Although it's been a few weeks since American billionaire Warren Buffett decided to give something like thirty-seven billion dollars to charity, and as much as I genuinely admire the motivation behind it, something's been niggling at me about it for a while. It took me until now to figure out what it is.
The fact is, if you had thirty seven billion dollars to hand, and you were anything like me, then attempting (say) to cure world hunger, end poverty, eradicate disease and so forth would seem like the best possible idea. Yet the fact remains that were I in possession of a similar sum of money, I might - under duress - be forced to admit that alternative ways of spending the money might have occurred to me first.
I've heard people say with justification that beyond a certain point wealth does not bring happiness. This is true, otherwise I wouldn't be committing financial suicide by becoming a writer. However: the main problem with being rich, for me, would be this: 'rich' just isn't enough.
Oh no. For the things I'd want, I'd need to be Buffet rich. So consider the following - my top four ways to spend an unfeasibly vast sum of cash, in reverse order.
4: Buy a country.
Somewhere small, I think. In South America, or Africa. Or buy a bit of a country and take it over. In fact, you'd probably have a lot of change left over - just enough, say, to try out all kinds of lunatic utopian ideals. Like most sf writers I have, shall we say, ideas of alternative societies coming out the wazoo.
And I would name it Garystan.
3: A personal fleet of space shuttles (ISS optional, depending on how long before it goes seriously white elephant and either burns up over Woomera or gets sold to the Chinese)
Because let's face it, you could afford it. And it would be too much fun pimping them up. Interior leather and zero gravity parties? Definitely.
2: Finance a commercial moon landing.
Not to personally take part, just to finance it. Just so I can feel like a bit player in a Robert Heinlein novel.
1: Build an undersea base (my favourite).
A really big one. With submarines styled after old In Like Flint movies, I think. Also with lots of technical personnel in silver hard hats riding around on little buggies going nowhere in particular. Just because I could. Besides, when I got bored with it, I could always rent it out.