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Billionaire’s Money Question

Here’s a horrible little game you can play at your next family gathering. I call it the Billionaire’s Money Question, and it’s a real eye-opener. All you do is pose the following hypothetical question to your family:

“Suppose you found a thousand dollars in cash that you knew had been lost by a billionaire. Now, because this is a hypothetical question, let’s assume that the billionaire would never be aware that he lost it, and there would be no way that anyone else would know if you kept the money. And let’s say you knew there would be no reward or other indirect benefit in returning the money. Would you give it back?”

Also assume the billionaire is not Bill Gates just so the comments to this blog are not filled with Windows XP jokes.

If you ask this question in a group, I suspect a lot of people would say they’d give it back. But if you ask people privately, you might be surprised to discover how many of your family members are crooks. The best case scenario is that they’re just too lazy to give back the money. Either way, it’s not good news if you drop your wallet at the family reunion.

In my experience, most of the people who say they’d give back the cash are the ones who don’t need an extra thousand dollars. The ones who say they’d keep it usually have a good idea how they’d spend it.

A certain percentage of the population believes that God is watching them with one hand on a lightning bolt and the other on the trap door to Hell. About half of that group will also keep the money, under the theory that if God wanted the billionaire to have it, he never would have let him lose it in the first place.

How about you? Would you keep it?


I'd keep it. why did you ask this question, Scott?

If I knew who it belonged to? I would have to say probably, but if the house not were due I might not. If I just found $1k with no idea who it belonged to. Hell, I would most assuredly keep it.

OMG... This is something learned in kindergarten, along with the golden rule and keep your hands to yourself. Of course I'm referring to the age old adage: Finders keepers, losers weepers.

BTW, billionaires do not lose $1000. How do you think they got that money in the first place?

Oh yeah, the Bush tax cuts. How silly of me.

Never mind.

Yeah, I'd return it.

Or perhaps I would turn it in to the police station, wait 30 days for it to go unclaimed - then be legally entitled to it.

I would take the money to a casino and put the $1000 on black at a roulette table. It’s pretty close to 50/50 odds. If it hits, I keep $1000 and give the original $1000 back. If it doesn’t hit- just forget I ever found it.

I dont know why you put such stringent conditions on this question - let me put it another -If I found $1000 I would try in every way to keep it - no matter where it came from -

It's simple, hand it into a Police Station, make sure you get a receipt, as the billionaire doesn't know he's lost the money he won't claim it so after 30 day's the money will be yours. This has 2 advantages:
1 - you wind up with the $1000
2 - you have the moral superiority over all the people who said they'd keep it, which can be priceless.

I'd call the Billionaire to ask him if he lost $1,000. If he took my call and confirmed it was his, and stopped by to pick it up, I would give it back to him. If he ignored me, well... what is one to do but donate some to a charity and buy one's self an iPod?

Kinda the same thing you do with a company that over-ships you some merchandise. You call them, let them know, and have them supply you with a shipping account number, cuz, why the hell should you pay to return their mistake? If they never get back to you with the RMA details and account number, you keep the shwag.

Scott, do you honestly read all these?

Under the cited conditions, I wouldn't give it back. There's no logical or moral reason to give it back.
To qualify: If I saw the billionaire drop it, I would certainly hand it back to him. If I just saw the money lying somewhere and I just sort of KNEW it had been the billionaire's I would keep it. That's called being careless and losing something valuable.


I would consider it a little payback by Karma. God knows I've got some coming.

In my family this would be a rhetorical question. I believe (without even having to ask) the general consensus would be, "hell yeah I'm keeping it!"

The line is drawn between those who need it and those who don't. The idiot billionaire who dropped it doesn't need it. Presumably neither do the majority of the people who would give it back. For some of us $1000 is not an easy amount to come by and would consider it a lucky find.

I find it funny that people are doing the equation in their head that he has a lot more money than we do therefore he won't miss it and it will benefit us as we are so poor. So it is almost a "gift from the gods".
But would most of the people who have replied that they would keep the money spend it on bills and food? No they'd spend it on luxury items like computer games, clothes etc... That's just greed.

Would I hand the money in? I'd like to think I would. I've found small amounts of money and handed it in to the police but I'm a greedy bugger too so wave the money in front of me and I can't say I wouldn't be tempted.

The comments above under my name and email address are not the comments I posted.

I said I would return it.

Giving you the benefit of the doubt, I assume it is a mistatke, and that you would not post something someone did not say.

I don't know. I would probably keep it as I really need the money and I KNOW that there is no reward.

This could be in relation of me getting stepped on for doing the right thing a couple weeks ago. But, depending on how January goes, I might actually give the money back.

I'll defenitely return it, the billionaire should know even a common man can be rich by heart and money is not everything!.

Well as far as I am concerned it depends on the situation and who the billionaire is. If it is the legendary Scrooge or someone like him I just might keep it. In most cases though, I would'nt even pick it up:)

I'd give it back, my conscience doesn't permit me to do stuff like that. Almost feels like cheating because it's not really a decision, more like "I'll feel like crap if I don't"

Having just finished God's Debris, I think I would let probability make the decision: I'd take the $1000 to a casino, walk over to the roulette wheel and put it all on black. If black comes up then I'd give the billionaire back his $1000 and if it doesn't, neither one of us was supposed to have the money. I'm not sure how the Avatar would feel about that logic, but it works for me.

I'd return it. The specific circumstances don't matter; if it isn't yours, it's morally wrong to keep it.

But I'll admit it would be harder to do if the amount in question was a life changing amount - say, a million. I still like to believe and hope that I would do the right thing, but I think honestly it would be more of a struggle.

What can I say? Im a crook

There is two reason why I would give the money back. I am a full time employee, full time student, I go to the gym 4 days a week, and I have a wife and 4 year old. I know about hard work and would hate the fact that even though I had a lot of money, people would just take it from me instead of working hard for it like I did. (If I was a billionaire and someone did return my $1000, I would let them keep to reward their honesty)

Secondly, I believe in karma. I think that a good deed will reward you. Maybe there will be no reward for that specific action, but it will make you a better person and give you a better life.

Morality is great but you can't depend on it. We don't cheat our employers because we want a job next week. We don't steal from the grocer because we want to eat next week. As long as we expect to have future transactions with people, we act "morally." But if there is a one-time-only transaction, the temptation to act selfishly is great.

That's why used car dealers, for example, have such a bad reputation. Most of them aren't counting on repeat sales; they just want to sell what they have now.

What this says is not that people need to be more moral but that we need to design our institutions to make repeated transactions the norm rather than the exception.

For what it is worth, I would return the money if I knew who lost it. But I would not count on people doing that in any society no matter how moral they were reputed to be.

I would invest it in the billionaires company, thereby reaching equilibrium. :D

I would invest it in the billionaires company, thereby reaching equilibrium. :D

This is very simple, in so far as interrogation techniques could in any way be a "punishment" (e.g. violence, maiming, harm, etc.) it cannot be meted out on SUSPECTS willy nilly. Our laws affirm the assumption of innocence and the requirement of a trial before individuals are punished. This is a very fundamental aspect of the rule of law. Second, in dealing with lawfully convicted individuals in the US, punishment cannot be "cruel and unusual", which rules out many types of torture (though still allows many types of interrogation techniques). You can argue against that all you like, but I don't trust you (for any value of you) to the degree that I trust, say, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, etc. Not to mention the fact that they were much more familiar with torture as a part of the criminal justice system (which it was at the time) than almost anyone in the western world is today.

Aren't these sort of unrealistic hypothetical scenarios so rewarding?

Let's say our hypothetical billionaire has $1B. $1K is then one ten-thousandth of a percent of the worth of the person.

Let's compare this to a hypothetical friend Joe, who after accounting for his debts and assets is worth a total of $100K. Joe brings with him a package of 12 ice cream sandwiches valued at $3 and comes over to your house. When he leaves, he leaves the box with one remaining sandwich behind. This ice cream sandwich is then one four-thousandth of a percent of the worth of the person.

If you casually eat the ice cream sandwich one day when you come home, you've stolen more from Joe than this hypothetical billionaire. So the real question is, have you ever eaten Joe's ice cream sandwich? If so, I guess you're a crook.

If you eat the sandwich and you don't think that's wrong but think keeping $1K you find is wrong, it's probably because you aren't worth enough to see $1000 as worth less to someone than an ice cream sandwich.

You can apply the same thinking to articles of clothing people have carelessly left at your home, or in a parking lot, or on the subway.

Knowing the value of something to a person will and can change how one thinks about the nature of using/keeping an item. Knowing the specific person will, too. If you find a toy that belongs to a billionaire, but not necessarily which billionaire, that is worth a sum of $10 and don't try to return it, that doesn't mean that if an impoverished kid with leukemia drops the same toy you aren't going to pick it up and return it. That is to say that knowing who will keep $1K from an anonymous billionaire doesn't tell you at all who will steal your wallet at the family reunion. Your family members might steal your wallet and not keep a $1K simply because they know you and hate you. That of course ignores entirely that what people tell you they will do doesn't necessarily correlate at all with what they actually would do.

$1000 cash and no ID? The money is mine.(If I get by,,, it's mine. Mine all mine)
Wallet and $1000 cash? Send the wallet minus money back after I let a few other people handle the wallet. "Look what I found." More possible fingerprints is always better when returning a wallet.

Stupid gambling habit.

The question is not whether one would return the money or not, because everyone DOES have their price, even a righteous man. The question is whether the individual who found the money believed in absolute morality or is a relativist. Absolute morality (an unchanging set of beliefs and law with dictums higher than self) dictates without question that one do what one can within their power to return the money. Relativism, on the other hand, is a self-centric worldview with changing dictums issued by the desires of self. Anyone with that persuasion would be obligated to keep the money toward self betterment. Now, if returning the money is considered "right", and not returning the money makes one a "crook", then the person who posed the question is an absolute moralist while the person receiving the query may be a relativist. Thus, it is not a question of "what if" but "what worldview are you?"

so. What worldview are you?

"It would be like finding a diamond in a haystack."

Or the guy who found a diamond in his car after he left it unlocked. But he contacted the cops first, and ended up getting to keep it.

Yes I would. I'm not going to try to justify it with some moral value system. I just would.

I woudn't return the money. The time it would take to meet the billionare, explain what happened and then return the money would be so much that the person could have earned more than a thousand dollars in that time.

I onle read that if Bill gates drops a 100 dollars it would not be worth his while to bend down and pick it up. In the time he would bend down he would have already have earned more than a 100 dollars.

Well my answer would be simple

I will tell the billionair that i found his money
and also i won't return it because i need it, anyway it doesnot matter to him.

every one is happy now :)

This reminds me of a game we used to play as mid-level managers at a previous job. The question was, what would it take for you to (fill in the blank)? Each manager would get an opportunity to fill in the blank, and then the other managers (five of us total, plus the director) would answer the question.

One time, I asked, "What would it take for you to have sex with someone of the same gender (really only geared to the two men in the group, who were both VERY HETEROSEXUAL)? The first guy said it would take $1 million dollars for him to have sex with the other guy. The second guy (again, a VERY HETEROSEXUAL guy) said, "Heck, for $1 million, I'd have sex with 'Pete', on live national television, and I'd have my my wife watching by my side!"

I think othe posters are right: There's a price for just about everything!

Since I doubt that I would be allowed near a billionaire, even to return $1000, and since the bodyguards wouldn't believe it was the billionaires as it wasn't noticed missing my solution would be to donate it to a charity of my choice in the name of the billionaire. My ethics would be in, the charity would benefit, and the billionaire gets a tax deduction and a little unexpected reputation boost. Win-win-win.

even if he wasn't a billionaire. even if he knows he has lost the money. even if he needed the money for the operation of his daughter. I would keep the money.

Don’t we all run into this situation on a regular basis? I work for a multi-billion dollar company; surely they wouldn’t miss an embezzled $1,000 here or there. I shop at a large grocery store chain; they probably wouldn’t care if I lifted a week’s worth of groceries. Get the picture?

Taking something that belongs to someone else, whether they know about it or not, is called stealing, and last I knew that’s still bad. (Simply finding something without an owner is a different situation – the problem statement here makes it clear that you know who it belongs to.)

One reason our “civilized” society works is that, in general, everyone isn’t trying to kill us. Drive down the road, and you can assume the guy coming toward you doesn’t have a car bomb. Walk to the library, and you can assume no one is going to shoot you. Watch TV in your living room, and you can assume no one’s going to torch your house. Makes life a lot simpler, doesn’t it? Isn’t being honest with other people important, too? Things get easier when you know that, in general, everyone isn’t trying to rip you off.

I’ve returned $5, I’ve returned an entire wallet, and yes, I’d return the $1,000.

Well I never ran into a billionaire before, so I cannot really make a prediction. Anyway I would probably return it, out of habbit.

I think someone here said it best - Everyone's morality has a price. EVERYONE'S. For those who say they'd find out who it belonged to and give it back or give it to the police, I would ask this: When you find a penny on the ground, do you turn it in or give it back to the person that dropped it? To the billionaire, that $1000 means about as much as a penny does to the average person. And if you did keep the penny, do you consider that stealing? What if your family was starving and/or homeless. Would you keep the money then? Under different circumstances, everyone would keep the money.

By having them find the money, even if they know who the owner is you are providing moral wiggle room. After all we all grew up with "finders keepers".

Change the question to finding the money on that Billionaires property, in their car, or something along those lines and you'd get more accurate answers.

I would keep it. I try to live by the golden rule and if I was a billionaire and dropped a grand, I honestly wouldn't care if I didn't get it back. I would just hope that it was found by someone who needed it more than me.

So let me get this straight, for $1000., that isn't even my money, I can get an introduction to a BILLIONAIRE? I think there are a lot of venture capitol clubs that charge a heck of a lot more than that....

"Hey I think you dropped this... by the way, I happen to be carrying this business plan, and I think you could be receiving that much every day for an investment of just..." or for the philanthropic approach "I happen to have this great idea for (fill in the blank) and if you could see your way clear to supporting my research..." or ...

Once, I was travelling cross country to take a job in a national park. I flew out to Seattle, then took a cab from the airport to the bus station, then bussed the rest of the way. I arrived at the bus station a half hour before my bus was to leave, and I found I was missing my wallet. Not a total disaster, as I had put half my cash in the fifth pocket of my jeans, but potentially one, as I needed photo ID to accept the job and that was all in my wallet. Fortunately, the fellow selling bus tickets took pity on me and let me on the bus without ID, so I settled down for a 22 hour ride. I arrived at the park and when it came time for me to explain my position, the woman checking us in also took pity, and put me up for a week in employee housing, free of charge, and gave me a week's worth of meal vouchers. When they ran out, I recieved my wallet in the mail, minus about 20 dollars or so cash for shipping. The cab driver had mailed it to my old address, the one on my license, and my landlord had sent it to me. The cab driver, I had tipped 20 dollars on a 30 dollar fare. I had always been a model tenant. It is hard to believe, but sometimes being a nice guy and painfully honest works out, even if there's no physical reason for it to do so. So, this long drawn out story has a point. I'd keep the thousand bucks. Damit, I'm a nice guy and I deserve it.

Looks like people love to talk about money,the poll is
money keepers/clear conscientists=50/50? Your profit oriented, high-tech loveless society. Though life is meaningless, and this will pass...

Twice I've found money in the ATM machine at work. I don't know why people go to an ATM machine to get cash and then leave it behind, but that's a topic for another blog. Both times -- I called the credit union whose ATM it is -- the first time, they said "we'll check the usage records and contact people who may have previously used that machine" -- they tracked down the lady and gave her the money back. She gave me $5 for a reward, which was nice at the time when I was not making a lot of money.

The second time, the credit union wanted no part of tracking down the rightful owner, so I turned it in to the building's lost/found. Six months later, I got it back in full.

Bottom line -- I'd try to find the rightful owner. If it's meant to be mine, it will come back to me eventually.

Well, that money would really come in handy. Now, we all know that it's unsafe to send cash in the mail, and there's no way that office security would let me past the front desk to personally deliver it to the one who lost it. What I think I would do is deposit the cash in my interest-bearing checking account. Then I'd send a letter to the person advising that I believe I found some funds that they lost. I'd in a plug for the non-profit that employs me and suggest that maybe that money could be turned into a donation to the organization. Hopefully I'd make such a good case for my charity that they'd give an even bigger donation. Either way, the few bucks in interest that my checking account earns during this time is mine. So, whether the billionaire gets his money back or he gets a tax break for giving it to a charity, its a win-win deal.

Of course I would keep it, given all the conditions listed anyone who wouldn't keep the money is an idiot unless they already have lots of money. I have no money, any money I find in the street is fair game unless I just saw the person drop it or it has a wallet attached to it.

I think i would make more use of the credit cards in the wallet, maybe open a few bank accounts in the billionaires name using his id in the wallet, do a bit of money laundring, then goto his house, kidnap his kid/hamster and ransom them for the rest of his money =D

I'll keep it. It's called greed.

I would keep it, but donate it to charity. The "Buy me an xbox 360" charity.

Afterwards I would make definitely go out of my way to follow this careless billionair around and see if they dropped a couple more thousand here and there.

I'd give the money back. The person's billionaire status is irrelevant as is his intentions for the money. The simple answer is that it's not mine so it has to be returned, even if I don't get a 'thank you'.

I'd give it back, it's just the right thing to do. Of course, I'm so boring I don't even know a Windows XP joke. ("Windows XP joke" sounds kinda redundant, doesn't it?).

Wait a minute, what kind of billionaire wouldn't give a reward for returned money? An evil one. Therefore, this must be a situation in which the Cosmos (or whoever) have chosen you to restore some kind of balance.

For example, if the billionaire was, say Steve Ballmer, maybe you should donate the money to a charity for Belgian pie-throwing hitmen.

Looking at this from a moral stand point: I have already established that I am definitely going to hell. So i would just keep it.

Looking at it from a need stand point: depending on whether i am well off or i am cash starved, if i am well off, my time spent on returning the money would be more than 1000 bucks (opportunity cost) so i wud just keep it. If i were cash starved, ofcourse i am no lemon eater, so i will just keep it.

So in all cases, i dont see a option where i will return it!!! yes i am damned.. u bet!

