would prefer to be clean but can't get there.

So in order to resolve the question of whether this meets the challenge you have to resolve a pretty deep question in the foundations of philosophy, ethics and economists.

[ That's not to say that revealed preferences aren't immensely useful and reliable as a general matter. If at all this serves as a counter-example, it's an exception to a generally applicable rule. ]

Why not promise those with long-term memory loss (or maybe some other psychological affliction) that they will receive money on the condition that they do harm to society (e.g. murder of individuals in which no third-party will benefit)? In the short term they will do the harm, but then once they commit the harm they forget why they even did it, who asked them to do it, and thus will not even remember the promise. In that case, there appears to be only net harm, and you keep the money without using it.

Mine cryptocurrency and then delete the wallet?

Comments for this post are closed