Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Get Rich Quick

Yesterday was the much-hyped Powerball drawing, where the jackpot swelled to over half a billion dollars. (Assuming an annuity and that you pay zero taxes, of course.) Plenty of moral guardians (calling the lottery, quite sourly (and, sadly, accurately), a tax on the poor) and humorless economists (the chance of winning is nowhere near the cost of buying the ticket) miss the point, of course; plenty of people (myself included, I should add) are more than willing to pay two dollars to dream about being a millionaire, even for just a day.

Yeah, that's sort of corny. But it's the best kind of rich--you don't have to work for it, you just get it for the simple virtue of being lucky. And that does have some sort of reality-TV level sort of satisfaction to it. Of course, there are plenty of downsides as well; even though everyone assumes that problems go away once you have money, you more or less just trade them for a different set of problems. (Watch any of those sad television shows devoted to past winners and you'll see it's much more than just having "rich person problems.") That is; alas, the downside of not earning money--since you didn't work for it, no one thinks you are entitled to it. And most likely none of us poor folk could properly handle it without help. I would end up spending it all on vintage Pokemon posters and platinum bars to keep it "safe" from internet scammers and the gummit.

There is, of course, not much true in the get rich quick world. Aside from pyramid schemes and shady fly-by-night scams, you're not going to get the payoff without some sort of risk, and most people are pretty poor judges of assessing risk. It doesn't help when there are forces actively working against you to keep you from succeeding (I'm thinking about competition--which if it is a threat it by definition is already successful--but in my more paranoid times the government can easily apply as well) and there's very little incentive to take risks without losing everything. That's why working to get rich is not nearly as popular as simply gambling it away or settling for less; when the world seems stacked against you, there isn't much incentive to take a chance.

So aside from the normal dollar-signs-in-the-eyes halo of the lottery jackpot, people love it because it seems to have no downside (everyone has a couple of bucks to waste, so if you lose no big deal) with all upside (if you win, yay!). So let the sourpusses whine about how much people play the lottery; we all know that we simply buying tickets to be a potential millionaire.

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