One day, the Grand Rabbi of Belz (a Hasidic, Jewish Group) called over one of his disciples and asked him "If you found a purse with 1000 rubles in it, would you keep it or look for the owner?"
"Of course I would try to return it, Rabbi" came the pious response, "After all, is it not written in the Torah (bible) etc etc"
"Hypocrisy!" said the Rabbi, waving him away, and calling another of his disciples over "What about you? What would you do?"
"Well," began the second disciple "You know, times are hard, I have 5 children to support..."
"Bah!"(Or probably a Yiddish equivalent) tutted the Rabbi, "Why, you're barely better than a thief!"
The Rabbi asked a third disciple "What would you do?"
He thought for a moment "It is hard to know," he quietly said. "Of course, I would like to return it, and I hope that I would have the moral character to follow through on that conviction. On the other hand, the lure of the money is certainly strong. In fact, I can't say what I would do until I actually am in the situation, and then I would have an inner battle, and we would see which side would win!"
"Now that's the right answer" beamed the Grand Rabbi of Belz, may his merit be a shield for us.

Isn't that like me losing a dollar?

I don't see the dilemma - I'd keep it.

If I lost a dollar and it fell into the hands of someone to whom it would make an appreciable difference, I'd be really pleased.

Of course now I'm feeling guilty for not tracking down a thousand people who need a dollar.

well, i'll certainly keep it. not because that it's the billionaire's money. just because.

I would probably keep the money. The billionaire's got enough money already.

This is a corollary of an actual incident in Las Vegas that happened to a cab driving friend of mine. He picked up a guy with a texas accent but dressed in suit and tie who was holding on to a large paper sack. He got in at Caesars palace and went downtown to the El Cortez (per my friend) and then asked the driver to "wait here, I need to go make a bet" and then he left the paper sack on the seat. After twenty minutes my friend says he looked inside the sack and it was full of hundred dollar bills. My best estimate was about a million dollars worth of untraceable cold hard cash! My friend was alarmed by having so much cash left in his back seat and he actually considered callnig the police as he thought this must be a Mafia type of guy and he didnt want any part of this transaction. While he tried to decide what to do the guy showed up and roke back to caesars palace without checking inside the sack. My friend got a hundred bucks for his trouble and time and out of that he had to cover the meter- still a nice tip, but???
So the question was, do you take the cash and just drive off or do you wait?
Even allowing for the questionable honesty and ethics of cabdrivers (and I WAS one!) it was surprising how many people wanted to keep little or none of the cash in question. I never got the same answer twice, either.
(I advocated taking the whole thing. The mafia doesnt usually do business that way so I doubt that this was mafia cash. Any other fool and his money would be soon parted by the casino so why not take the whole thing? Oh well. Barring getting Scott Adams in my cab with his large amount of disposable income this question never will come up again~!)

I'd give it back...I'd probably feel stupid afterward, but I would give it back.

"Maybe said billionaire was on his/her way to the local homeless shelter to donate that $1000 for Christmas dinner for those without. Or to buy toys for impoverished children..."

...or buy drugs, or a prostitute? Such speculation serves no purpose.

The problem with hypothetical questions is that you always get hypothetical answers. Just because someone answers they would do a certain thing (like return the money) doesn't mean they would do it should it actually happen, because:

1) They are lying.
2) Their own situation changes, i.e. they come into financial troubles where they really need said money.

Maybe it's just the cynic in me. I for one, would keep the money. If the billionaire won't miss it, he doesn't need it.

Last weekend my wife was out shopping and lost her handbag in a large clothes shop. She went to customer services and it had been handed in with everything (money, cards, keys, mobile) still in it.
It goes to show that some people would return it! (And I send my thanks to the unknown person who did.)

I will call billionaire’s office and tell them that I have there $1000, collect the amount in 30 days or I will simply pay it for some charity. On who’s name? offcourse on my name. If they want me to do a favor by paying $1000 to a charity on there behalf, amount is too small, they should give more money and I will tell the charity that I am negotiating more money for them.

I would spend the money in the billionaires shops, so he at least got some of them back.

Okay, billionaire doesn't know I have it, no one else saw me pick it up, and no reward/benefit for returning it, and somehow I know this is a billionaire's thousand. In all likely hood, if I know it's a billionaire's money, I know who this person is. Since I likely know who it is, the LEAST I could do is call and say I found it. Fine, the least I could do is nothing, I'm going one better. I give this person a reasonable ammount of time to call me back, something between 17 minutes and 29 years. If they don't call back, I tried, didn't I? Should I be held responsible for their slight misfortune? I should think not! I'm going to have fun with the money now! Hello, speed shop! Papa needs a new set of cylinder heads! But, being an evil sadist at heart, I must add another hypothetical situation no one else has (and I did read all the other ones, too) Supposing you lost $1000 and the billionaire found it... what would they do if they knew it someone in your individual income bracket, again with no reward/benefit coming. Suddenly, everything's different, isn't it?

A more fun game is to try to get people to codify various lines of values or ethics. "A terrorist is going to kill ten of your friends and a hundred strangers - you can only save one of the two groups, and nobody will know you had anything to do with it. Which do you save?"

Then you mess with the numbers, add in lovers and the person themself, maybe offer bonus money incentives for choosing one group over the other in close-run sets. Maybe reverse the tone of the question; you choose a group to die instead of choosing one to save, but if you refuse to choose they both die (it's weird how many people will refuse to choose if the question is 'pick one to die' but will have no trouble if it's 'pick one to live' even though the consequences are identical).

Because of the consistent pattern of the questions, you can then discover amusing anomalies in people's value systems, such as one friend being worth ten strangers, one stranger being worth a million dollars, but one friend being worth much more than ten million dollars. (Example not really anomalous because of diminishing returns as money increases, as demonstrated by your billionaire not valuing a thousand dollars at all, but you get the idea.)

I would keep it, although the guilt would get me so I'd probably end up having to give most of it to charity and then what i spent I wouldn't be able to use what I bought with it.
How I know the guilt would get me is because when I was 3 I stole a piece of lego from the kid next door (the big kids dared me too), not a big piece (one of the single plug square pieces) and I felt so guilty about it I knew exactly what piece it was and I could never play with it and when we moved when I was 8 years old I gave it back to him and told him that he'd left it at my place one day when he was playing lego with me.

I would keep it. But why stop there ? Look around a bit ... if this bozo could lose a 1000 without noticing it, there may be more lying around.

Got to say ... with it being Xmas and getting 'redundant' two weeks ago. Its a very topical question. What if i throw into the mix that I am still waiting on my '****en' laptop from dell thru some third party supplier who promised they would be here 'some time today'. well they arent and I waited inside ALL DAY.

Apart from wondering how many guns and bullets $1000 would buy its hard to think of what else I might like. From my limited experience, I have never met a wealthy/ extremely wealthy person who doesnt tend to shit on anyone else they can for financial advantage. Even those great rich people who give to charity get equal or greater back from the free PR.

Call me a cynic or an unemployed/ untested screenwriter, but I dont think that millionaire would value that money the same. I am not saying that you should all rush out and spend it, but I think you could just as easily give to the charity of your choice if so inclined. Me myself? I'd buy stamps to send to my local member to get laws changed so that delivery people, by law have to deliver within an hour of saying so, or they face summary execution.

Not happy Jan ...

It's mine! It's all mine! I'm rich! I'm rich, I tells ya'! Money, money, money, money, money, money! Beww-hoo-hah! Yes, set for life, I'm a wealthy miser ... !

I wouldn't feel good about keeping it, but it seems like a lot of work to track down the billionare. I'd probably turn it in at the police station and hope that nobody claimed it. I would want to return it, but I'm just too lazy to find the guy.

If he's right there and I see him dropping it, I'd shout after him, maybe run a little to tap him on the shoulder if he didn't hear me. No expectation of a reward, just an (often annoying) instinct to help people out when a slip might be causing them trouble.

If I find it in an envelope with ownership and contact details, and don't have all the information given in the hypothetical question, I'd make some effort to return it - and be pretty disgruntled when there's no reward at all, because I'd be returning it with the expectation that it's some sort of billionaire test-prank and that he's planning to give a larger amount of money to people who return it, to reward morality (or, in my case, selfish deductive reasoning). Why else would it be in an envelope with contact details? - that's pretty weird.

If I just somehow magically knew all the information in the hypothetical question - that it was dropped by a billionaire who would never miss it at all and that there would be no reward for returning it - then I would keep it, since if he's not going to miss it then it's exactly equivalent to if he lost zero dollars and a thousand dollars was created for me out of nothing. If nobody benefits by the return of the money, how can it be a good thing to return it?

If there was a chance that it might cause some hardship for the person who lost it, then I would make some effort to return it; effort made varying on a scale by how much hardship it is to me to make the effort, how much hardship can be avoided for me if I keep it, how likely it seems that I'll be able to return it, how much hardship it seems likely to avert for the original owner, and so forth. The question is only a grey area when *someone* benefits from its return.

I'm frankly a bit horrified by the number of people who would return it with the question exactly as given. People who think the correct thing to do is to *benefit absolutely nobody*, at a detriment to yourself or to people who could be helped effortlessly. Absolute moral or ethical rules are so impractical, especially when it comes to applying them to abstracts such as currency.

I would give it back. Having a billionaire know that you are a honest person is worth more than $1000.

Keep the money, but send back the wallet.

Now, if the billionare had dropped his credit card....

I see two different scenarios by people here: 1 where they find the cash, and 1 where they find a wallet. If I found Bill Gate's wallet, I would absolutely return it. No one should have to suffer through the DMV with a lost license problem, not even Bill Gates' nth personal assistant.

I would return the money too. Maybe the billionaires nth personal assistant is a nice person, and I get a pleasant conversation out of it, the the nth personal assistant thinks the world is a better place than it was when he/she woke up in the morning. Probably, no, the billionaire will never even be aware that this transaction took place, but the flappers will know, which means that the entire billionaire flapper network will basically hear this story over coffee at some point in the next two weeks.

Doing a good deed that will get around the world in a fortnight is totally airwolf. I would give the money back and be glad I had the opportunity to give the money back.

Once the billionaire loses the money in public he disowns it. So really, you are finding $1000 of unowned money that once belonged to a billionaire. Whether I decided to claim the money, leave it there, or return it back to the billionaire would depend on my financial state and how much I liked the billionaire. But, I think there is no real moral conflict because the billionaire no longer owns the money.

I'd deposit the $1000 and write the billionaire a check for $1000. I imagine it would not be worth his time to even hand it to a lackey to deposit it.

The suspense would make me vibrate.

It depends how badly in debt i was. It would be quite likely i would be too lazy to do anything about it (far too much ethical thinking), so i would leave it where i found it. Or kick it under a nearby bush, so that if the billionaire did look for it, he'd find it, but other people wouldn't.

This is a tough question to answer. The stated fact that the billionaire would never miss the money takes away nearly all of the qualms I would have about keeping it. In the end, though, I'd probably still feel bad about keeping it. I'm not rich by any means but a sudden $1,000 wouldn't change my life, it'd just buy more stuff. However, given these circumstances, the billionaire still wouldn't get it back, a worthy charity would receive it.

You know, Windows XP is so fat that it strikes oil whenever it wears high heels. Also, it gets a group discount at a museum, and Amelia Earheart was last seen orbiting its vast frame. The running theory is that the great pilot ran out of fuel trying to circumnavigate the great Star Menu.

i was eating at the cafeteria yesterday and somebody left an iPOD shuffle there. The man left the place hurriedly and I couldn't stop him. So I picked it up in front of the other 2 fellas sitting nearby, handed it to the restaurant manager and leaving the other two guys groaning and wishing they had taken it.

This afternoon, I saw the restaurant manager listening to it inside the office...

Wouldn't the billionare call the police on "Normies"? Billionares are afraid of common folk because common folk need money and aren't afraid of swindling them. Especially if they've seen Big Lewbowski. "He said I could just take any rug in the house, man." You know what I'm talking about normies!!! Yeah you do!!!

Hmmmn. I've gone to extreme trouble to give wallets--WITH money (and once even a fake ID!)--back to their owners that I had to hunt down in phone books and once with an ad. And I refused offered rewards twice. To me it's the moral of the thing; I would hope someone would be so kind to me (they have been) so I behave that way.

This is probably a "moralistic kvetch" rationalization, by which I mean, I can't bitch about what a louse anybody else is, if I behave that way too. I'd rather behave with honor. It makes me feel so much more righteous than all those other jerks. (heh. I am kidding. Sort of. I think.)

But of the maybe 12 people on earth I really detest--most of whom are in politics and none of whom I know personally, which is sad to admit, as maybe I've no right to detest someone I don't know personally (but then again, how many politicians have you *really* wanted to know well?? And I still maintain that Jacques Villepin is an alien anyway.) -- I might keep the money. Not for me. Just to keep it from them. Kind of the same reason I buy domain names sometimes in the field of my interest--to keep them from the lunatic schtick scam artists who would abuse them. I buy them to keep them away from people I detest, and then I give them to people I think are good. Kind of a webmaster Robin Hood concept I suppose. ;-)

I would probably feel too neurotically guilty to use the money if I did that though. This would not keep me from giving it to a person I admired, or buying something for them with it. I'm guessing I would "rationalize" this behavior with something like, "Once they lost it, it was no longer theirs." Or, "Apparently this was meant to be." Nothing like a little fatalism to put the seal of approval on nearly any bad behavior. ;-)

I think I would give it back. Truly I would, but I would hate myself afterward!

On a similar note, I have a real problem with the concept of giving "scratchits" as gifts.

For those unaware of scratchits (I'm from Australia, so I don't know if you have these elsewhere), they're little cards you can buy for a few bucks, that have scratchable foil that reveals either a money prize or nothing when the foil is scratched off. It's like an instant lottery. These things are often placed in birthday cards as cheap gifts.

Anyway, I have this problem with giving these things as gifts, because I always wonder what I would think if the person won a thousand bucks or more from it. I'd certainly regret giving it away. I think I would also hope the person is nice enough to split the prize and give me half. However, if I received a winning scratchit from someone, I'd prefer to keep the money all to myself. I'm a hypocrite.

What about others?

To answer the question asked, I would keep the billionaire's money. I would also keep it if anyone else in the world lost it. The question needs more detail. Is it actually a lost wallet? If I find $1000 bucks on the ground (not on somebody elses property, but government property like roads, sidewalks, parks, etc...) it aint stealing. But again I would take it regardless.

It's pretty simple, if you're a person with well-adjusted moral values (not necessarily religious values), then keeping something that's not yours when you know its owned by someone else is wrong. I don't care if its $1, $1,000, or $1,000,000. It's the golden rule. If someone else found your $1,000 you'd like them to return it!

I would return it. Why? Because it wasn't mine.

My kids found $2,534 in cash, stuffed in a wallet, almost certainly drug money of some sort, and we promptly called the police. It's called honesty.

The newspaper clipping is posted on my blog.

I would gleefully take 1000 dollars from a billionaire. 1 dollar for every million he owns. Incidentally, I would also be happy to keep a buck that a millionaire dropped, and would have no qualms about keeping a penny dropped by someone who has savings of 10,000 dollars. Although I don't think I'd bother to pick up the penny.

Classic Game Theory Stuff.

Now ask if me if I gave $100 worth of these ill gotten gains to someone else and told them how I got it, what would they do?

Game theory says - that if they don't get 1/2 the take they will tell on you

Keep it, in a heartbeat.
Explanation: I need it more than him, and if he was, as many have suggested, a great guy, full of Christmas/non-denominational winter solstice holiday cheer, he would have absolutely no qualms about giving it to me. And if he was a scuzbag, well, too bad for him.

Of course! There are no consequences, and what billionare don't know won't hurt him.

It would be like finding a diamond in a haystack.


I would return it after sending a few ransom notes and demanding another $1000.00 as a reward. I would probably have to cut off a corner of one of the bills and send it first. You know, just to show him I meant business. (For the record, I'd never really hurt them. Not permanently anyway.)

I'd return it, but not for the millionaire's sake - for my own. I have an overdeveloped sense of pride, and taking someone else's money without permission would make me feel dirty. I'd rather just work a bit harder and earn the $1000 on my own (and now that I've escaped from cubicle-land, my earnings are directly correlated to the hours I work - if I want to make more money, I work more)

Nice question. after every one discusses this to death, up the ante to $1,000,000.00 USD. Then see what kind of answers you get.

I'd give the money back, no questions asked. Now, being sly, you might point out that you already illustrated the difference between public and private responses and that any post here is a public response.

The truth is, I don't believe in an anthropomorphic God. I do believe that sin (in my definition, being crappy to your fellow men and women) is punished and virtue (being compassionate, caring, and concerned about those same folks) is rewarded. Sometimes we find it hard to see that, but some of the rewards are strictly internal.

I'd give the money back because it isn't mine. I didn't earn it. And the millionaire might have had it earmarked for some charitable thing. Even if he had it earmarked for lines of coke, assuming I don't know what he's doing is illegal, I still should return it. It is not my money.

Doing the right thing isn't about a reward. It isn't about what other people see you doing or don't. It isn't about recognition. It isn't even about God watching and keeping score, though if that helps you do the right thing, I can live with that crutch.

Doing the right thing is about knowing yourself that you've done what was right, hard or easy. It's about the self-respect that comes with that, especially if the decision was hard, painful or had a cost to you. And the truth is, we'll all be dead sooner or later. And what we'll leave in this world isn't quite 'our good name', but to some extent the impression we make on those around us, on our communities, and on our fellow man is the temporal ripple that will remain when we are gone. I'd rather mine was to be one where people thought of it as a good example, of a virtuous approach, and as a good way to behave.

We influence those around us in many subtle ways. So I follow the theory that rather than just bitching about how things are, I'll actively try to make things better in the only way that works (lecturing never does), I just try to do the right thing and hope it rubs off.

And I could probably survive without the $1000 but even if I couldn't, I'd still give it back. I might hope to get a reward from the millionaire, if I was in that dire of straights, but keeping the money would still be theft of a sort - keeping what you know does not belong to you. (A lot like government taxation... *grin*)

The old rules are the best, and "Do unto others as you would be done unto." is probably as old as any of them. And still good advice.

I would return the money, it's not mine. I would also hope that if I ever lost something it would be returned to me. I'm amazed at the number of people who say they would keep the money also belive that those of us who say we would return it are lying. Dishonest people seem to see everyone as dishonest and feel they are justified in their actions.

Not mine. I don't keep it.


I feel most of impulsive decisions are not planned ( oh God, what am I saying..aint I the fellow who says the Obvious?? )
But what i am trying to say is, that all of 355 fellows who have commented here, including me, can never say for sure whether they will keep the money or return it. It all depends on how we feel at that very particular moment.

