How Much Do Billionaires Value a Stranger’s Life?

Between wealth and conscience

J.J. Pryor


Choosing between 2 buttons
Original image by Jake Clark on Tumblr

You’re sitting on your couch, binge-watching the latest season of The Mandalorian (good choice) when suddenly, a mysterious box appears on your Ring cam.

Intrigued, you notice there’s a big, shiny button on top and a note that reads:

“Press the button, and you’ll receive a million dollars. However, someone you don’t know will die.”

What would you do?

Depending on your demographic, this story might sound a bit familiar.

If you’re youngish, it was the rough plot behind the 2009 psychological thriller called The Box.

If you’re a bit older, you might recognize it from one of the highest-rated episodes of the awesome sci-fi anthology rehashed series in 1986, The Twilight Zone.

If you’re even older — gasp — and hornier — double gasp — you might recognize it from Playboy, of all things, where they included a collection of short stories from author Richard Matheson.

In the original story, the main character Norma eventually decides to push the button, only to be devastated when her husband meets his demise in a train accident. She gets her money — $50,000 — from a no-fault insurance settlement.

Overwhelmed with grief, she questions the stranger who gave her the box about why it was her husband who had to perish. The stranger enigmatically responds, “Did you truly believe you knew your husband?

Nice touch on the ‘a stranger has to die thing.’ Yikes.

And don’t get any ideas, dear reader, no matter how much your spouse nags you about the dirty dishes.

But while the amounts may have changed from the stories over time, from $50,000 in 1970 to $200,000 in 1986 to $1 million in 2009 (Thanks, Reagonomics!), the moral of the story is the same:

Would you care if a complete stranger died in order for you to get rich?

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J.J. Pryor

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