Balls of Power
Aside from the fact that my health insurance is going up $120 per paycheck next week, I’m mostly okay with not winning the recent $2 billion Powerball jackpot. Oh, I did want to win, believe me, and in the last few weeks bought at least dozen tickets, which in total netted me all of eight dollars in winnings. I had plans for that jackpot. I was going to buy my ex-wife out of my life: no more child support, no more contact, no more bullshit. Here’s a few million dollars, now fuck off forever. I also wanted to start a foundation, give out grants to artists and musicians. I wanted to support efforts to stop or cure things such as hunger, homelessness, leukemia, dementia. I wanted to give major gifts to organizations I’m affiliated with, and just plain regular gifts to people I care about. I also would have bought a killer drum set.
But even before the winning numbers were announced, I had all but renounced my desire to win. I had thought about what it would mean to become a billionaire, how it would change my life, for the good and, more important, for the bad.
My first revelation was that to a billionaire, everything is free. Obviously, everything has a price but to a billionaire that price is irrelevant. Nothing is not affordable. There is no weighing one option against another on the basis of price. To buy a car for me as I am requires a major cost-benefit analysis. What do I get or give up choosing one or another? How much can I put down? Can I afford the payments? As a billionaire, I could just buy both. In fact, I could buy hundreds of each and still have enough money to buy hundreds of huge houses to garage them at.
Never mind products, I could buy whole businesses. Nothing would be beyond my reach. I could go to fucking Mars if I wanted to.
But that’s not how the world works.
Life is about making choices. It’s about doing the best you can, working as hard as you can, earning your money and making decisions about it. With a billion unearned dollars, what decisions are there? Could I spend more today than I spent yesterday? What would even be the point of investing it? You couldn’t spend that much money in 10 lifetimes. As George Harrison said, it’s all too much.
Psychologically, having that much money has to have a negative effect on a person. Look at all the billionaires in the news; they’re fucking crazy, drunk with imagined power and a false sense of immortality. To be in the 1%, you can’t help but begin to think that you’re not only financially in the 1% but also that you’re morally, ethically, intellectually, and physically superior to the other 99%. And guess what, o ye unclothed emperors, you’re not!
Then there’s the matter of the outside world. As an obscenely rich person, I’d be a target of thieves, kidnappers, blackmailers, and other ne’er-do-wells. Everyone would want my money. Every minor acquaintance would pretend to be my dearest friend. Every brainless hottie would pretend to be sexually attracted to me and offer me her body while she dreamed of cars and boats and jewelry and someone else.
So I lost Powerball but I maintained my dignity, my integrity, and my credit card debt. Still, I’ll keep on playing, hopefully winning just $40 million, a figure that would make me happy but not necessarily change me too much. Just enough to cover my insurance, allow me to be charitable, and, of course, buy me that killer drum set.