You know, I'd take it to the cops. Just because with my luck, it would end up being counterfeit cash.

I could certainly use $1,000 but I couldn't keep it. It would make me physically ill to try to do so. No, it's not a church thing, I'm just made that way.

The billionaire may not need $1,000 but I need my peace of mind.

i'm keeping it, and presuming i know all this info about him, and the fact he wont miss 1k i'd be following him around waiting for the moneybag to drop some more.

I'd give it back. Reluctantly. But keeping it in this circumstance is stealing, pure and simple.

And to Lilorfnannie - Check your facts, Aleister (Not Alestair) Crowley was one of the founding fathers of the Wiccan religion which doesn't even belive in the existence of Satan- he is a Christian demiurge -YOU believe in him WE don't. He worshipped nature & the Egyptian God Horus in particular.

'Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law' is the phrase you are misinterpreting and it means 'do what you truly will', not 'do whatever you want.' What you will means what you truly believe at the core of yourself is the right thing, not the convenient thing, to do. Returning the money would be an example of this, unless another need is greater.

It also ties in with the concept of Thelema (The Crowleian pronunciation is Theh-LEE-mah, the accent bewatching on the vowel of the second syllable, Greek speakers say the accent should be on the vowel of the first syllable for it to be pronounced right....ThEH-lee-mah) - which means [free] Will.
"This "Law of Thelema", as it is called, is not to be interpreted as a license to indulge every passing whim, but rather as the divine mandate to discover one's True Will or true purpose in life, and to accomplish it; leaving others to do the same in their own unique ways." -OTO
You can choose to keep the money but you get what comes with it, and you make not like it; that is your choice.

Wiccans are also bound by the threefold law of 'whatever ye do shall return to thee times three' meaning if you bad things, you get bad karma (for lack of a better word) and your actions return to you, only three times as bad. You get it back whether you suck up to any god for forgiveness or not- saying you are sorry is a cop out unless you truly are.

The phrase 'Thou shalt' means absolutely nothing on its own, it is a dependant clause, you need more than an olden day equivalent of 'you shall' to make a proper sentence so essentially, you are comparing a misrepresentation to a non-sentence; hardly a worthwhile comparison.

In the context of this there are no moral absolutes: that is a fantasy constructed by you to make your life simpler and enable you to have someone people find difficult to argue with (millenia old books don't change their scripts because 'absolute' morals have undergone a shift, they require church leaders to do it for them) standing 'in your corner' so that you don't have to face up to the fact you really don't HAVE a point, just a regurgitated idea thinly veiled in an attack on a minority.

Your false and misleading statement is offensive to Wiccans everywhere, and to many other Pagan groups. If you truly do believe that all behaviour is judged by a moral absolute you ergo must agree that the vilification of all people is morally reprehensible and thus so are your actions. Do the moral thing, and withdraw your statement.
-The High Priestess Black Panther

no, I would keep it but for a good reason.

If God is sinless, and we were created in his image, then he would stop me from doing the wrong by keeping the money. So if I keep the money, God would have done the same in my place. Therefore, intelligent design is stupid.

Regardless of the wealth of the person, the amount lost, and the issues of who knew about it, I'd return it. Not only return it, but anonymously as well. Dishonesty such as keeping it hurts not just the person who lost it, but it also hurts the you the taker.

Based on past behavior, I would return it. I couldn't live with the guilt. Once, while working on a psychiatric ward, I was searching a patient's things (she had been transferred to the locked ward). I found money in a cigarette pack. She was mean, had a nasty temper, wouldn't know where the money had gone, and didn't really need it, as she was on Medicaid ( she had her food, rent and medical bills paid for, which was more than I was getting at the time). I briefly did think about keeping it (I was a broke graduate student) but it wasn't mine to keep.
When I was a broke college student, I was depositing my McDonald's check and asked for $30 cash. The teller gave me $80, which was the amount of my deposit. The deposit slip had $80 on it. I made the driver turn around and go back to the bank and gave the money back. The teller would have gotten in a LOT of trouble because of the missing money. I could have really used the extra cash but it wasn't mine.
The main reason I would return the money is so I could look at myself in the mirror without flinching.
Interesting discussion, BTW:)

with the conditions given, and knowing god is watching, i would keep the money.

Yeah, not needing an extra grand. Maybe world famous comic strip artists and his friends might not need it, but I for one would keep it. And as far as god throwing a lighting bolt or something, hogwash!

My price for dishonesty used to be $20,000,000.00, but has recently gone up. But given that I did this at work, maybe I'm just deceiving myself :) But it does give me something to think about when I face such decisions.

I'd return it. If a billionaire owes you a $1000 favour, that's got to be a good thing. And even if he doesn't come good, can you imagine the Karmic points you'd rack up for this?

Yes, I'd give it back cuz it wasn't mine.

I wouldn't just keep it, instead I'd call the billionaire and tell him I'd found his money and was willing to return it. I'd make it sound like it was an arduous task for me to drive to his home though, so he'd probably just let me keep it. Or if I thought this specific person was interesting, I'd go to his home with the money just to meet him, and he'd probably still let me keep it.

The main thing that I disagree with that has been said in these comments is about keeping it because the billionaire must be a bad person to have all that money. That's not true. In most cases he worked hard, thought of something new and great, and/or was in the right place at the right time. And he should have all that money because he earned it. Saying that he must have exploited people is stupid. When you buy a good or service you know that some of that money will end up with a rich CEO or shareholder. If you really feel so hateful towards them, then you can try to live as a subsistence farmer or form your own company and give all your earnings that you don't need to charity. Most people do not feel this, though, and they continue to give money to these corporations willingly. I'd hardly call that exploitation. Also, would you rather that this wealth be given to people who would waste it? Most billionaires have shown skill in financial matters, otherwise they wouldn't be as rich as they are.

Also, it doesn't matter if he needs it or not. It's his property. Then again he did drop it so…

I'd definitely keep it coz the billionaire probably stole it from a lot of people over time, with a strong possibility that my 50 cents are there too... Just Karma, man :)
Of course when the Wheel of Consequences turns around to kick me in the ass, I’d have already enjoyed the Xbox360 I’d have bought from it…

This basically gets back to the whole Intelligent design: "is there a God that would punish me for not returning the money?", or the evolution/darwinism: "survival of the fitest, finders keepers, sorry Sucka" mentality.

Personally, I think if a thousand dollars wants to "pop" into my posession based on the laws of probablity, then lucky me.
I have just as much of a chance of losing a $1000, so all things being equal, were straight, right?

To the billionaire, I would not return it, because I am on welfare and I know I need it more than he does, but down the line I would make sure I donated a collective $1000 to charity once I had the means. If I did not know for a fact it was a billionaire, if I just found that money in the street, I would hand it back, because whomever lost it might need it more than I do.

I'd return it and try to parlay that into a chance to meet the billionaire. I believe that there's nothing wrong with getting rewarded by doing the right thing.

You know what's funny? People do this very thing (percentage wise) all the time, I see dozens of kids (adults too) drop change, not just pennies, but quarters and dimes in muliples. If I see them drop it, I tell them, "Hey you dropped some change." and 90% of the time they IGNORE it or say "okay" and leave it. Now I'm not that old, and I know when I was 15 I didn't have $100s of dollars lying around, so I doubt that the kid leaving a buck in change on the ground ('cause he's too lazy to bend over) has several hundred in his pocket. Percentage wise, the kid losing a buck is lossing more than the billionaire 1:100 (one hundredth of net value) vs 1,000:1,000,000,000 (one millionth of net value)

So I'd do just what I do with anyone dropping money, if I saw him drop it, I'd tell him. If he chose to leave it there, I'd pick it up and consider it earned for the effort of bending down, since he obiviously felt it wasn't worth it.

Besides I remember the old adage
See a penny pick it up,
all the day you'll have good luck.
See a penny leave it down,
all the day you'll wear a frown.

Keep it! Duh! Teenage girl here, I want clothes!! Well, actually, I'd be much more likely to get a bank account I CAN'T access and put it in that. Well actually (again) about $100 of it would get spent on pies within 2 weeks. $100 more would be given to family, shared out. And $100 each would go to my friends. Yes, I have that few friends. Don't be mean to me. Which would leave me with about $500 depending on who I counted as my friends (woo hoo, bribery is fun...) which would be what got saved. Screw you billionare, I'm broke, my family's broke, I'm keeping this money! And also screw you people who have morals, you'll never survive the real world. Merry Christmas everyone. :)

Personally, thep possibility of becoming known to the billionaire when I return the money (and being a seen as a decent person), has a much greater potential payoff than a thousand dollars.
Now that I reread the prompt, I guess this would count as an indirect benefit...but in real life, I think there's always going to be some potential for indirect benefit.
That, and the whole "morals" thing would make me return it...I would hate to be one of those losers who slobber at the thought of hurting rich people, claiming that "they don't deserve/need it, anyway".

And oh... Angel. I don't think everybody assumes all billionaires have made something evil to make his or her money (allthough they probably did). It's just that no one needs that much money.

There is a saying that youth is wasted on the young. Well I say the wealth is wasted on the wealthy.

I should have read the comments first. DMN below had the PERFECT guilt-free solution.

That's assuming, of course, that the cops don't ask "whose is it?". Your scenario doesn't exactly explain how it is that the billionaire loses it and we know whose it is. (Of course, your hypotheticals aren't really all that realistic. Notice how many of the responses tend to be far more about the reality of finding money than about this fantastic situation where you can be assured the return will not be appreciated or rewarded, etc.)

I'd keep it. No doubt about it. And I'd even sleep well at night.

Many times a day my mind wanders off and sniff like a bloodhound for different ideas on how to get a billionaire to give me ten thousand dollars. I haven't found any good reason for them just yet. But keeping these 1000 dollars would sort of be an advance. And then I'd only have to try to get nine thousand dollars. Which must be a lot easier.

I also downloaded the free version of God's Debris. Mainly because it was free. I have no shame.

PS. Scott! Can I have ten thousand dollars?

Been there, done that, gave it back.

I was working for a large, heartless corporation a few years ago and it just so happened that they made a sizeable error on my paycheck, giving me about $250 more than I had earned for the pay period. I discovered it only later when I was going through my stuff, since I was working odd hours and a lot of over time then and hadn't previously worked out how much it should have been (not to mention that I was getting paid piece-work rates, not hourly, which added an extra layer of complication). By that time it was well past when anyone else would have caught the error, but I still gave it back. It actually took some effort to convince them that there was an error!

That money is going straight into my pocket - in my experience, if a man's a billionaire, he's probably committed some sort of crime on his way to the said billion. And since my paychecks are bi-annual (birthday and Christmas), that'd be a huge amount of money for me.

Return it. I guess the matter comes down to personal integrity. When the vendor gives me too much change, I return it and call it to their attention, large or small amount. Which is not to say that persons who do keep it are any worse persons.

Perhaps it is a result of the situation in my life that permits me the luxury of "personal integrity." Would I feel the same if keeping it meant feeding my family versus returning it and letting them go hungry? While I would like to believe that integrity would win out, I know I would choose my family.

The cold truth is that many of us owe duty to others that may call for the sacrifice self or our individual desires. That duty does not make us any worse persons. I simply wonder about those who choose to keep it when it simply finances some extravagance. How do they feel about themselves?

Well, you've pretty much skewed the results of your question by weighing in that, even under the extreme parameters that you added (it'll never be noticed, returning it won't be appreciated) ... parameters that would cause even someone as honest as me to say, "well, maybe...hm..." ... you would deem all who answer yes to be a bunch of crooks.

I'm sure we're all familiar with the joke that ends, "I know what kind of woman you are, now we're just negotiating the price," and this sets up the same kind of moral dilemma. I think there is still a big difference between the kind of person (all too common) who immediately responds to your question with, "Yes! Screw him!" and the chap who would normally go to great lengths to return a $5 bill to the proper owner but who could be convinced to keep the money if you layer on the modifiers that negate every qualm.

As for me, I would contact the local media and have them document my return of the money. At the least, I'd wind up the heartwarming last 30 seconds of the news broadcast and get some good press (and maybe a character reference). Better yet, that skinflint may make with the reward just to keep from looking like a schmuck.

If the person was a bigtime donor to the political party I oppose, I might be convinced to keep it simply to donate it to my team. (My guys would just cut his taxes anyway, so it's win-win.)

I would attempt to return it for sure. The problem with this is that if I knew that the person wouldn't miss it, it would definitely be stealing since I would know whose money it was. I would promptly return the money and hope for a $10000 reward (Honest, yes, greedy, a little bit!)

Now, if I had no idea whose money it was, this would be a tougher question. How do you go about finding someone who dropped an unmarked envelope? I would certainly try my best, and if I found out the owner, then no question I would still give the money back, but would not feel guilty if I found the money and couldn't find the original owner.

Naw, I'd give it back. Hey, I'm an honest kinda guy, dude.

But first, I'd call a national press conference, then do the rounds of the major talk shows - Larry King, Today, Jay Leno, Letterman (Top-Ten Reasons why Ned's an Idiot for Giving it Back) ... O'Reilly'd give me the "Upstanding Man of the Year" award (while trying to convince me that HE was the billionaire who'd lost the thousand bucks ...)

Oh, and in each media appearance, I'd promote my new book - "how to Make $10 million bucks by giving back $1000 bucks" - then I'd launch a speaking-engagement tour, talking at $25 grand a pop on the importance of honesty.

If nothing else, I'd be the next guest star on Trump's Apprentice ...

Logically, there is no benifit in giving the money back. In fact, to give the money back, the opportunity cost would be too great to waste the time and energy. So according to logic I would keep the money.

On the other hand, morally... I would still keep the money.

Personally, I would give it back.
Being totally blind, and having lost money through someone else's greed while totally unaware of it, isn't cool, and neither would losing that money be cool to the billionaire.
Whenever said billionaire meets with his accountant next, they'll go over the books, and realize the money's missing.
Even if they didn't, it's just wrong to steal like that.
And, no, I don't believe G-d is standing over me with one hand on a lightning bolt and the other on the trap door to hell.

For your information, Mr. Adams, I am NOT a billionaire. Please return the money.

I can't say I wouldn't be tempted to keep it but I would most likely give it back. They say that your chances of getting caught if you just rob one bank are pretty low too and I wouldn't do that either and that would gain me a lot more than $1000. However, I just want to invite all those billionaires out there to feel free to donate $1000 to me as a worthy cause (Bill Gates included).

Whatever happened to "Finders=keepers, losers=weepers"?
I've often alerted complete strangers that they've dropped money. I had a girl drop $100 bill on a crowded dance floor and I picked it up and gave it back to her. Had I not seen her drop it and simply noticed it I'd have kept in since I had no way of knowing whose it was. I imagine I'd do the same with $1000. If I saw him drop it I'd simply give it back. If I found it I'd keep it. I imagine if there was a license or some other ID with it I might make the effort to return it or maybe I'd just return the ID. I guess like many things, the answer is "It depends."

to be totally honest, I would keep the $1000 I found regardless of my perception of the wealth of the owner.

I would mail the wallet and the remainder of the contents back with a note saying I found it on the street. - I've lost my wallet and that's a drag to have to replace all that.

'Course I would keep it - happily, in the full knowledge that it was real free money. Find me a law that says I shouldn't. I'm an athiest.

Who on the planet, with perfect spelling and fluid use of the 'em construction, refers to money amounts in the f--king PLURAL?:

"You know? I would return them. And I need them . . . If I wanted a thousand dollars (and I want them), I'd have earned them, not stolen them (albeit passively) . . . Keep 'em, you get a thousand dollars. Give 'em back, you might get a number of things including gratitude . . . a thousand dollars are a temptation and all."

Oh, and why do people defend their thievery by equating a billionaire losing $1,000 with you or me losing a nickel? Wouldn't you be pissed if someone broke into your house and stole a nickel?

Of course I would take it - I would keep on the billionaires tracks to see whether he loses more often 1000 $ - I would try to see it as some kind of litter cleaning in very prosperious way! - It's like picking an ripe apple lying under an apple tree. - Yes & my conscience stays pure (somehow)

You know, this would be an interesting mini-strip series. Have each of the major Dilbert characters find the money and deal with it differently.

Dogbert: Not only would he take it, he'd find a way to scam the billionaire (i.e. PHB) out of more money and not feel guilty at all.

Dilbert: He'd probably return it anonymously.

Wally: He'd keep it and find a way to blow it all on the Internet at work within five minutes.

Alice: Hmmm. Tough one to figure out, but I think she'd keep it.

Asok: Definitely would return it, and probably even with interest.

The evil HR cat: Would not only keep it, but would burn it on a stick, marshmallow-toasting style, and cackle insanely while the smoke rose through the basement and the PHB sneezed from it.

PHB: He'd take it but spend it on one of Dogbert's scams.

Based on the fact that the billionaire would never be aware of it - a highly unusual situation for $1k in cash - I would absolutely keep the money and use it to effect an equally unusual event such as a surprise family outing for a family that could never afford it and a bonus contribution to their dentistry fund for the following year.

Interestingly, people who believe in a "god" are usually driven by guilt to "do the right thing" instead of a real sense of systemic honesty - pretty selfish when it comes down to it.

But then again, most Americans are pretty stupid and selfish, so no surprises there!

The best definition I have encountered for the word "stealing"--taking what is not given.

I am not a religious nut, but my self-regard is a matter of life or death to me. I do not steal. The provenance of the money is completely immaterial. And I spit on those of you that would keep it and claim that anybody else would do the same.

Assuming I know who the billionaire is (how else would I know that it belongs to a billionaire?), I would make an effort to contact the billionaire about the money. Odds are anyone that rich would ignore an email/phone call from me, so I could keep the money knowing that the SOB deserved to lose the money since he's too high-falutin' to talk to a pauper like me....

I'd keep it.

It's sorta wrong, but just justifiable enough that my wanting the money would overcome my morals.

It's possible that I'd guilt trip myself out of keeping it, but I doubt it.

Simply, yes. A billionaire can afford to pay a poor student as myself...yay?

In all fairness, if they really aren't gonna notice, there isn't gonna be a reward...why bother?

Assuming the billionaire is a prudent investor and can return at least a few percent annually on his fortune, he's already making over a hundred bucks a minute managing his money. Depending on how much effort it takes him to get it back (endorse a check, go to the bank, throw it on the pile, etc.) you may be doing him a favor by not even bringing it to his attention.

