# If I had a trillion dollars…

May 29 JDN 2459729

(To the tune of “If I had a million dollars” by Barenaked Ladies; by the way, he does now)

[Inspired by the book How to Spend a Trillion Dollars]

If I had a trillion dollars… if I had a trillion dollars!

I’d buy everyone a house—and yes, I mean, every homeless American.

[500,000 homeless households * \$300,000 median home price = \$150 billion]

If I had a trillion dollars… if I had a trillion dollars!

I’d give to the extreme poor—and then there would be no extreme poor!

If I had a trillion dollars… if I had a trillion dollars!

I’d send people to Mars—hey, maybe we’d find some alien life!

If I had a trillion dollars… if I had a trillion dollars!

I’d build us a Moon base—haven’t you always wanted a Moon base?

[Estimated cost of a permanent Lunar base: \$35 billion. NASA is bad at forecasting cost, so let’s allow cost overruns to take us to \$100 billion.]

If I had a trillion dollars… if I had a trillion dollars!

I’d build a new particle accelerator—let’s finally figure out dark matter!

[Cost of planned new accelerator at CERN: \$24 billion. Let’s do 4 times bigger and make it \$100 billion.]

If I had a trillion dollars… if I had a trillion dollars!

I’d save the Amazon—pay all the ranchers to do something else!

[Brazil, where 90% of Amazon cattle ranching is, produces about 10 million tons of beef per year, which at an average price of \$5000 per ton is \$50 billion. So I could pay all the farmers two years of revenue to protect the Amazon instead of destroying it for \$100 billion.]

If I had a trillion dollars…

We wouldn’t have to drive anymore!

If I had a trillion dollars…

We’d build high-speed rail—it won’t cost more!

Hey wait, I could get it from a carbon tax!

If I had a trillion dollars… I’d save the world….

All of the above really could be done for under \$1 trillion. (Some of them would need to be repeated, so we could call it \$1 trillion per year.)

I, of course, do not, and will almost certainly never have, anything approaching \$1 trillion.

But here’s the thing: There are people who do.

Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos together have a staggering \$350 billion. That’s two people with enough money to end world hunger. And don’t give me that old excuse that it’s not in cash: UNICEF gladly accepts donations in stock. They could, right now, give their stocks to UNICEF and thereby end world hunger. They are choosing not to do that. In fact, the goodwill generated by giving, say, half their stocks to UNICEF might actually result in enough people buying into their companies that their stock prices would rise enough to make up the difference—thus costing them literally nothing.

The total net wealth of all the world’s billionaires is a mind-boggling \$12.7 trillion. That’s more than half a year of US GDP. Held by just over 2600 people—a small town.

The US government spends \$4 trillion in a normal year—and \$5 trillion the last couple of years due to the pandemic. Nearly \$1 trillion of that is military spending, which could be cut in half and still be the highest in the world. After seeing how pathetic Russia’s army actually is in battle (they paint Zs on their tanks because apparently their IFF system is useless!), are we really still scared of them? Do we really need eleven carrier battle groups?

Yes, the total cost of mitigating climate change is probably in the tens of trillions—but the cost of not mitigating climate change could be over \$100 trillion. And it’s not as if the world can’t come up with tens of trillions; we already do. World GDP is now over \$100 trillion per year; just 2% of that for 10 years is \$20 trillion.

Do these sound like good ideas to you? Would you want to do them? I think most people would want most of them. So now the question becomes: Why aren’t we doing them?