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QotD: Billionaire’s Money

Question: From Scott Adams: Suppose you found a thousand dollars in cash that you knew had been lost by a billionaire. Now, because this is a hypothetical question, let’s assume that the billionaire would never be aware that he lost it, and there would be no way that anyone else would know if you kept the money. And let’s say you knew there would be no reward or other indirect benefit in returning the money. Would you give it back?

My Answer: It depends. What if I know the billionaire? What if I don't know him, but I saw him drop it in front of me? What if the billionaire is only a millionaire? What if it's a fellow country club member who wouldn't let me play through last week?

As asked, and in the most general sense, I'd probably keep the money. I'd probably also spend it on something for the wife or family. Or buy a snow blower, because those things are ridiculously expensive. Finder's Keepers, I say - it ain't about religion for me.

At some amount ($5k, perhaps?) I'd give the money back. If someone you know lost a dollar, and you were near a McDonald's with their $0.99 double cheeseburger, and you were hungry and had no money of your own, would you give it back? I probably would consider it a small, short-term loan. 🙂

You are encouraged to answer the Question of the Day for yourself in the comments or on your blog.

5 Responses to "QotD: Billionaire’s Money"

  1. I would give it back. $1,000 isn't that much money, and the possible benefits of giving it back greatly exceed $1,000. Maybe you hit it off with the billionaire and become friends, you pitch an idea to them, and they decide to invest. Or they get you invited to some exclusive party. Or whatever. Interacting with the billionare is almost certainly worth $1,000.

  2. I don't think you'd necessarily get to interact with the billionaire… probably just his man servant. 🙂

  3. Basically, if life were not a zero sum game, would you take advantage of a situation when you could? What does your moral code tell you to do?
    * Do you believe in always doing the right thing and returning the money?
    * Or, do you believe in fortune and spend the money on yourself.
    * Or, perhaps in karma, in which case you take the money, but use it to do good in the world.

    In the situation right now, I would have no qualms about doing the last option: I would take the money and use it to help someone else that needs it.

  4. then i would know there is no such thing as morality.

    "And let's say you knew there would be no reward or other indirect benefit in returning the money."

    No reward, a direct benefit, and no indirect benefit, means there is no benefit whatsoever in being honest, and therefore i know that in this hypothetical scenario, it is perfectly acceptable. 😛

  5. I would give the money back. I've found money on many different occasions and I've always tried to give it back, and if that doesn't work for me then I turn it in to someone.

    I did this in High School once. It just so happened that I found a large bill in our gymnasium. I gave it to the Athletic Director who said he'd take care of it. A week later I asked about it again to see what happened and he laughed at me and said I should have kept it myself, because that's what he did.

    My thoughts behind this pattern?
    I grew up in a wealthy family. My parents always wanted me to have a strong work ethic and would never just give me money if I asked. I had to pay for my own car, my own clothes, and mistakes I made, most of my toys, with the exceptions being Christmas and birthdays.

    Most of my peers did not realize this. So they would often give me a hard time about the things that I have and attribute it all to my family's wealth. This hit a sore spot with me because I knew I had to actually work for some number my possessions, but they often did not, which is why they assumed the same for me.

    So, when I found/find money... I have this mindset that I do not want something that I have not earned in some way or have given to me specifically and excplicitly.

    So, I would give the person the $1,000 back... partly from a desire to be honest, yes, but also to maintain my misplaced pride.

    Scott Adams should have said, "indirict monetary benefit" in his question. Many people who would give it back would experience an indirect emotional benefit of some sort.