The billionaire, who in this situation, lost $1000 is like most of us losing $1. I've washed mine and my husband's jeans and discovered bills that neither of us even remembered, much less missed. Keep the money? Oh hell yeah.

Interesting question... did you lose your wallet with $1k in it recently Scott? :P

As for those who return it not needing it, you could probably adjust for that by just saying a larger amount of money had been lost.

It is important for people to be able to identify their lost property. Since we said $1000, that means 10 x $100 bills. As long as the billionaire could identify all 10 bills by serial number, I would give them back.

I would keep it, without a second's hesitation. I dispute the assertion that "finding" is the same as "stealing." One is a passive act, one is an active decision, and that makes all the difference.

Truthfully, I would keep found money whether it was dropped by a billionaire, a millionaire, a housewife, or a bum.

And to be fair, if I were clumsy and dropped money, I would NEVER, EVER expect anyone to return it to me. That's the way this world works; I'm just playing by the same rules as everyone else, whether they admit it or not.

The basic moral question here is whether it is ethical to profit from someone else's misfortune.

In effect, this is what happens in the stock market and the commodities markets every day. The difference is that traders enter the markets willingly, but the billionaire lost the money unwillingly. Your attempt to cloud the issue by making the finder's profit much greater than the billionaire's misfortune doesn't change the underlying ethics.

There are several applicable ethical theories.

First, Kantian ethics and the Categorical Imperative say it is unethical to treat another person as a means to an end, regardless how small or large the means. You must return the money.

On the other hand, the theory of ethical egoism says you should just do whatever benefits you, and everyone else can look out for themselves. So under this scenario, you keep the money.

Act utilitarianism says it is okay to impose on some people if it serves the greater good. Taxes and keeping the found $1000 are both justified by this. Keep the money.

Virtue ethics says there are certain ethical absolutes like honesty and trustworthiness. Return the money.

Feminist ethics and the ethics of care say it is appropriate to take resources from a privileged party and give them to an underprivileged party. Keep the money.

In the end, you must choose the ethical theory and standards by which you live your life. Then you must act consistently with those standards. That is the definition of integrity. To do otherwise means you are by default an ethical egoist.

By the way, I'd give it back.

I do not believe in heaven or hell, and I don't believe in behavioral score-keeping that would result in retribution from a higher power, in which I most certainly DO believe. If this hypothetical billionaire losing a random grand isn't even going to notice he lost it, and nobody would be aware that I gained it, we go to the "If a tree falls in a forest and nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" posit. If losing the grand imposes no hardship on the billionaire, and alleviates some hardship for me, HELL yes, I'm gonna take it!! I'm not greedy, I'm an honest assessor of my own nature, and we all rationalize in order to survive.

If I knew who it belonged to, I'd give it back without hesitation.

If I didn't know who it belonged to, I'd probably keep it. No sense wasting time on a wild goose chase. I mean what could I do post to Craig's list, "Found: $1000 in cash, tell me where and you can have it."

Think about the email that would generate. Probably more than your post on ID vs Evolution.

I don't have the time to sift through that many liars and cheats. It would be much easier to spend it.


I'd keep the billion.

But I'd give the wallet back.

On second thought I would definitely return the $900.

Well we bought some furniture (3 pieces) from Pottery Burn Kids on clearance for for my son's B-Day (August). It was about 20% off. They did the bill wrong and gave it to us for the price of 2. I said nothing thinking they did this on purpose. I actually thought the nice girl did but I said nothing and did not question it. But they "accidentally" left some toys inside a drawer. I found them at home and we felt guilty so I returned the ~$120 worth of toys to the store. The girl said “Oh ok, thanks” and turned and walked away. I felt very unappreciated. At that point I was glad I did not question the price and almost wish I kept at least the mini remote controlled car toy from the drawer. So would I return it yes. But only the first time. The next billionaire is screwed.

I actually found money one time in a church collection envelope. Cash, no identifying information. I wrote a check and sent it to the church. I figured god would KNOW about that one.

But the billionaire's $1000? Mine. all mine.

Why do people assume the billionaire did something evil to make his/her money? Maybe he/she invented some life-saving device and gets royalties, or wrote a book that changed thousands of lives for the better, or invested the family fortune wisely and ethically and turned it into billions? Maybe said billionaire was on his/her way to the local homeless shelter to donate that $1000 for Christmas dinner for those without. Or to buy toys for impoverished children...

Feeling uncomfortable yet? Want to change your answer?

I would return the money. Sure, I could buy a new Coach bag, or some cool stuff for my friends, but ill-gotten gains are like the "bad" apple. If you give in on one moral stance, what's the chance you could do it on other things? I post this in the hopes of all those who steal my personal desk supplies will feel guilty and that their road to perdition is paved with my neat gel pens...

It's a simple question of absolute morals versus relative morals. That is, are the standards or rules of moral behavior dictated by an absolute (usually referring to the Bible), and all behavior is judged by this absolute, or are the standards or rules of moral behavior dictated by the situation? Another way of putting it is, is it "Thou shalt" (as spoken by God), or is it "Do what thou wilt, shall be the whole of the law?" (as spoken by Alestair Crowley, noted Satanist). In the question posed by this blog entry, giving back the money would be an example of the former, but keeping it would be an example of the latter.

Even though my girlfriend would probably smack me around for not buying her something with it, I'd give the money back. That $1000 could go a long way to helping me get out of debt and back on stable ground, but it's not mine, and I did nothing to deserve it, where assumably the billionaire did ~something~ at ~some point~ to earn and thereby deserve the money.

That and it's immoral. Geesh.

I'd keep it.
God's too busy to watch me and I'm on my way to Hell anyway...
Plus, whats 1K to a guy who has bilions of dollars. And how exactly, would I know who it belonged to?

And I could really use some new shoes.

I would keep it to feed my insatiable caffeine and lemon habit...

Well, the way this question is set up, it's pretty black and white. But then, $1000 isn't going to make or break my budget. Honesty is a luxury I can afford, as I define honesty.

On the other hand, suppose you were getting a good deal on some retail software; however, when it came in the mail you see that it is actually OEM. Do you: A) send it back and buy actual retail for retail price B) install it and look for a license to buy C) tell yourself you are the original manufacturer since you've swapped so many parts anyway D) rationalize that Microsoft (whoops) won't miss the profit and they could stop the seller if they really cared...

Then there's the time I dug up a bush in my front yard and found $100 bill in the dirt. NO idea whose it was or how it got there...

I would only take it if I had a lead umbrella. That way God couldn't see me doing it.

My general rule on found money is to make an honest effort to return it. One time I was out with my friends on a Friday night, having a good time... and I left my wallet in the bar, on a pay phone. My wallet had over 500 in cash and 2 paychecks. I really, really needed this to pay my rent and car payment. I was going crazy! I was already making plans to borrow the money. I went back to the bar with little to no hope of getting my wallet back... Lo and behold! The previous nights bartender had found my wallet and put it in the safe! Every bit of cash and my paychecks were still there! I was estatic! I got with the manager and gave him a 20 (shoulda been more, but I was still broke!) and asked him to give it to the bartender that found my wallet.

I would take it to Vegas and make one blackjack bet. If I won, the cheapskate would get his money back none the wiser. If I lost, I would just assume that the karma of Thurston Howell III meant him to lose it for reasons only he knows.

I'm lazy. If the billionaire was there then I'd call or run after them. If it fell out of their pocket as they were driving away, then I would give it to a good cause.

I would give the money back unless the person that lost it is an enemy of mine (say, Osama Bin Laden). For some reason, it would rest easier on my conscience.

Definitely I would. Spend it with lightning speed, that is! My Mac needs memory & myself needs lots of other things. I guess in about 3 hours the money would be gone.

I wouldn't keep it, but I would use it as initial funding for parts required to build my robot army. But the billionaire's name would go on the "do not kill" list, so it all works out for everyone in the end.


I recently found $20 on the ground and intended to keep it. However, there were several people milling about and it might have been obvious it was not originally mine.. so I did the "right" thing and turned the $20 in to the manager at the desk.

I was so mad and disappointed I did that for several hours afterward. I knew the $20 belonged to somebody, but I was fairly sure the owner had long left by the time I found it, and it appeared that all the other people milling around did not see the bill lying on the floor..

$1000 is a lot more than $20 but I would just as likely intend to keep it.. unless someone else was watching. I like to think I have a good sense of morals, but the greed usually wins over.

No, if I know whose money it is and keep it anyway then it's theft.

I think I would give it back, but it's hard to know until it happens. I'm not rich but not needy, so $1,000 wouldn't make a crucial improvement to my financial situation. If I somehow thought the man was terribly corrupt, like a drug runner or Dick Cheney or something, I might give the money to a charity instead, if I was SURE the bad guy couldn't find out.

When I was a bank teller years ago, I told my Mom about a customer bringing back extra money that another teller had mistakenly given her. The teller made a counting mistake and didn't know why she was short that money, so we wouldn't have been able to track it down. Mom thought that the customer was absolutely foolish - that if the bank never knew who got the extra money, the customer should keep it. Big company, big pockets. And if the teller got into trouble for it, well, it was her own mistake. I brought up the same question with a lot of folks after that and I was astonished how many people would keep the money. Even though it didn't belong to them, they would keep it, and be almost maliciously gleeful that a big company screwed up and "gave" them a windfall.

I'd keep it for certain. Anyone who can rationlize this can come up with so many reasons to keep the cash. There's a fine line between retention of assets that aren't your and stealing, and that is a line I'd be willing to cross. Taking something that isn't yours implies possesion in the first place. Since the stupid billionaire dropped the cash, he didn't posses it anyway. It's mine, and God would love me for taking it.

I would keep it. First, if it came from a millionaire, there is a good chance that they came by all their cash through crooked means. Thus, I would be doing the world a favor by relieving some weasel of his funds. Plus, I'm greedy. There is no problem about me feeling worse about myself if I did not give the money back because I generally feel like rubish anywhay, so a little dough might help. I could use it to have an operation done so that I look just like Dogbert!

Alright, I'm kidding about that last part. But Dogbert IS awesome.

Talk about social pressure! All these people saying they would give it back - please!

De seguro que me quedo con ellos... 1000 dolares no es una bicoca en estos dias y de seguro el que multimillonario ni sentira la pena por la perdida.

The $1000 I found is in the post!

I'd give it back. Because, to me (not based on some religious ethic), it's the "right" thing to do. I'd create my own hell of guilt if I kept it. Besides, if there are any Gods out there, why risk offending them? I have enough trouble in my life without adding bad juju to it!

Fark Daddy Warbucks, that $1000 would be buying me an XBOX 360

Given the scenario that you describe, I honestly can't imagine that ANYONE would return the money...

You're absolutely right - it's all contextual, and all relative. If I lose a buck, I'm not going worry about getting it back, and I wouldn't judge anyone harshly who took it, especially if a dollar would make a difference in his/her life.

For me, the major decision-maker in your hypthetical situation is that the person who loses the money is a billionaire. My most immediate debts are six times that amount, not including the mortgages and other new loans. Certainly no one has returned my lost wallet. Yes, I'd keep the billionaire's money. You're sure no one saw me pick it up, right?

This question seems eerily similar to the infamous economics hypothetical situation in which I give you ten dollars with the requirement that you can only keep the $10 if the guy sitting next to you says you may. When the experiment is tried in a large classroom, most of the people will have given between 40% and 60% of the money to the person sitting next to them so they'll agree they can keep the money. Any less then that the other person refuses to agree. The irony being that as soon as you offer the individual any amount of money, they are automatically making money yet they won't say yes if you give them a buck.

If you return earned income paid twice in error, they nevertheless report it as paid twice on 1099's. Good luck getting that straightened out.

My own theory is that tactless people, like me, tend to return money in any amount, just because they're in the habit of keeping their private and public lives aligned.

How's this for a middle ground:

In many cities, if someone finds an item and brings it to the police, the police then make every attempt to determine proper ownership, so it can be returned to the rightful owner. A Lost item is held for some fixed period (typically 90 days, sometimes longer); if it is not claimed after this period, the finder can put in a claim on the item.

So: If I found the $1,000 I would probably turn it in to the police; if the billionaire didn't report it missing/turn up to pick it up, after some time I would be able to claim and get it, fair and square.

No thunderbolts from God, no guilty conscience, just a little waiting.

Abso-frickin-lutely I would keep it! I have bills to pay!

Where I live many people are unbanked, which means they carry around a lot of cash the week after pay day, for rent payment, bill payment and money orders. Where I live the odds are it's no billionaire. To justify keeping the money we may want to believe it's a billionaire.

I would do what I could to track down the owner, and if it's not possible, I would donate the money to charity. Determining the non-billionaire is the hard part, as there are so many people who have a story about the money they just lost. Someone might guess $1000, it would be nice to find $978. Then the person claiming the money, would have to know how much it was.

I would keep it then go looking for the billionaire so I could follow him around in case he dropped more. Seriously. Don't drop money around me. If I find 15 cents lying on the bathroom floor it's mine. Finders keepers and all that! Found money is Tax Free money!

I'd give it back because integrity and character is doing what's right even when no one is there to see what you do.

The money belongs to him. Give it back to him. Do the same if he drops his umbrella, or his keys. His stuff is his.

"A certain percentage of the population believes that God is watching them with one hand on a lightning bolt and the other on the trap door to Hell."

I fit into this category. I'd give it back.

I wouldn't keep it. I'd spend it.

All the conditions you created were to simply make it more of a moral question rather than a financial question. A truly honorable person will give it back no matter what the conditions. A completely dishonest person will keep it no matter what the conditions. Everyone else is just putting a price on their honor.

The real ethical dilemma is whether or not you would tell your spouse (significant other) that you found the money. (Take off from an old lawyer joke)

Of course, I would keep it. In fact, I'd deposit it into my savings. I don't have a 401k, so any extra money gets saved.

I figure if there is a god, he, she, it, or they wouldn't torture someone for all of eternity for taking the billionaire's money and saving towards retirement in a world where employers are increasingly not giving benefits.

Besides, how do you know it isn't a "sign"? After all, god apparently leaves "signs" all the time. Trouble is, most people can't read them because they're not in English, so they make up whatever they want.

A god who would torture an ordinary, average person for all of eternity for trying to save money when a billionaire won't need it really isn't a god worth worshipping. It'd be more like the evil HR cat. It wouldn't even be Dogbert on a bad day, because even Dogbert would understand the value of saving money when someone else doesn't need it.

And if there isn't a god, it won't matter in the long term.

Damn staright I'd keep it. I'd keep it if it was dropped by someone that neded it. I'd don't make cartoonist money, I need every penny I find.

Aren't we delving back into the world of cognitive dissonance here?

Observation: I'm intrigued by the observation that the billionaire doesn't deserve the money, but the finder does. Yes, the billionaire was careless and the finder fortunate, but I'm not sure what that has to do with deserving anything.

Also, a few people have mentioned needing (surely in jest) a new iPod or TV or whatever. Unless the person who found the money is starving/freezing to death, I'm guessing need is a little strong.

Of course I'd give it back. And since I was giving the money back, I'd also take the opportunity to invite said billionaire to get in on the initial funding for my new company. I figure by giving back the initial thousand, he'd see that his money is safe with me and he'd be very inclined to invest in my company. And since he is a billionaire, a couple million dollar investment would be pocket change.

I would most certainly give it to the needy. Then I would contact the billionaire to inform him of his brilliant tax decision.

I'd keep it temporarily and buy stocks in Dilbert with it. When they hit high enough I'll return the guy his original money and pocket the profit. Everybody wins!

for those who said they will give the money back. well, arnt you returning the cash for a motive as well ? (karma+1 etc)

although in returning it, you may see your motive as being a good one. whereas by keeping the money, it may be seen as morally bad.

fact is, whether its right or wrong are just subjective events... based on a opinion by the (supposedly) majority people.

ANYWAY, i'll keep half of it and give the other half back. :) billonaire owes me 1, and i use the other $500 to buy a xbox 360. everyone wins.

"let’s assume that the billionaire would never be aware that he lost it"

Okay, I would go to the police station and explain where I found the money and they would put a thirty-day hold on it. If nobody comes to claim it they would turn it over to me, and it would be mine legally.

Morally I had no idea who lost the money and I made every effort to return it to him. After the thirty-day period, I would get the money with a clear conscience.

PS. If later I did find out who it was, I would wait until he died, and slip a personal check for one thousand dollars into his coffin before they buried it.

If I were the billionnaire, I'd give them the grand just for giving me back my wallet. People need to have a reward for their good deeds.

As a general rule, I'd give it back. I was a poverty stricken college student living in an 8' x 10' rented room when I found a wallet with about $30 in it and walked a couple blocks to return it. There was no reward and I was ok with that.

However, my response might vary if I recognized the billionaire. I'd give back money to Oprah since I know she gives a lot of money to charity and I like her. But if "The Donald" dropped the cash in front of me, well I'd only return it if he promised to spend it on a trip to a good hair salon.

I'd give it back. I definitely need an additional $1,000, but my concience doesn't need any more ammunition.

of course you give it back. the level of wealth of the person who the money belongs to is irrelevant.

of course the answer is a resounding No, because humans are rational, therefore they will consider the following points about keeping the bling:

1. billionaire suffers no harm (since he will never realise the $'s gone)
2. finder gets unexpected benefit of $1000
3. in all likelihood no one else will find out and so finder suffers no penalty
4. in all likelihood the $ was legally made and so finder will suffer no penalty for using the cash either

therefore, overall benefit to society is +$1000 and hence people will KEEP IT. besides, economic theory suggests every dollar of additional consumption yields an eventual income augmentation over and above the original extra (multiplier effect), so. unless of course, you believe fervently in heaven v. hell, in which case

5. finder suffers eternal purgatory (or more likely something less severe) for dishonesty

and so overall balance of society goes deep into the negative and hence they won't keep it. either way, it's still a rational economic analysis of the situation. hey, Homo Economicus, yeah?

from dennis detroit there was this: "Here is another question. A major drug cartel loses a satchel of freshly laundered $100 bills off the back of a truck. You find it. Do you turn it in?"

in this case obviously either turn it in or ignore it, because the bling's freshly laundered and no one in his right mind will take freshly laundered money and use it, in case it gets traced back. unless you wear a balaclava while shopping, but then you'd prob be arrested for attempted robbery anyway so no difference.


hmmmm..... does the phrase "finders keepers losers weepers" sound familiar? It works for me. (I am not a crooook)

I don't know if I would actually keep the money or not. It would depend on how much trouble it would be for me to return it, should I know "which" billionare lost it in the first place. I don't know if that makes me lazy, apathetic or inconsiderate (probably a bit of both) but I think I would resent the effort it would take to return money to someone that rich.
If, on the other hand, I thought it was the mortgage payment of some poor little lady, I could see myself climbing walls of broken glass to return it to her. Jaded though I am, I would find it very hard to sleep thinking this unfortunate soul would have to spend a cold night in some alley because she couldn't make payments to the bank that is, most likely, run by the very billionaire suggested in your question to begin with.
I think billionares suck, although I'd like to be one some day and find out just "how" much they really do suck. (;->)

I have returned found wallets with money and ATM cards, but I once kept a found $25 prepaid gift Visa card and gave it to a friend on the spur of the moment.

