Once again, Powerball fever is gripping the land. Without a winner the jackpot rises day by day and the number of people who buy tickets increases. This, of course, also increases the odds that you won’t win because you’re competing with so many other ticket holders.
But instead of thinking, “The odds are bad and getting worse, I’m outta here,” people think, “Well, somebody’s got to win and it might as well be me.” It is the triumph of hope over statistics and wishful thinking over prudent spending. And it’s egged on advice like that of Richard Lustig on Fox News.
Yes, someone is going to win and that someone is going to become stupendously wealthy—even after taxes. But that doesn’t mean the fortunate individual will know what to do with so much money, understand how to hang on to it, figure out how to make it grow, or have the strength to to hold off the freeloaders who will immediately swarm around him or her like wasps on ripe peaches. Business Insider gives us the stories of 19 people who won the lottery and blew it all. One of them lost her life. It’s going to be interesting.
Divide the Pie
In the meantime, I remember what my father, who was a smart cookie, said about situations like this. His opinion was that, once the jackpot grew to a certain point, the state should break it up into pieces. Those pieces would still be big enough to make any individual wealthy but dividing the pie would have one significant advantage: it would improve the odds.
Say Powerball grew to $10 million. The state then divides it into two $5 million prizes. More people buy in and the total grows to $15 million. Now three people can win and onward to $20 million with four winners. Would anyone turn down $5 million? I sure wouldn’t. The better the odds get, the more people would think, “Wow, I could win this,” and buy more tickets. Instead we have more and more people chasing an enormous amount with smaller and smaller chances of winning.
My father is no longer with us so a man named Philippe Andolini has taken the same idea to another level by applying basic math skills to today’s Powerball mania. He says that if you divide the $1.3 billion jackpot by the United States population of $300 million, everyone would receive—are you ready for this–$4.33 million.
What? Are you kidding? Well, yeah. If you run the numbers it actually comes out to $4.33 apiece. Mr. Andolini’s basic math is missing a few zeros.
Five Consequences of instant Riches
What if this actually happened, though. Not that it could because it makes too much sense and we’re all greedy for the whole pie. But what would the results be if we dropped a ton of money on everyone in the country? Would the United States turn into a Star Trek utopia with people just doing the things they enjoy? Given the experiences of previous winners, I doubt it very much. In fact, I predict that five things would take place:
- First, there would be a spending spree the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the time of Nero or Louis XIV — only with Porsches, Lear jets, and yachts. Prices, especially of mansions and luxury goods, would skyrocket.
- Next, all the con men and thieves would concoct schemes to take someone else’s $4.33 million away from them. Some people would go from being instant millionaires to poor again overnight. These would be the same people who don’t understand basic math.
Also those who really believe that a Nigerian prince is going to send them a million more dollars. Or that the gorgeous blonde you met on the internet really does love you madly but just needs a measly million to buy first-class airfare from Croatia to the United States.
- Third, all the people who hate their jobs would stop going to work. Since a lot of companies have for years been doing their best to abuse their employees, this would constitute a significant number. Think about all the people who can’t stand where they work or who they work for just staying home one day. The result: businesses would close, services would become unavailable and the economy would slooooowwww down.
- Unable to spend all their money, people would riot out of frustration. When the food trucks stopped rolling in to the supermarkets, food wold become scarcer—something like in the old Soviet Union. Or the Market Basket strike. Empty shelves everywhere = more riots and more violence.
- People with guns will start taking food from people without guns. The government will have to step in to keep order. Shots will be fired. It will not be a pretty picture.
This is a really sad scenario. It’s also the kind of thing that happens in post-apocalyptic novels and movies. Funny thing, though. In all those stories, the fall of civilization is caused by a disaster of some kind, not from people becoming rich overnight.
Scary, isn’t it? Do you want to brush up on your basic math or do you just want your $4.33?