Avid readers of this site know that we are glorified purveyors of scantily clad women and viral videos featuring the low end of society duking it out at late-night restaurants. What you might not glean from our content, however, is that we’re also enormous fans of the Socratic method of learning. There is nothing like asking questions to stimulate debate. It elucidates ideas and furthers the cultural conversation.
With that in mind, we present to you another installment of our Great Questions series.
Today’s query: How much money would it take for you to submit to house arrest for the remainder of your life? In this scenario, you would not be allowed to leave your property unless it was to seek medical treatment. You could purchase another house and move, but at no time could you have multiple residences.
Reggie Noble: Let me start off by saying that, going forward in these hypotheticals, it will be proven that my price will be significantly lower in most situations than Andy’s. I envision the money right there in big piles, within reach of my grubby little paws. I know myself, and that immediate gratification would be almost impossible to decline.
That said, what we are talking about here is de facto imprisonment. The one lump sum of money would be alluring, but you’ve got to look at it as capital to construct your ideal jail. Put in that context, the cash is a lot less appealing.
Fifteen years ago, at the height of my “Blank Check” fandom, my answer would have been $1 million. Of course, I was not yet a teenager and had little knowledge on just how expensive it is to sustain a life that spans 70-plus years. Furthermore, I had no idea how much money a working person makes in a lifetime. Even low-level bloggers like me will surpass $1 million in net earnings if I work until I’m 65.
As an adult, one of my major motivations for having excess income is so that I can spend it traveling. To wave goodbye to the prospect of seeing corners of the globe I’ve yet to experience is a depressing prospect. The most expensive television showing the highest-definition broadcast of the Travel Channel is not 1/100th as enjoyable as actually visiting the place in the flesh.
You’ve also got to consider how this inability to escape is going to affect your social life. Sure, having all the coolest toys and gadgets will make it easy to lure friends – and any human really – to your pad, but they will tire quickly. No one wants to put in all the legwork in a friendship. Hell, I’ve broken up with girls because they’d never come hang out at my apartment. My time is important, dammit!
Social interaction could be achieved in two ways: electronically and by hiring a staff to keep you company. Neither of these is ideal. No matter how “real” virtual friendships and relationships are, they will never take the place of 3-dimensional fellowship. As for the help, there would always be that awkward knowledge that you were paying for their laughs. Most people want to be appreciated for who they are, not what they are. I am one of these people.
Most importantly, this situation would completely rewrite your life’s script. Every dream and plan you had would immediately be altered. Many of them wouldn’t still be in the realm of possibility. Can you put a price on watching your life get ripped to shreds in a blender?
The answer, of course, is yes. It’s just not a small price.
For me, I wouldn’t even consider this situation for less than $40 million. The figure is so high because, in all honesty, this isn’t something I want. Sure, there are worse things that can happen to a person, but most of them aren’t self-imposed.
Think about it. You’d spend the rest of your days second-guessing yourself. WAS IT WORTH IT?
Not being able to say yes is a sting no amount of cash would be able to take away.
Andy Moore: Reggie hit the nail on the head when he talked about the worst parts of house arrest—you give up any ability to see the outside world, and you’re sacrificing any real human interaction for the rest of your life. For me, right now, that means if I’m locked in the house, I’m essentially stuck buying friends to come hang out with me. Which sucks, and is unsustainable. Yes, the poor kids in “Richie Rich” had a great day riding the roller coaster at Rich Manor, but Richie only became true friends with them when he ventured out of the confines of his estate. He had to give back.
This extends to the help too. I can buy an entourage who will also pitch in and clean (unlike “Entourage,” in which the guys didn’t really do anything) but are these really my friends? Nope. Let’s start with $15 million for both hired help and my psychic trauma.
It gets worse. What if I want to get married in the future? What woman is going to marry the Howard Hughes shut-in? Few, if any. I’m going to need plenty of money to buy the companionship I’m missing out on by not being married.
(I’m talking about prostitutes.) Add $10 million.
I’m 22 right now. If I were to do really well in a career—mid-six-figures money—I’d make around $25 million until retirement. This is probably not going to happen. Nevertheless, if I were under house arrest, I would convince myself that this was the money I’d be giving up by not having a career, and the perception would undoubtedly become reality in my mind. The brain is strange like that.
Plus, I would need that money for important purchases, like the world’s most expensive scotch, the Honus Wagner T-206 baseball card, and decommissioned Soviet tanks to kill local wildlife with. I’d also need the purchasing power to buy some sort of castle and grounds to live in. Add $35 million.
There’s still a problem here, however. Even with this financial windfall, I’m stuck in an estate and not doing anything fulfilling. I can momentarily find pleasure in buying a Picasso and having my pet cheetahs smear feces on it, or in hiring Louis CK to come and perform private shows for me, but I’m never going to find any real satisfaction by not having a career, or making a name for myself, or having a family. I’m going to need money to “make a difference” and “give back” and [insert TFA buzzword here]. If I don’t feel like I’m making a difference, and I’m just sitting at home all day, I’ll eventually run myself through with the 1645 samurai sword I’ve purchased. Add $100 million for charitable gifts.
I’m at $160 million. Jesus, that’s an astronomical figure. I’m a much worse person than you, Reggie.
OK, ruffians. Let’s hear it. What’s your number?