I find the comments on this thread odd for a few reasons:

1) Why all the Dilbert/blog inside jokes? Scott and the readers obviously know you read this stuff, otherwise you wouldn't be posting. Why the need to try to stand out as one "in the know"?

2) I'm amazed at the amount of God-related topics and comments. When a seeming majority of the readers (not to mention the writer) do not believe in God, why does it come up so often around here? I do believe in God, for what that is worth. Which is why the "God is dead" concept confuses me. Of course he is. He died almost 2000 years ago. I've even seen it on TV, so it must be true. But he came back to life 3 days later, so its all good. But I am digressing.

3) Since when is the idea so common that right vs. wrong depends on the scale of the action? Something is wrong whether it is a little or a lot. Is it OK for me to lightly hit Mike Tyson because he is big and strong and I couldn't possibly hurt him?

But the question was directly asked, so I will answer:

I will give it back.
(No explanation of my actions are necessary to anyone but myself.)

If it's possible to find the person who lost it, I would return it. So if I know the person who lost it is a billionaire, I probably know who lost it.

If for some reason it can't be returned, I would probably give it to a worthy charity (without taking the deduction!) rather than give it to the police, where it would eventually be given over to the state.

The tougher question is, if you find $5,000 in cash, and you don't know who lost it, what do you do?

Maybe it's drug money, or maybe it's someone's christmas bonus they just cashed. Maybe they really needed the money. Each of us could probably use an extra $5,000, but it's not my money. What do you do?

I'd give it back. Yes, I could use $1,000 to pay down some debt. The $$$ would get spent and life would go on, yada, yada, yada... but, I would always KNOW that I took $1,000. I couldn't ever get that back. It's not worth it.

I'd probably return it, and then hate myself for the rest of my life... Then again, if I didn't return it, I'd hate myself for the rest of my life... hmmm...

I guess I'd pretend I'd never seen it, left it where I found it, and let someone else deal with it.

Quite frankly, I'm not sure what I'd do. I think the only reasonable think to do here is experiment... Drop the money near me and lets see what happens!

This is an example of commensalistic stealing (where you steal something that the other person won't notice missing) and it's fine with me. Even when it happens to me, as a matter of fact. I happened to find a while ago that my friend took a couple of bucks from my room one time because she needed it. I never knew until she felt guilty and told me, and I didn't even ask her to pay me back - it's okay with me. (Interestingly, I probably would not have just given it to her had she asked - I would have been too conscious of the absence. Since she stole it, it's all right. Which is weird.) To a billionare, the thousand dollars is like that couple of bucks; to me, it's most of the way to a fancy new drawing tablet!

The natural instint is to keep the money. We're all weasles that way. I returned a wallet with $120, drivers license and other important stuff once and not even got a 'thank you', so I learned my lesson then. The real questions here is what would the billionaire do, if you returned it. Let you keep it? Give you more for being a good person? I think it depends on who he/she is. Donald Trump once paid someones mortgage off because he helped him with a car break down on the freeway. So you could either take a gamble for more rewards or risk not getting anything. Coming back to the fact that we are all weasels when it comes to money... keep it. If someone can loose $1K and not notice, you don't have to feel bad for keeping it.

You can keep the $1000 and be guilt-free. Just turn it into the police. The billionaire is never going to notice it missing, so after 6 months of nobody claiming the money, the cops will give it back to you.

I would keep it. I don't believe in God (at least nothing that ressembles western religions' definition of it), in Hell, Paradise, or Karma. It is my belief that billionaires only get that rich from exploiting other people and such concentrated wealth hurts society and would feel no guilt in keeping the money.

Uncle Scott, ...not this time
Being the Fear = Control element of this equation is an intangible and arguably non-existant entity then the answer should be yes, keep it. If the Fear = Control element of this equation was something more concrete i.e. security cameras and bodily harm then of course more would opt to give it back.

Actually, wouldn't whichever choice you made be right, considering that it was all predetermined before the world was even created? Whatever choice you make would just be the result of everything that remotely affected you when you were alive. Therefore, it doesn't really matter, unless you believe in God or something.

I would keep half of it and give the other half to my wife so that she wouldn't flag the guy down and make me give it back.

I didn't mean to drop it. If anyone has found my thousand dollars, or any other denomination that I think I might have lost, (anywhere) please return it -- PayPal to above email is acceptable

I didn't mean to drop it. If anyone has found my thousand dollars, or any other denomination that I think I might have lost, (anywhere) please return it -- PayPal to above email is acceptable

Easy. Keep half of it.

Shit, I don't even know.

Morally, it's wrong. Stealing is stealing. (Duh.)

Personally, I think the question would work just as well with who don't have a lot of money. If some lower-middle class dude who's a manager at a gas station drops $35, do you take it back?

I'd expect the same answers for the same reason; nobody knows so nobody can care. People will fly off about how they hate the rich (jealousy thing really) cause they think that morally justifies it, but they'll say the same thing with Mr. Gas Station Manager and justify it with 'nobody knows, nobody can care'.

I would take it back, and for an odd reason. I'd wanna talk to the billionaire and get some insight into how he operates. I think that'd be a fascinating conversation if he's got the time. It's good to get that perspective.

I don't earn a whole lot of money from my job, so I love reading that kinda stuff. Getting the most from money is important. People undervalue it a lot, I'll bet most people don't realize what you can do with a thousand dollars.

Of course I would take the money. Only an idiot and/or a rich cartoonist wouldn't.
There's not even an ethical dilemma here - I mean, you would hurt no-one if you kept it.

I would make an attempt to return the money, but it probably wouldn't be worth his time to rendezvous with me to return it. The fact I even made an attempt to morally do the right thing should atone itself with God.

Assuming that's the case and I had to keep the money under those circumstances, I'd probably end up donating it to various charities. While I could certainly use $1000 (Todd, there's a down payment on a new TV!), I'd prefer to not have anything weigh on my conscience. There are far more people out there who could be assisted through charity to meet basic living standards or benefit from research to save lives.

Are we talking US dollars or Canadian dollars?

I'd definitely keep it.

Oh I forgot to ask something in my first comment.Scott, do you need a personal assistant? I'm pretty sure I'd be great at public relations.

I'd give a 10% back, as a tithe to him... he's obviously god if he didn't need to notice it's missing.

To be honest, You can bet your life I would keep it.The most I'd do for the billionare is send him a picture of all the dancers at the gentlemen's club I gave it to so he would see what he could see how he could be spending his money.Oh, I don't want to forget,those dancers would be as drunk as I would be too.

I would post an add in the paper stating where I found the money and at what time and day. but not how much it was. if after 30 days they did not contact me i would keep it.

I would keep it on the assumption that the billionaire is the Yale endowment. Those cheap bastards won't pay us grad students worth ****, and I think one year making $1015 more than a McDonalds floor-mopper is only my due.

I find it quite humourous how many of you are justifying keeping the money on the grounds that the person would never miss it or because it's some sort of statement against the society we live in. Or how about the thought that if a person drops something he doesn't deserve to keep it in the first place. How about it's called stealing. Legally it's wrong to take what is not yours and morally it is wrong to break the law. You all lose. If you truly wanted to get the money back to the millionaire but couldn't locate his phone number you could always talk to the police. I'll bet they could contact him.

I would turn it into the police. If it isn't claimed in 30 days (and remember - Daddy Bigbucks doesn't even know he lost it...) then it would be mine anyway.

I would turn it into the police. If it isn't claimed in 30 days (and remember - Daddy Bigbucks doesn't even know he lost it...) then it would be mine anyway.

Well, here's a reference.

I play RuneScape, and in it I am, well, very wealthy. I normally walk around with equipment totaling well over 40 million gold, and that's just what I feel like wearing.

When making deals, I don't squablle over 10k gold one way or the other. Personally, it would take longer to fight it than it would for me to go out and make 10k more.

If I found the money, I would probably go to the man and ask him "So umm, do you want this?" Frankly, I don't need the money. I mean, I do, but when my life becomes about money ahead of doing what's right, then I've lost perspective.

Hopefully he'll say "Ha! A thousand dollars? hmm, well I need 20 for my McD on the way home, but you can keep the change."

At this point, I procede to shine his shoes and then book it to pay off a horrendously high-interest college loan.

I'm wondering what would happen if locks on cars were outlawed in an attepempt to keep us aware of the practicality of moraltiy. Any vehicle I walk up to, I could think that someone just left it there, so it is fine for me to take it, if I answer yes to this topics question. I mean, they have two cars and I have a skateboard, that isn't fair, so I am justified.
If the ability to act moral without threat from a governing body was in everyone, caused by prudence, rather than arbitrary fear, this question would not need to be asked.
I know what I would do.

If this is hypothetical, can you be 30 pounds lighter and 20 years younger when you find the money?

I'd likely keep it with the understanding that we are, to some degree, operating within the confines of our Karma and the laws of Material Nature - it must have been his Karma to drop $1,000 and my Karma (and my conditioned nature) to find and keep it.

Of course, in order to ensure that the Billionaire learns the valuable lesson that his Karma is trying to teach him, I'd feel obliged to send him an anonymous "Thank You" note. : )

"Chant 'Hare Krishna' and Be Happy!"

Scott, just love your blogs. They are very witty. I would keep the money. Just lemme know when you're dropping your dough.

I once earned the money that I later found to have been provided by an inappropriate backer. I am still looking for the backer to return the money to him. He is a billionaire, and the sum in question is $400.

I think that regardless of whose money it is and how badly he needs it the money is still his, and not mine. For me to keep it would be stealing and dishonest.

Disregarding the whole religious issue, there is a societal issue of trust and respect that weighs in here. When I say something I expect people to believe me and trust my word, and I'd like to be able to trust other people as well. I try to show respect for other people's property and hope they will do the same. What kind of society would we have if we didn't have some level of mutual trust and respect?

If I dropped a dollar and a homeless man found it would I want him to give it back? Yes. And I'd probably give him five dollars as a reward. Integrity is doing the right thing even if you think know one will know.

I would keep it.

Wow, there are alot of people that hate the rich. You would almost think that this were the 1100's, and they came into their money by raising an army stealing the money directly from the rich-haters. There are still countries that are like this (just read the paper or listen to the news, and you can tell which ones), but thankfully, I don't live in any of them.

But, it isn't the 1100's is it? This billionaire (most likely) had a good idea, and executed better than his/her competition. In the process of this, he/she generated alot of wealth. There isn't a fixed amount of wealth available to the world. When Henry Ford started making cars on an assembly line, he generated (out of thin air essentially) VAST amounts of wealth. Not just for himself and his company, but now cars are a commodity item. That is wealth for YOU.

The separation between the rich and poor is MUCH less than it used to be (in modern industrialized countries). I don't mean by the amount of money they have on hand, but by the WEALTH they have. Almost everyone has a car. Almost everyone has a place to live. Almost everyone has plenty of food. Almost everyone...

We are all better off having these billionaires around. They are the ones that give the rest of us jobs. They are the ones who are able to fund innovative ideas. They are the ones that generate WEALTH. If you look at the countries that insist on penalizing people for doing well by overtaxing them, you will see stagnant or declining countries. The United States is at the technological forefront because we allow people to make as much money as they want. When that stops happening, you get... Europe. Stunning unemployment, overwhelming "social" programs, bitter populace, no incentive to be innovative. This is all because there is no incentive to do well. You do well, they take that "extra" that you made, and redistribute the wealth... Because some think that is "fair". What would be fair is if everyone had the same opportunity for success. By and large, everyone does have that opportunity (in the U.S. anyway). Whether or not a person takes that opportunity is a different issue.

But, I digress. Those who hate the rich won't see the logic of this argument, and it is preaching to the choir for everyone else. Not sure why I bothered.


I didn't think you were a billionaire. But I could believe that you lost $1k in cash.

I would keep it.

The reason - no doubt the Billionaire would be the kind who goes "time is money".

In order to get to him, I would have to arrange a meeting with him.

Okay, so lets assume he earned his billion over say 10 years of work ... 40 hours a week etc ... that means he earned a billion over about 21000 hours.

This means he earns about $48000 an hour.

So basically if returning his money to him takes longer than 2 minutes of his time, I am actually stealing from him, and could be sued by him.

This makes it worthwhile for everyone if I keep the money, and use it to buy one of the billionaires products.

Don't I have complicated reasoning? Yes - so long as it's reasoning which allows me to keep the money!

I bet you're missing $1000, and you're suspecting us from stealing it from you.

I would return the money - I say this not because I want to feel better about myself, but rather because I know that I would feel dishonest if I didn't return it.

I have absolutely no qualms whatsoever about being given money in someone's will and spending it straight away on a new games console, though. But that's just me.

There are those who would give it back with the hope of a reward even though the millionaire didn't know about the loss. They would be fools because the reward would most likely not be the whole 1K.

i would call the billionaire tell him he lost $100 and see how badly he wanted it back. if he said to keep it i would, if he wanted his measley $100 back i'd give it back and keep the other $900 for myself... it's a win win situation.

I know you are not of a religious nature but...It comes down to one simple question. How much would it take for you sell your soul? If you would sell your soul for $1000, would you sell it for $2? To quote GBS "My dear, we know what you are, we are only quibbling about price."

I once read somewhere that Bill Gates makes so much money per time unit, that if he dropped 100$, he would actually loose money if he spent time to pick it up..
So I would surely noth bother him.

It's a test of character. What about adding to the scenario to include that you've just applied for a job that is, for the sake of discussion, your dream job. You've nailed each and every interview and unbeknownst to you, the owner, issues a final test to determine your strength of character. Returning the money could be a huge blessing in an of itself in determining your future (and not your Heaven vs. Hell future - Jesus paid that price and it's available for the taking if you'll accept what he did for you, but that's another discussion for another day).

Life at times, is very much like a "choose your own adventure" book. Do you choose the $1,000 blessing now, or a potentially much larger blessing later (which may or may not include any material rewards).

I could definitely use the $1,000, but I'd give it back because it wasn't mine to begin with. And I for one, would never hire any of those posting here stating they'd keep the money because the billionaire would never miss it. Some have called this Karma, some say "what goes around comes around" or "we reap what we sow."

I would keep it and buy myself something nice! I do not consider FINDING $1000 stealing. It's not like I stole his wallet or broke into his car. One billionaire's carelessness is another woman's Coach purse.

I had to think about this one for a while because I generally consider myself a very honest person. However, I am also honest enough with myself to realize that how I would deal with finding that much money would depend on two different things: 1) what I knew about the person who owned the money; and 2) my own fiscal circumstances.

A friend of mine once found several hundred dollars on the street, but it was wrapped up in international IDs and passport information. She did the right thing and took the bundle to the police; I insisted that keeping it might be a genuine hardship on the money's rightful owner.

But in your scenario, in which it's a billionaire who has lost a thousand bucks, there's clearly no hardship on the part of that person. Therefore, at least in my case, it all depends on my own circumstances.

When I was unemployed for five months a few years ago I took to stealing toilet paper rolls from public bathrooms. I never felt any remorse about that; I was pretty certain I was not causing anyone due hardship, and I was saving myself a few dollars wherever I could. Thus, if I found a thousand bucks while still in that kind of predicament, and I knew for a fact that it was no hardship on the person who lost it, I would definitely keep it.

But if I were in a comfortable financial situation, as I am right now, I would probably return it. Just because the guy (or woman) is richer than I am doesn't mean I need it any more than they do.

I would definately keep it.

Its not as if im gonna get an xbox 360 any other way.

I would keep it but I would never admit to taking it, nor would I ever tell anyone I would take it if it were asked in the context of a hypothetical question, especially on a blog.

How many billionaires do you think would give the money back? How do you think they got to be billionaires? Read the stories about JP Morgan or Rockefeller, or Carnegie. Or heck, even Bill Gates... on the way up, not what they did with the money once they made it.

Taxes and moral codes are just a couple of the things people in power inflict on people who don't know any better, to keep them in line. And I say this as someone closer to the former than the latter. Wise up people. Take the damn money. If you feel guilty, donate it to charity and at least get the tax writeoff.

I don't agree that keeping the money would make you a crook. I am not aware of any LAW that says you MUST return a found item, including money.

Based upon your scenerio, I would keep the money, or perhaps I'd return $800 of it ($200 "finder's fee").

I'd keep it, and I wouldn't feel the slightest pang of guilt. *bent halo*

Would you hunt someone down if you knew that they dropped 7 cents? How hard would you work to return that?
The average household networth in the United States is $70,000. For a billionaire to lose $1,000, it is the equivalent of any of the rest of us losing 7 cents.

Billionaires count on the rest of us to be moral (or stupid)so that they can remain in that lofty arena of disgustingly rich. At least that's my 7 cents worth on the subject.

What if by losing the grand he no longer is a billionare? Maybe he was just barely a billionare and you deprived him of that? :)

No, I wouldn't keep it - I'd give it back.

Once... I was standing in line in a fast food place. I glanced down at my shoes and saw a nicely folded 50 dollar bill next to my foot. I picked it up... looked around... no one appeared to be looking for it. So i palmed it... walked up to the counter... ordered my food... and discreetly said.. "I just found some money - has anyone reported a lost bill?" (I was clever enough to not mention the amount.. ummm.. just in case.. you know.. ) The cashier said no. I stepped to the side to wait for my food, and a frantic (but well-dressed) woman came rushing forward. Before she could say a word, I silently handed her the bill. She clutched it, thanked me, and I walked away with my food... weird, huh?

I would be happy that I was at the birthday party of a billionaire and simply place the money on the table near the exit as I was leaving. It probably belongs to the butler or maid anyway.

I was given a very interesting point of view about a similar thing once...
If it was £1000, i'd keep it. If it was £10, I wouldn't. Although that doesn't make sense, think of it this way. Anyway that can drop/lose £1000 obviously has a lot of money to begin with, where a single £10 can belong to some old lady who now can't afford her shopping.
Found a filofax at a trainstation once, had £20 in it, along with a load of phone numbers/pen etc. My cousin handed it all to a security guard, who I imagine subsequently pocketed the cash. Personally, if I lost the filofax, and got it back sans-cash, I wouldn't be surprised, and I wouldn't be offended. I'd be annoyed, but take comfor tin the knowledge I'd do the same.
Finally - to sound oh so hypocritical,
True story - a couple of years I go I was in Playdium, then huge ass arcade at West Ed Mall when i dropped my wallet with over $300 (Canadian). Quite a bit of money for me, well, all I had actually. I would have DEVASTATED to lose that. However, when I informed the reception desk, somone had already handed it in. With every penny still there. Which suggests either

a) They didn't think to look in (actually, if you odn't KNOW how much is in the wallet, there's no moral dilema, you just returned someones personal effect with no loss to yourself)

b) There really are some innocent, good people in the world (or Canada, at least)

c) They thought the opposite of my initiral comment above, and decided that $300 is a big amount and will make more difference than just a $10 bill.

Take out an add in the local (very very local) paper saying you found a certain monetary amount. When you get responses then bill the amount of time (just take it right out of the $1k) you spend trying to track down the owner. When the money is gone then stop trying, and if HE comes to claim then give HIM the difference. Hey, my time is worth something.

My hrly billable rate would be calculated based on my work salary. I would sleep like a baby.

I know this is just a hypothetical question... but even if I were a billionaire, I think I would notice if a grand accidentally slipped out of me pocket... If not, then I would give it back and recommend he use it to re-line his jacket.

My dad actually faced this scenario (although it might not have been a billionaire). He found an envelope with almost $2000 in cash and turned it in to police. No one claimed it so they gave it to him.

I'm with Dan December 20, 6:41

Now, another question is, why do we differentiate between $1,000 and $1? It's all a question of proportion, isn't it? I know many people who would return $1,000 to a billionaire, but nobody would go out of their way to give someone a lost dolalr.

But the only reason that $1,000 is returnable and a dollar isn't is because $1,000 represents a much larger fraction of our average net worth. In the 19th Century, 100 pounds per year was a respectable income. The loss of one pound would have been a devastating blow to most people. Now it's barely noticable to most.

So if the billionaire loses $1,000, is it really any different to him than to an average person losing $1? Might as well let the finder happily enjoy it without judging him morally.

Yes, I'd keep it. I'm an athiest and I'm under the illusion that I need an Ipod, spa treatement and my hair died 30 different colours. (Not really, it would go towards tuition) Besides, when you find a penny on the ground that was probably dropped by a middle class citizen, are you going to go searching for them to return it or are you going to "see a penny pick it up, all day long you'll have good luck"?

Since money doesn't typically have people's names on it or tags that state "I belong to a billionaire" on the bag it's in .. you really wouldn't know if the person is a billionaire or a regular working guy who needs the cash for his home payment.

My answer is no, I would not keep it, regardless of who's money it would be or who would know about me returning the money. It's the ethical thing to do.

After a breif review of the comments .. it is pretty saddening to see how many people would grab their hats and run with the money.

Well, he won't be using it if he lost it. And I hate waste. Besides, its just $1,000. He probably finds twice as much stuck to his shoe every Tuesday or so.

If no one will find out hell if someone found out. I'd keep it, I got bills and x-mas to pay for. a grand would come in usefull. crook or not atleast i'm honest.

I would donate it to a charity in the billionaire's name. Exactly what charity would depend on who lost the money, and my choice could be surprisingly contrary to his public stances.

Ten years from now when They are torturing me in Rio with bamboo pedicure techniques I'll crack and tell them. I'll be finished then and the thousand bucks wouldn't have been worth it.

As a lowly engineering technician, assuming the billionare had 36 billion dollars,(just to make the calculations easy), he would have to lose 10 million dollars to be equivilent to my 36 cents, therefore I would not have a problem cleaning this 1000 dollar litter off of the street. It's only not mine until I find it. I knew someone that once found a pay envelope of money outside a bank, and I advised he turn it in . That was someone's rent money, .0000027% of a billionaire's wealth is justifiably negligable. If you find a quarter beside a vending machine, and no one is around, do you hunt high and low for the rightful owner,? no, you just buy a bag of chips and get on with your life. Meanwhile, the loser of said quarter is not concerned, but merely confused thinking, "I thought I had another quarter, oh well..."

I would NOT return the money. (I don't see why anyone would, either) Because my moral principles can be summarized as "don't inflict harm in anybody" and my keeping the dough wouldn't hurt anyone, given the premises of the exercise (the rich guy would never notice the missing grand).

Plus I'd certainly try to stick around the guy more often to see if I can pick up another couple bills. (as long as the conditions remain the same regarding the harmlessness of it all).

Another scenario:

I happen to find $1000 a poor guy* lost without noticing (say for example he never was aware he had them in the first place) I'd return it. Because it wouldn't be fair to deny a poor guy the pleasure of spending $1000, (the millionaire in your example wouldn't fit this example).

* let's say... poor=$50,000 yearly income? that's about twice as much as I earn in a year. So that makes me double poor.

Scott do you really read all the comments? Did you read this far? :)

Is this the kind of confused "ethical" question that occurs to you while you're waiting for another dose of caffeine?

...I would keep it. After typing in the word "Dilbert" at Amazon.com I can find 212 pages of things to spend it on. Man you got a lot of stuff for sale, thank God's debris you don't have a 500 piece jig-saw puzzle of you drawing comics available yet.....or do you????


If I kept the money, it would burn in my conscience for eternity. If I gave the money back, it would burn in his conscience for not giving me a reward.

I would keep it. It would probably be very difficult to give it back -- I mean, I don't know about you, but I don't put ID tags on every random bundle of cash I carry around. And only a true inDUHvidual would be carrying a cool grand around in cash, in such a way that it could just drop off their person. Lastly, how many billionaires list their phone number in the yellow pages so you could just call them up and mention "Hey, yeah, found your green, mind if I drop it off on the way to the dry cleaner's this afternoon?"

Besides, my car needs new tires.

I'd give it to Scott Adams, just so I could get back on his Christmas list :)

I would make sure I was well-grounded and properly insulated and not standing in water or on top of any hinged doors before i picked it up and placed it into my pocket.

"Either way, it’s not good news if you drop your wallet at the family reunion."
...assuming you are a billionaire, which I guess you don't have to assume, you stupid lemon-eater!

I may give it back in the hope of gaining the billionaire's trust so that I could steal a really big amount...

I might write the billionaire a note demanding ransom of 'one meeelion dollars' for the return of his money, else I would burn it and send him a video of his money going up in smoke... If he's like any other of the rich folk I've known, the thought of money burning might make him pay up!!

Heck Yes! Reason - Karma!

I'd keep it and buy myself a miniature Scott Adams which I would keep in a fully-burped Tupperware container in my desk.

Yeah, I might feel a little guilty but I'd keep the money. It would go to a good cause - my debtors.

What are the propability than I found both a 1000$ and got hit by a lightning strike ?

I agree that if I did not need the money, I would give it back. Truth is, I am so broke right now that $1000 would feel like a Godsend (even though I claim no such affiliation). Great question to ask right near the holidays, when spend spend spend is the mantra of the month.

I would never pick up Dogbert's droppings.

I would keep it because I could use an extra $1,000 to pay off loans where as a billionaire wouldn't even notice $1,000 missing. And also if he lost it that is his own misfortune and my good luck. It could be god's way of playing Robin Hood :-)

I agree that if I did not need the money, I would give it back. Truth is, I am so broke right now that $1000 would feel like a Godsend (even though I claim no such affiliation). Great question to ask right near the holidays, when spend spend spend is the mantra of the month.

I do not believe that a person would go to hell JUST for stealing $1000, no matter who it was stolen from.

BUT, I do believe that God cannot bless us with all that He desires to bless us with if we do not keep His commandments. So, I would return the $1000 because I believe it would benefit me more to return the money than to keep it.

After all, if money can fix it, then it doesn't really qualify as a problem. The stuff that's really a problem requires God's help.

Sadly, I'd make every reasonable attempt to return the money. If, for example, I saw the billionaire drop the money then I would certainly hail him and give it back right then.

However, if it were someone I had no way of contacting (email or phone would be my first choices), then I would keep it.

You mention there is no reward or other indirect benefit. However, there is always the matter of how you would feel about yourself if you had the opportunity to give the money back and chose not to. I'd feel like rubbish... and I just don't feel like money is worth that.

I wouldn't keep it. I can only keep money if I don't know who it came from. Since I know it came from someone, albiet a billionaire, I have to make a good faith effort to give it back. They key term is "good faith effort." Hence, if the guy is on the moon and says that he wants the cash delivered to him personally, then I'd have a really hard time doing that and it would really be out of my way. In a situation like that, I'd have to "keep" the money until he returns in which case, I'll be free to eat up the interest that goes with the thousand dollars.

Also, "Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar," can clarify a few things on the religious/moral aspects for Christians.

The average Joe - Joe we will call him - would simply use God and fate to identify reasons he could rationalize keeping the money. In reality he is looking for a way around the vulnerabilities he sees that morality, and some politically correct viewpoint the world has painted-- keep him from what he really wants, to get away with anything and be filthy rich. Peoples' baser instincts will always shout "KEEP THE MONEY" regardless of how moral they claim to be. In the scenario you have described above, only the true in-duh-vidual would return it. This is not immoral, ok, it is actually against the law, but..well, no, technically stealing but still! It is simply a poor man's stab at the socially unjust situation we find ourselves in. It is a common day Robin-in-da-Hood equalizing. Where did you say this so called billionaire was? I am hoping he will casually discard another million or so. I have needs.Hopefully it is in small unmarked bills.

Mr. Adams,

I need a thousand dollars, possibly more.
Would you be kind enough to send me an email to the address provided. I will give you coordinates so you can forward me a money order at your earliest convenience.

I would hate to have to keep the billionnaire's wallet should I find it.

Thank you.

I'd give it back. My wife and I don't need the money.

I'm not sure what your point is, here. First you say that social pressure drives us to do good, and that we're all secretly evil thieves. Then you say that we're actually pragmatically moral, in that there's a certain threshold of personal comfort above which we won't steal. Then you say that there is no morality, because everything is controlled and predetermined. Make up your mind!

I was going to say what I'd do, but why bother? You'd just drop my response into one of your pre-determined boxes and that would be your last thoughts on the subject. Obviously, if I think differently, then I'm just kidding myself!

Of course I would keep it, and it doesn't matter how much money I already have. If I were careless enough to drop something valuable and not even notice it, I wouldn't expect to get it back either. If we don't treat our valuables like valuables, maybe we don't deserve to have them. The implication that this is immoral, is what I consider immoral.

But then, I don't beleive in an Invisible-Daddy-In-The-Sky, or even that I'm a piece of his post-explosion shrapnel. Ayn Rand was right and she still is.

I'd take the money and give it to a charity.

Sure I'd keep. A thounsand dollars is a lot of money in Brazil :-))

Yup, I'd keep it. But I know that I'd bust a gut to return it if I knew the person was poor. I find flexible morality makes most things in life quite a bit more fun.

There are 2 BIG keys to your scenario. The guy's a billionare and he will never realize the money is gone. Nobody should feel guilty about keeping the $1000 in that situation. I wouldn't. Take away either of these 2 key points and I would return the money.

Add any other 'supposes' or change any other scenario parameters and my answer might change. But under this very specific situation I would consider anyone who gives the money back honest but stupid.

Give it back. Right is right. Despite the relativistic nature of today's world (that is only a rationalization for self-centered agendas), there are absolutes. You know who lost it. Give it back.

No, I would not keep it.

Here is another question. A major drug cartel loses a satchel of freshly laundered $100 bills off the back of a truck. You find it. Do you turn it in?

Everybody at my family reunions knows better than to attend my family reunions, so it's their own damn fault if their money goes missing.

Yes i would keep it BUT and then give it to a foundation designed to promote world peace to appease myself as th billionaire doesn't need it.

The fact that foundation would be the Neal Smith Foundation For World Peace with an unlisted phone number and only a PO box address would be pure conincidence.

Hey you can trust me - I'm a lawyer (no, really)

I'd keep it on the basis of expected utility and the declining marginal utility of money. In a nutshell, the marginal utility of a thousand dollars to a billionaire is so small as to be negligible, whereas to me it's quite high.

Crooks can rationalize their actions :p

Scott, did you find my wallet?

Nope, can't say that I would. 1000$ would be nice, but if you find something that you know belongs to someone, you should give it back. It's not nice to steal from someone, since that's what it comes down too. If someone dropped a quarter, I'd give it back to them too. What's the point of doing something wrong just to make some money? Now, I'm not saying that to not return the money would make you a bad person, but it would be wrong. The act and the person are seperate, and some people would have valid reasons for keeping the money. It's more like different degrees of wrong, and the situation people are put in. In the end, it comes down to how much wrong you're willing to do for how much of a reward. For me, it's never been worth it, even if I have needed the money. Then again, I'm also that person who finds money on the ground and donates it to charity.

I think I'd give half of it back. That way I could have the satisfaction of knowing that the billionaire knows I probably stole the other half. Stupid billionaire.

Yes. I need a thousand, he doesn't, there is no god, and my conscience has been worn to a nub by the constant struggle to make ends meet.

And if the tattered remnants of my conscience did manage to rise up against me, I would probably donate the money to some charity or cause that I like and the billionaire would hate.

I'd probably wouldn't keep it. I don't need that money right now and I actually have an extra grand (yay for paychecks!). Besides, while the billionaire might not need the thousand dollars, it's still his money.

This little game reminds me of a theory I have - that when God was pronounced dead in the 60's self-discipline was buried the same year. What I mean is, I can fool almost anyone at least once, but in theory I could never fool God. So on the day I face God there will be a reckoning that I cannot escape, or talk my way out of. I think that belief gave people a certain self-discipline. No God? well, les bon temps roulez!

Oh, and I wouldn't keep the thou. (1) you're right, the main reason is I don't need it (2) I do cling to my self-respect for quaint personal reasons and (3) If I needed a job some day I could call the billionaire and remind her how honest I am.

A thousand dollars to a billionaire is equivalent to a nickle to the average person. The world would be a better place if we had more careless billionaires. That said, I'd probably give it back. Not because of how it would make the billionaire feel, but how it would make me feel.

That's a great scenario -- I'll have to use it in my ethics class. I'd like to believe that I wouldn't keep it, even though I need it. Being honest is an important part of flourishing as a human being.

No. But, then again, I don't need an extra thousand dollars, either.

I would keep it but not spend it. Since I knew the money was from a billionaire, I would invest the money and try and find the owner. That is bound to impress a billionaire enough to offer me a job, finding lost money.

Assume it's not Bill Gates? Dude, you scare me because when I started reading that's exactly who I thought of. I thought well if it was just any old billionare, say Mark Cuban, I'd give it back. But if I knew it had come from Gates I would immediatly make it into an effigy of him and then ebay a perfomance art of setting it on fire.

This is closely related to the "Scruples" board game question "If you lose a diamond ring, make an insurance claim, then find the ring, do you give the money back?" Does it make a difference if the source of the money is a faceless irritating corporation instead of an individual?

I would keep it.

Don't forget about the people who believe that rich people are inherently evil and think that the poor guy who found the money was blessed simply for being poor.

I wouldn't keep the money, but honestly I'd be hoping for a thousand dollar reward for returning it.

Definitely fall into the category of giving it back if it's logistically easy. Guy lives next to me, I walk it over. Guy lives across town, I keep it in my trunk and drop it off when I'm in the neighborhood. Guy lives in another city, I send him an email with my address. Wouldn't spend it, though, because Karma can be a bitch.

I would give it back. It would not be right to keep it as it is the billionaire’s money. I don't believe that God is watching me with one hand on a lightning bolt and the other on the trap door to Hell, but it is a moral question for me and would be wrong to keep the money, reguardless of how much money the owner had.

Hell, yeah -- I'd keep it. And I'd follow that billionaire lemon-eater around until he loses more and keep it, too!

Give it back...you never know if you might get rewarded. I'm just a nice friendly person.

No, I wouldn't give it back. The billionaire obviously wanted me to have it and I'll tell you why. If I know who dropped it, I must have seen it happen, and if I saw him, he probably saw me. Now, he didn't get rich dropping thousand dollar bills, so we can assume it was intentionally dropped for me. He knows we "little people" are proud and would never accept a hand-out, so he let me "FIND" it. So "no", I wouldn't give it back.

I would keep it. I hear Richard Branson wipes his butt with a thousand pounds and never thinks twice. I know at least a dozen charities that would take the money even if it smells like Richard Branson's ass.

Hell yes.

You snooze, you lose. Billionaires get that way by being careful, and if they're not, they won't be that way for long, and good riddance!

I'd give it back, even if I was in dire need of the money. It has nothing to do with God, just personal character. Like the old joke goes, "We've already established what you are, now we're just trying to establish the price."

You snooze, you lose. Billionaires get that way by being careful, and if they're not, they won't be that way for long, and good riddance!

Well, you're more or less the kind of guy that "doesn’t need an extra thousand dollars" so I do not consider you credible enough to form an objective point of view in such a situation and/or have the right to call anyone a crook. You said it yourself that you wouldn't consider losing your wallet in a familly gathering a good idea - so you feel yourself closer to the billioner character then the one with the "tough" decision. In short why would i take the money without a second thought is that money could be considered an amout of possibilities, but an amout that differes depending on the person that poseses it. Obviously it wouldn't have any influence on the decisions and functionality of a bilionere, but it could have a significant effect on an average person like myself. By a slim chance it could help me become a better member of society. So it would be a crime against society to not take that chance.

One element that enters into people's thinking on this is the proportion between the billionaire's net worth (let's make it only one billion dollars: $1,000,000,000) and the amount lost, $1,000. To create a comparison, let's take me, a person with a decent job, whose net worth is around $100,000. The amount which is the same proportion of my net worth as the $1,000 is to the billionaire is... $0.10.

If someone sought me out to return a dime I had lost, I would think, "well, thanks, but you didn't need to go to that trouble for a lousy dime."

Conversely, the amount which represents the equivalent to the billionaire that the $1,000 represents to me is ten million dollars.

Anyway, though of course none of the cynics here will believe me, what I would do is contact the billionaire and say "I've got your one thousand dollars here. Do you want it back?" and hope that he says, "No, it's not worth the trouble; just keep the lousy thousand." If he says, "Yes, I want it! My precioussss!", well then I'll give it back. He's the one in thrall, not me.

When I was young, no question, I'd keep it. Funny what growing up will do to a perfectly normal human being.


Yup, considering the amount of interest the Billionair would get in the time it took me to track him down, contact him, travel to him and deliver the cash would probably be more than a $1000.

So, no-one looses out :-)

Why limit oneself to one solution or the other? What kind of engineer are you?

Rig the container (presumably a wallet, but I guess it could be a cookie jar or a dead badger) so that if the billionaire is careless, he/she will lose the money again. Then give it back, because right is right and wrong is wrong, regardless of reward.

Then, just following him/her around until the money is inevitably "lost" again. Of course, the billionare may become nervous having you follow him/her around, but that's okay, you won't have to do it for long. He/she may even change his/her mind and give you a reward just to go away.

Either way, keep it this time. Because it's also wrong to waste, and "you snooze, you lose".

That way you end up with a clear conscience AND a thousand dollars.

If you know who owns the money you have a moral obligation to return it. Otherwise it's not different from stealing.

Hey, if the billionaire lost it, and I found it, that doesn't make me a crook, just lucky. Anyways, if this billionaire doesn't know I took his money, what's to say I'd even know it belonged to a billionaire in the first place?

He probably wipes his ass on the small denomination notes anyway, being a billionaire and all.

I guess it just depends whether this billionairre is a jackass or not.

They did a survey in a number of cities in the UK where they asked a similar question, and according to the survey, it showed that Hull has the largest number of dishonest people in the UK - The majority of people that were asked there said they would keep the money for themselves.

However, I think the evaluation of the survey results was fundamentally flawed, as the survey actually showed that Hull has the largest number of honest people, as at least they were willing to admit they'd keep the money!

Oh, just in case you're wondering, I'd keep it! Well, I say that, but I'd probably give it back really (if it was that much), so which ever you look at it, I guess I'm both honest and dishonest. That sounds a lot like a paradox to me, so I guess that's bye bye to this universe...

I would be tempted ....but I would return the money. No good deed goes unnoticed. The money may have purchased some "things" but nothing can purchase the feeling you get from doing something nice for somebody. The billionaire may not be very greatful..may not even smile..but I will feel great (and I will have a story to tell my friends later about how I met this billionaire). Geesh I wonder if the billionaire needs an honest assistant?

I'd keep it. Since I don't believe in God anyways, I might as well enjoy the cash before I go to hell.

Finders keepers, losers weepers. Anyway, i don't think that answering the billionaire question as "i would not give it back" means you a potential thief (attenuants must be observed).

I could use a thousand dollars but I would not keep it. (If I were destitute and hungry I might indeed keep it. Mea culpa).


Yeah, I'd keep it. Papa needs more programming books/hard drive space/RAM and of course a new iPod/$200 headphones/bike.

P.S. I know I'm just proving your point.

I think it really depends on who the billionaire is.

If it's someone I like, then yes, I would give it back.

If it's someone I loathe, I'd keep it.

That's about it.

This one is a no-brainer for me: I'd give it back. It may not have been so easy in earlier years -- and we're struggling with bills now -- but I have learned something that helps me make the right choices: there is no greater and lasting pleasure on earth than doing the right thing. I know how to have fun, but it pales to this. Just sayin'.

Yes I'd keep it. No harm caused, the billionaire won't miss a thousand dollars, and like you say Scott - i have a pretty good idea how i'd spend it.

Yes, I would. I'm not ashamed to admit it, I'm a crook and a lemon-eater.

Another form o this question is: "If you knew you could do something wrong and never get caught, would you do it?" And the answer is "if you are guided by human nature, yes". However, this can be overcome the the intervention of God's Spirit.
But here's my answer to Scott's question-
I doubt that I would keep it, but I also doubt that I would find it.

I'd keep it. A thousand dollars to a billionare is not even loose change. He'd probably think you're crazy if you returned it.

Before I end up looking like a crook, I'd like to add that if an average Joe lost a thousand dollars, I'd give it back.

I would keep it, my reasoning is:

say I ddin't keep it myself, but burned it all - therefore I lose out and so does the billionaire.

Therefore the corollary of that is that we both win if I don't burn it, but keep it myself under the assumption that I'm looking after the money until... well who knows, the billionaire might lose all his money in some stock market crash etc and if that happened I'd feel sorry for the billionaire and give the money back.

Of course if the billionaire doesn't lose all his money, then I still keep it... in a bank acquiring interest of course :)

Give half back Keep half. Say thats all you found. Everyone's happy :D

I'm absolutely keeping it! Not that I need the money that much - I make a decent enough living - but I need a free vacation real bad. Actually, I'm keeping it even if the billionnaire is Bill Gates and he knows I have his money. What is he going to do? Sue me?

Suggestion: Call the Billionare and let him know you've got his money, and he can stop by and pick it up. Is a billionare going to waste time finding your house for a measly $1,000? Most likely he will tell you he doesn't care, and the money will become a gift. You'll get to keep the money with a clear conscience. This has the advantage of being honest.

Drawback: He may be a tightwad and actually take the time to have someone come and get the money.

I'd keep it. Spend it on liquor and fast women (me). Repent. Sell my story. Spend the profits on cigars and speedboats. Y'know.

What would you do?

The money isn't mine. Keeping it is wrong. I'd give it back.

Stipulated: I live in the USA, the place with the highest standard of living in the history of the human race. No matter how bad my finances go, I'll never go hungry, homeless or naked. This question would be much more challenging if I was facing hunger or fighting to stay warm at night.

I'd keep it! I would go berserk like one of the seagulls in Finding Nemo ... ‘mine mine mine mine mine mine ...’

I think that in some ways the design of questions like this has a certain "black or white" morality in mind. The "right" answer is to acknowledge that it's wrong to steal, and we should implicitly feel bad if we choose the "wrong" answer.

If the billionaire didn't need the money and nobody would know, for only $1,000, I'd certainly keep it. I need as much money as I can get to put myself through school. What does he need it for, if he doesn't even notice it's gone? It's a very significant fraction of my own net worth, while it represents at the very most 0.0001% of the billionaire's.

Why should returning the money be the "right" thing to do? Outside of religious discourse, that is. I'd rather not bring God into it, because arguments like that inevitably degenerate into a fight over whether or not God exists when interesting and possibly-solvable debate is at hand.

Knowing me I'd take it home with every intention of returning it. But his number isn't listed and the police station is a couple of miles from the nearest metro station so I'd put it off and put it off and then forget about it. Every few months I'd stumble across the wallet, but being busy with something else I'd just say "oh, right, I need to return that". After a few years I'd be too embarassed to return it and shove the money in a hollowed out book and burn the rest of the wallet.

I need the money and I know I need it more than the person who lost it. I would keep it. I'm not noble. I'm greedy.

Are you kidding. Returning it would be a great introduction and a billionaire is a great friend to have.

Actually this is a good question, I think many would not give the money back. Especially if they know there is going to be no reward. I would give the money back, I could use it myself as I don't have an extra thousand dollars. But then, I believe that there is a line that would be crossed that I cannot allow myself to do so. I would be extremely tempted but in the end, the money needs to be returned to maintain my personal sense of ethics.

Wouldn't matter if it was Bill Gates either...

of course i would keep it $1000 is alot of money to me but nothing to me. Its the same as if I lost 5 cents and a homeless man found it. He should keep it cause it will help him out without hurting me financially

Why don't you drop $1000 in my front yard and we'll see?

I'd keep it, when you think about it (and do the numbers), for someone who earns a billion dollars a year (I know that is probably more then just having a billion) $1000 is equivilent to $.10 for someone earning 100k, and I know most people don't even think about it when they grab the 10c (or more) of change that someone else left behind.

Alternatively you could do the legal thing and give the money to the cops and say where you found it but not who dropped it, and (at least in Australia) after a few months the money is yours legally (well, you did decieve the cops a little).

Based on the criteria given I'd keep the money, I mean if they're not going to miss it and I'd get no reward for giving it back then I can't see the problem. If I just found the money on the street and had no idea where it was from though then I'd hand it in to the police in the hope it was never claimed and I'd get it anyway :o)

I'm a student, I don't actually ask where my student loan company gets all of its money to give me, I know that it supports a LOT of students... so either through blackmail or extorsion or something a lot more sinister they get their money, which comes to me. If I found £1,000, my brain would simply tell me that I must of misplaced this amazing find myself, like in the way when you find £10 in your coat pocket when you didn't realise you had it. I'd be £1,000 richer, the billionare wouldn't care and the student loan company will continue breaking legs... a win win situation I think.

I wasn't going to keep it untill I read there was no reward, he's a billionaire come on. I'd keep it out of spite.

Course I keep it! I´m not a billionaire and a thousand bucks would help a lot to calm down my bank account manager! :o)

First of all, if I found the money, I probably wouldn't know who's it was -- billionaire or pauper. Most people don't mark cash with their total net worth.

Anyway, I wouldn't hesitate to give it back, regardless of whose it was -- and I could REALLY use it, too. I need a new set of winter tires.

But then I'm Canadian, we do dopey stuff like give it back, and we let people merge in heavy traffic and stuff like that (or give it to charity, keeping with the spirit of the season and all...)

Suppliment to my last comment...

If I had dependents at home who the money could make a difference to then I would, without a doubt make sure it was routed to them. As things are I am lucky enough not to need the money (By need I mean pay for food/rent etc for myself o my loved ones).

Or to paraphrase - charity starts at home.

If I know something ( in this case $1k )has a definite owner I would return it regardless of who it is. However if ownership is unknown or questionable.....hmmmm.(However if it was a billionaire I most definitely wouldn't tell anyone.(and would try to not dwell on it either.)

Hell yes I'd keep it, after all isn't that how many of them became billionaire's in the first place conning people out of their money just on a far grander scale.

However would a billionaire be that careless with their money surely the reason they became billionaire's is because they are carefull with their money. If any one knows any that are that careless can they send me their address as I could do with an extra thousand at this time of year

Thelogically I belive that God wanted me to have the money. Also knowing that I'd waste it, He never lets me find more than $2.00 at a time and why thats I'll never win the lottery.

Naturally I'd keep it because quite frankly it isnt hurting anyone if the billionaire doesn't know, nobody will have an altered opinion of me for keeping it if they don't know and it would make me happier. The billionaire doesnt lose and I win, I really can't see the problem other than a moral one, morals based on the idea that stealing is wrong, but anyone stupid enough to adhere to these morals without considering the reasons for them doesn't deserve the money.

Keep what? I didn't find anything.... Whats that? You lost some money? ... Oh, too bad... say, check out my new ipod.

Here's my formula for morality :

Let WHDt = SIGMAj ( Wj * HDj,t )

where t is a choice of action
and SIGMAj is the summation over each individual j in the world
and Wj is a measure of the importance of individual j to me
and HDj,t is the estimated difference in well-being of individual j choosing t would entail

if WHD is positive, I go ahead with t; if negative, I don't.

In this specific case, I would keep the money since WHD comes out positive, assuming I am not the billionaire. If I *am* the billionaire, WHD is 0, so I'll toss a coin to decide.

BTW, can all the readers of this blog wire transter one cent to my account?

Interesting question. Lets do some math...

I earn aproximately £20 per hour (thats $40)

A billionaire is probably going to be hard to contact and give money to.. lets say I have to spend half a day (5 hours) sorting it out.. thats now cost me $200.

Lets assume that if I had done nothing (left the money where I had found it) then Joe Billionaire would not have got his money back.

Therefore at best I should give him $800 dollars back. no cost to me, and he is $800 dollars better off than he would have been otherwise.

Lets assess the 'all or none' option:

1) I do nothing. The billionaire gets nothing. I get nothing. The billionaire doesn't notice the missing money as it is insignificant in the scheme of his wealth. I feel bad because I know I should have donesomething.

Dont like that

2) I give it back. I am $200 down, which I miss. Joe is $1000 dollars up, which he doesn't care about. Zero guilt, large amount of miffedness.

Dont like that

3) I keep it. I feel very guilty... on the other hand I have $1000 which I can spend on something to make me feel less guilty. Adopting an embreo or something. Now there is no guilt, a happy embreo and Joe doesnt give a flying donkey.

I like that

Yes, I would give the money back. I do have a strong belief in God, but the reasons for returning it would not be because He would zap me.

If I claim to love and follow Him, then I have to act as he would have be act. If we are to love others as ourselves, then that means we will not do anything that we would not want done to us.

One is never enriched by holding back, or impovished for giving out. Doing what is right in the long run, always enriches our lives.

well, that all depends on... if it's Bill Gates...
I mean, some OTHER Billionare, i might have to think a moment on it, but i just spent my whole last week fixing my computer, ultimately spending, about a thousand dollars on fixing it, so my theroy is that HE owes ME compensation.

I probably would not keep it. But I would also not simply give it back if I am not totally sure that person lost the note. I am no longer naïve and should you ask your average billionaire if he had lost a thousand dollar-bill he or she would probably say yes regardless if they did lose it (its how they most likely became billionaïre's in the first place). If it all came down to it and the rightfull owner was not clear, I would inform the local police that I had found the note and where I found it and that, should the owner come to claim it, he or she could come claim it by me personaly (I would not give the note to the police, I am not that foolish). By rights (at least here in my country) if that what was found is not claimed by its owner within a year ownership goes to the finder. After all, what do you think happens to all those umbrella's and other stuff people leave behind in trains ? (I believe its auctioned off each year)

I'd keep it, no question about that. I'm not even sure I'd feel bad about that. I think that scares you only because you are a millionnaire yourself...

Keep it. Not a second's thought required. A crime it might be, but a victimless crime. I would ask a different hypothetical question: if that same billionaire found a thousand dollars in the street, probably lost by someone to whom it makes a big difference, would he try and find the rightful owner? Would he spend his clearly quite valuable time tracking down a stranger for such a relatively small amount of money? And how many thousands of the billion dollars in his bank account were thousands "lost" by people who could not afford it, through banks foreclosing on property or family businesses ruined by the billionaire's wheelings and dealings? And what are the odds of some other bastard not taking the thousand and running with it while I have this philosophical discussion with myself on the sidewalk?

I'd return it. I posed a similar question to a friend of mine re: would you rob a bank if you knew you wouldn't/ couldn't get caught. ( It was to illustrate that some things shouldn't be done no matter what, because they're not the right things to do.)-- By the way, neither of us would have robbed the bank.

I'd keep it and open up a stock-trading account. Then, if I ended up making a killing, he could have his $1,000 back.

Even as a fairly capitalistic-minded person, I still doubt that billionaires made all of that money entirely honestly. I suppose one could turn it over to the police or IRS, but they're often not all that honest either.

Of course I'm also currently unemployed, so $1k is a pretty big deal to me right now. So it also depends on if the rich person is a notorious bastard or not -- if it's a nice one, by returning it, maybe I could end up with a job or small reward or something. But if it's a jerk, who wants the hassle?

Hell yeah. Now replace the billionaire with a needy/poor/terminally sick person and ask the question again. Make sure you hook up everyone to a lie detector first. Hilarity ensues.

Well, God doesn't have a hand on the door to hell, like those silly Catholics seem to believe. That's not to say that He would be happy if you kept the money. The best thing to do is give back the money because that's what God wants you to do, not because you believe he'll punish you if you don't or reward you if you do.

I would return it, but I'd secretly be hoping like hell that the billionaire would be so impressed by my honesty that he'd tell me to keep it!

Depends on the billionaire.

If it was an oil company exec, I'd keep it. Otherwise, I might return it.

Of course, I would keep it! What kind of question! And I suspect that 99.9% of your readers would do the same thing.

I'd keep it. The fact he wouldn't notice it missing really does prove he doesn't need the money (and not being a billionaire, I could certainly use it). But that doesn't mean I'll keep any money I find lying around ;) If it's someone I know I'll give them back the money (unless I really hate them, then it might be tempting to keep it, especially if they're a billionaire), but if I just find a wallet on the ground with identification I'll either hand it in to the police (who'll most likely keep it for themselves) or return it myself.

Now if I find $1,000 in a wallet that has no ID, that's mine baby :D

No way! The thing that I value the most in my life is ... sleep. If I kept the money, I'd be rolling all over the place thinking if I made the right choice, and then some more thinking on how to spend the dollars, and then yet some more to think of a cover up for the new stuff that I've got for the money. Just giving it back is much simplier. In case that I don't have the guy's phone number or if he doesn't want to send someone to pick it up, I'd just throw them away - for someone else to find... ;)

I think I can ask the billionare to hire a security for "money dropping prevention" and I will seek that job and show him the bill that I picked up.

That is a stupid question, the fact that people would not give it back in no way means that they will not give back your wallet or your money unless you are said billionaire with $1000 in your wallet.
And what does that have anything to do with God, plenty of people justify stealing/killing/hurting others because of God (ex. woman or lower castes ... cannot have possessions, ...) Or they conveniently forget and then ask forgiveness.

What is it with you and religion anyway? Are you really one of those fanatics?


You could expand this thought experiment to a real world experiment. Come near my house and "accidentally" drop that thousand bucks.

Repeat this procedure twice or three times a day. That will provide empirical data. He, he...

Hard question. I'd have to say I'd return the money, after some really hard thinking and attempts to rationalize to myself why keeping it would not matter.

But to give a humorous version--I'd return the money because what would happen if I, who makes less than 30,000 per year, suddenly ended up in possession of this huge sum of money? Hello? Can you say "red flagged" by the government as a drug kingpin or terrorist?

Are you raving mad? Of course I would keep it, as would every other person on Earth.

The key is: "and there would be no way that anyone else would know if you kept the money"


I was in this situation once. I went to the bank to withdraw $1000 of my entire $1300 fortune so as I could deposit it the account of friends to whom I owed it. The teller accidentally gave me $1100 dollars, and I didn't realise until I went to another bank to make the deposit 15 mins later.

I checked my account balance - the transaction had only registered as $1000. That made the $100 bill not my property, but no-one would ever have known if I had kept it - and I could definately have used it. But despite my fierce atheism, I returned it to the embarassed teller.

I would keep it. After all, who gets hurt? And yeah, I need the money

You did not count the possibility that someone will give the money back for indirect effects like:

1. Celebrity status of "the honest guy". Talkshow and career oportunities will flow
2. Movie script rights
3. Having a billionaire with a moral debt to you. He may show you his yacht and then you may meet people offering career oportunities. You may end up as a pointy-haired boss. That doesn't require any qualifications, just being on the right yacht on the right hour.

and so on...

Yes I would keep.

I would bet it all on some ridiculous sporting event with outrageous odds. Then if I won I would give back the £1000 and keep the rest. Everybody wins.


No. God or anything else has nothing to do with it, in my opinion (for that matter, I think people whose only guide in life is the concern of retribution deserve a training on moral values). You just have to do what's right, and keeping what doesn't belong to you is very obviously not. In a nutshell, the question is around who you are, and the billionaire is external to the problem.

I'd keep it for two reasons, first, the billionaire doesn't need it and wouldn't give me an award. And second, how do you lose $1000 in cash, if he's that stupid then he doesn't deserve the cash. Oh, and I would need the money.

No brainer, that money is mine. Say he was only just a billionaire, and he had the money in savings and investments that returned 4% APR, he would earn that money in interest in a little over 13 miuntes, the stupid lemon-eater.

Well duh! Just between you and me, I'd keep it. Who knows, the billionaire might drop $1,000 every once in awhile hoping a truly deserving person would get a $1,000 bonus.

Are you kidding? Of course I would!

what if i gave the $1000 to someone who really needs it?

will i go to hell or get struck by lightning if i gave the $1000 to someone who really needs it?

I'd keep it. Do I need the money? No. $1000 is enough to afford me a little indulgence, but it would not effect me much. The billionaire would make up his losses in interest inside of an hour. The loss would barely be noticeable. Does that make it right? No. Am I worried? Not really.

If I were to find $1000 that belonged to a middle-class or poor man, I'd go out of my way to give it back. Seriously. Even if I knew I could get away clean. Why? Because the same amount could make a world of difference to the poor man. He life would be effected greatly by the loss. He couldn't pay the bills. It would take a lot of time to make that $1000.

No, I'd give it to a charity! :-)


I think I would ask if indirect benefits include the good conscience I'd have for giving it back. If not, then I'd give it back and have the good conscience. If, however, the scenario asserts that I wouldn't even feel good for giving it back, I'd keep it. I mean, what's the point then?

Damn Straight!

Nope. But you're right - I don't need it. Couldn't live with the guilt of taking something that wasn't mine.

My sisters, on the other hand... that's another story.

Billianaires are often known for being eccentric, playing mind games with the "little people". Who's to say the money wasn't dropped intentionally in a specific spot, so that he might see how different people from all walks of life would react. I'd take it, under the theory that since the billionaire owns a large portion of America, theres a good chance that whatever i spend the money on will end up going back to him anyway

Well as a poor student I would keep it, some other billionaire will properly get it any way when I pay my bills and rent.
So there no problem with me, that is if the terms were exactly as you but them here.
You don’t have to change that many things to make me give it back

It's likely not worth the billionaire's time to meet with me to get his money back. So I would do him a service and see to it that it went to a good cause, maybe a new television so that I could spend more time NOT bothering the billionaire.

It's likely not worth the billionaire's time to meet with me to get his money back. So I would do him a service and see to it that it went to a good cause, maybe a new television so that I could spend more time NOT bothering the billionaire.

There is no question whatsoever. I would keep it.

As for the familly reunion sub-question. None of my family are billionaires (or even millionaires) so the issue does not arise.

I'm assuming it's an evil billionaire, because otherwise giving the money back would give you a warm inner glow (an indirect benefit) plus said billionaire would probably give you a reward or tell you to keep the money. Or at least they would give you a lemon.

Being a Christian, I suppose I'd have to give it back, not because of the lightning bolt thingy, but because if I didn't I'd feel bad about it. Unless the billionaire was going to use the money to kill people or deprive them of lemons. Then I'd keep it and feel gooood! So it really depends on the evilness of the billionaire in question.

Damn you! Like I need a dose of morality check so soon before Christmas!

its just money, if there's no rewards for returning it might as well reward yourself

I would like to think I would give it back but I would keep it. But make it sound ok by donating half of it to some charity without my name. Yea after all if I donate half of it I am clear right?

It's free money. Of course I'd keep it.

You know? I would return them. And I need them.
Why? Even before getting God and whatnot into the big picture, it's a matter of personal honor and respect for others. If I wanted a thousand dollars (and I want them), I'd have earned them, not stolen them (albeit passively).
And another thing is, being kind always gives back more than being greedy. Keep 'em, you get a thousand dollars. Give 'em back, you might get a number of things including gratitude from a millionaire, a reward, the ability of avoiding lawsuit if the millionaire ever happens to know you got the money and didn't return it. Plus the warm, fuzzy feeling inside that you did something right.

Of course, I wouldn't do this right away -- a thousand dollars are a temptation and all. But I'm pretty sure (let's say 98.9% sure) I'd return it in the end.

Yes, I would, but I'm a poor college student, so I need it more than the rich guy who already graduated does.

If it were you Scott? I'd give it back
Any other billionaire it would be fair game :)
Really enjoy your blog, your hypotheticals and philosophy -makes you appreciate Dilbert on a whole new level knowing a bit more about the guy behind it (and I'm sure you're not THAT rich you'd pass up a thousand dollars yourself)
PS Loved your guest appearance on Babylon5 way back when (the blooper reel where everyone rushes up for your autograph is pretty funny too)

Probably not, but I wouldn't return it to the billionaire. There are charities and non-profits who would be able to use the money for a better cause.

i had a look at the billionaires list at, http://bestoftulsa.com/html/forbes_list_of_billionaires.shtml and the few people i recognise i wouldn't give it back to. so no, no i wouldn't give it back.

Obviously, finders keepers

Keep it!!
I just might spend some of it on "illegal activities" and let Interpol trace the cash to him. He should know better than to lose a measly 1000 dollars. I may be a crook but I am not cheap crook.

"Giving me a pearl?!?!?"


Why do people post first on a blog and say

"Thought I would put something because no one has posted anything yet!"

Maybe this will be first? if it is will I look foolish to myself? or while im typing will someone of beaten me to it and mine appear after theirs?

Maybe they will post something along the lines of "Thought I would put something because no one has posted anything yet!"
Then they will probably feel a bit silly when they read this.


I wouldn't even cross my mind to give it back. In fact I would invoice the billionare for $374.20.

($374.20 is the price I charge for sending out invoices to billionares)

((I'm thinking about offering a 10% discount if they set up a monthly direct banking dept))

Billionaire - hmmm. So its show - off time eh ? :)
Most billionaire-relatives mostly claim they're owed a favour/cash/favourite belonging/treat for super-advice which wad pretty much the reason for the billions anyhow. Its simply payback time, and just an installment, really.

Until they invent a drug to take away the feeling of guilt and fear of being found out that I would get from keeping the money, I'd always return it.

I think that puts me in your "lightning bolt trapdoor to hell" God fearing group that would give the money back.

Which is odd, I'm a tiny bit religious; I kinda like the idea of having some superiour being that I can blame for everything that's wrong in the world :-) But, you'd think that the "religious types" if they were truely religious would apply the words from their so called religious books; aren't they filled with tales of the holy figure being tempted, and despite whatever material needs they have, they refuse to give into temptation to receive a greater reward?

Obviously I've been reading the wrong religious works. Which one has the parable of the poor man who finds the rich man's money and keeps it and lives happily ever after knowing that it was god's will that that should happen?

Religion is like statistics. It's used to control and form opinions, and, depending on the presentation , can be used to prove or justify just about anything.

Was surprised to see 0 comments so far...
I would definitely keep the money, under the theory that God or any other being watching over my progress does not think, just as I do not that it is a setback to my development as Its creature.

Would be nice to know how many Americans say they'd return it, and compare it to the answers of Europeans.

Being European myself I think it's very american to even think about returning money to someone who has certainly more than he deserves and needs.

I'd keep it - and it'd go right into Internet bills and wine.

I will defintely keep it. As billion dollar is even beyond my dreams.

Long time stupid-lemon eater, first time commenter.

People in groups always lie about ethical questions ie:

i) Yes I would take the money back
ii) Yes I always give money to charity
iii) No i don't think the boss is a jerk
etc etc

I'd keep it. I consider myself to have a very stict set of ethics I live by, but if I was carrying $10,000 and dropped a penny (same ratio for a man with a billion dropping $1k) and someone came up to me trying to give it back, I'd have my valet slap them with a pair of Italian leather riding boots for wasting my time. And any billionaire who's worried about losing that megapenny really ought to take up a hobby, like maybe horseriding.

On one level, theft is theft. But in truth there are few real absolutes outside of mathematics. Just because $1,000 is an amount of value to the average Joe Beercan has little to do with it; one American cent could, according to a TV commercial I once saw at 3:am, buy a 3-bedroom house for starving kids in Uganda or someplace. It's more about the time you'd take away from the billionaire by giving it back - is it even worth $1,000 to him to be forced to spend 60 seconds talking to you? Depending on how the stock market's swinging today, probably not.

And for those of you who ask "OK then, where do you draw the line? What amount WOULD you bother to return?" - my answer is simple: $36,109. (Depending on the billionaire of course)

The fact that I know who lost it makes a difference. I dont' think I could take something that I knew belonged to someone else unless he/she said "please take this".

This scenario actually isn't all that far-fetched. Many years ago, a girl who started working at my company confided in me that payroll was sending her two checks on payday instead of one. She reported it to them once and when the checks kept coming, she didn't mention it again. She left the company in less than a year, I like to think with all that extra cash in her pocket.

"A certain percentage of the population believes that God is watching them with one hand on a lightning bolt and the other on the trap door to Hell. "

that's the percentage that haven't figured out the true meaning of Christmas...

By the way I'd give it back - it's more blessed to give (return?) then receive....but receiving does run a close second ;-)

Hell, I'd keep it. He wouldn't notice it anyway, and I need the money. Better let me have it, than letting him spend it on some massage for his poodle...

" Either way, it’s not good news if you drop your wallet at the family reunion."

Only if you're a billionaire, surely.

Also, in neo-darwinian terms, there is a lot less advantage in holding onto money if it is going to benefit your genes anyway - and in a family reunion, that would be the case.

You've obviously got a good grasp of hyper-Calvinism, though.

Have a good Christmas, if I don't comment here before.

Keep the money, but give a little to charity if you feel guilty

If it was during this time of year I would give half of it to the Salvation Army bell-ringers and half to my Church.

I wouldn't keep it, but I wouldn't return it either. I'd give it to my best friend: Scott Adams.

I'd keep it. No doubt. And, if I came up with one of those clever remarks that usually don't strike until you're going to sleep hours after the moment when they had been useful, tell him about it.

If I knew it was a *stupid* billionaire, I'd send a ransom note demanding amount x 2 for the safe return of the money.

If the stupid billionaire stalled, I'd send him 50c at a time through the mail until he got the message.

I'd spend it on Dilbert merchandise.

... and don't ask why I spelled want "wan't". I'm an appostrophy whore.

I'd keep it. Moral relativity and all, I look at it as charity from the billionare, that he's just too busy to handle. So I'll save him some time.

Would you really wan't to be bugged for even 5 minutes by some miscreant returning your dropped quarter?

I would be probably unsure if to spend them or not, but i guess it would take me so long to decide that i would forget about it. Months or years later, i would spend them without rememberring where i got them.

Anyway, about new shirts, or any material things.

Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes. - Henry David Thoreau, Walden

I adore simple pleasures. They are the last refuge of the complex. - Oscar Wild

Keep. I am A: Too greedy B: Too keen on that new technical stuff. C: Lazy. D: My whole life philosophy depend on that I accept that this was my lucky day and that I have through earlier mistakes and misfortunes gotten to deserve this money. If I gave it back, I would have an unbalanced world, which in the end would make it crash

hells yeah. i'm a graduate student with no income and $40K worth of debt. obviously i would sell my soul and compromise my ethical code to be a graduate student with no income and $39K in debt.

I will keep the money.. if I return it back..money wont flow... so i will keep it.. that way money flows.. which is good for economy :-)

I wouldent know what to do, but i guess in the end id forget about the mater and, when i found the money i would spend it without trying to remember where i got it from.


HypotheticaIly, I wouldn't touch it with a ten-foot pole.

Because hypothetically, I happen to be a multi-billionaire myself.

I'm obviously morally corrupt - I'd keep the money. I don't believe that God is about to strike me down for benefiting from a slack-walleted billionaire's carelessness, and I'd have WAY more fun with the thousand dollars than he would. It's not a life-changing amount of money for either of us, and so yes, it's finders keepers (I once found £80 being blown down the street, and no, I didn't hand it in at the local police station - I went to the pub!)

Hypothetically, I wouldn't keep it.

I would totally, definitely keep it and I'm not ashamed to admit it. I would be a spendin' fool. Also, I would buy my husband a really nice chocolate bar to keep him happy, too.

I'd like to think I'd donate the money towards a few good causes. Only, i'm not sure that I won't just blow it all up on one weekend of fun and debauchery. hmm...

Why don't you send me the money so we can find out?

GIVE IT to Scott Adams!

Since he's not a billionaire (at least by fortune magazine's list), he'd be so amused that you thought he's the billionaire, and since he IS still filthy rich, he'd brag on it (as he did all so often in his blog) by giving YOU the money since "he wouldn't even have been aware that he lost it." or care if he did.

Hum, If the billionaire doesn't know he lost it, and I don't know who he is, how can I know who to return it too? What? Life isn't fair? If I send it to starving children will that make life more fair? This is tricky, what to do. I really didn't want to think this hard at 2AM. At twenty I would have kept it, now at sixty-two I would turn it in. I think, but I'm also thinking of those children.

As you stated it, sure I'd keep the money, since doing so would harm nobody.

In real life, since I couldn't know either that it wouldn't be missed or that good things wouldn't result from its return, I'd give it back.

Sadly, as I'm not Ricky Gervais, I can't think of anything funny to add. The thousand bucks will help pay my funeral expenses after I've killed myself out of shame.

I can say with a degree of certainty that I'd keep it. I would, however, give a chunk (perhaps of the order of 10%) to my favourite charity... makes it easier to justify keeping the rest ;-)

Ofcourse i would keep it. i want cash as much as the next guy.
In my job if i ever had the chance to steal >$1 million i would.
Im not a crook i just want to be rich and why should only CEO's be able to steal money.

Given we are all alone in a godless universe, a brief flickering of entropy raging against eternity’s cold indifferent darkness, I guess I’d probably spend the money on one of those snazzy coffee machines. Or sat-nav.

guess i'd take it under the promise i'd spend it on whatever the business of that billionaire is... and then let's hope this is not like one of those new year's iwillquitdoingwhateverorstartdoingwhatnot promises ;)


It's a trap!

See my 2 previous comments.


The money doesn't belong to the billionaire!

Billionairs don't become billionaires or remain billionaires by not being careful with money!


The money doesn't belong to the Billionaire!

Billionaires don't carry or need to carry cash!


The money doesn't below to the Billionaire!

Billionaires don't carry or need to carry cash!

I know I wont. I know they wont. I know you wont.

I think me keeping it would probably depend on whether or not I knew the billionaire personally. If he was a guy I saw all the time, I'd probably return it in much the same way you'd return a dropped pen or book, not because it's something extremely valuable, but because it's nice. Note: I do not really need a grand right now.

If the billionaire was a man I'd never see again and wouldn't care about being friendly with, I'd probably keep, because whether or not I really need an extra thousand, it'd still be nice.

I would keep it, and the mild guilt I felt at the fact that I basically stole this money would be displaced when I bought a bunch of cool things with the money. Does this make me a bad person? I'm going to hell. Oh well, what can you do?

I'd put it all on red 12, then give back the original investment while keeping the gained interest.

I'd also give a bit to charity as added insurance against lightning bolts.

Let me put the same question another way. If I dropped a dollar and it was found by a homeless person, would I expect him to try to return it to me? Of course not. It's exactly the same, relatively speaking. I'd keep the money.

To a billionaire, $1000 represents a maximum of 0.0001% of their assets. If I lost 0.0001% of my assets, I might be slightly miffed if I noticed, but ultimately it wouldn't have any real affect on my standard of living, so why worry about it.
In terms of karma, you could lose the same percentage of your own money afterwards to balance things out.
Therefore, I'd keep the cash.

I would give it back. My honesty and self-respect are worth more than $1,000.00. That being said, I don't actually need an extra thousand dollars at the moment.

I would keep the money and spend it like there would be no tomorrow. And when the the money is all spent, I would track down that billionaire and follow him around until he drops another 1000 bucks. This is how I would earn my living once I get the whole "find billionaires money in the street" going.

I got as far as "Suppose you found a thousand..." before I decided to keep it.

"...under the theory that if God wanted the billionaire to have it, he never would have let him lose it in the first place."

There's a quote by some cynical cleric (I forget who exactly), and it goes roughly like this: "If you want to know what God thinks of money, you only have to look at the people to whom he gives it."

On balance, I think I'd keep it, on the principle that if the billionaire doesn't even notice it's missing, he doesn't need it. I might have a bit of trouble with my conscience, though, but I could probably get over it.

A more interesting question might be: Where's the cut-off point? You might not keep a billion dollars (particularly since your sudden good fortune might raise suspicion), but you probably wouldn't bother returning a single dollar bill that had been lost by a billionaire.

I'd keep half of it - that way I could do the right thing (Give somethng back), and gain a benefit. The reasoning behind this is that if the Billionaire didn't know about his loss, he wouldn't know _how much_ he'd lost... therefore, I could return £/$500 as easily as £/$1,000.

That way, I'd gain intangible benefits (Billionaire who owes me one - perhaps not claimable, but worth having in the 'one-up' pile), and tangible benefits ($/£500).

Hell no! Anyone who could lose track of $1000 that easily has too much money.

That is a tough one, my mind is saying both answers at the same time! In the end, I dont think I would keep it, I would do the proper thing and give it back, as that is what I would want to happen to me. Do unto others as you would have done unto yourself, as they say...

In a word: yup!

Although this makes me wonder: How do you know the money was dropped by a billionaire? Do they get elastic bands made with their initials and a special, secret billionaire logo?

I know if I found $1000 that was yours I would keep it.

Of course I would.

If there's something like a god, he would punish nearly everybody for not caring about our environment.
So, keeping 1000 dollars won't be much of an offense.

Yepp! Definetly.
If he wouldn't eaven know it was missing (ever), then he wouldn't need it anyway.

I know if I found $1000 that was yours I would keep it.

No, would you?

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