My online viewing habits tend to be of the “Wiki Walk” variety, so allow me to map out the circuitous path that led me to today’s hypothetical question. I started by checking the hourly weather on Weather.com for my area to see approximately how much A/C I’d need today (I know, it’s weird – but when I’m bored, I check on these things.).
On there was an “ad article” entitled: “Billionaire Tells Americans to Prepare for ‘Financial Ruin’,” so I clicked on it because occasionally I like to see what the “other half” (ostensibly, people who are financially independent/stable) worries about. Once through, I found that the article was a lead-in to an ad for a financial doomsday book, written by one of a group of three financial advisers who were lucky enough to predict the economic crisis of 2006 before it actually happened.
Temporarily giving enough credence to that singular “track record”, I spent the next 20 minutes basically listening to an “interview” that was really a commercial, with the financial adviser hawking his updated book for “free” (one of those things that are “free” if you cancel within a certain amount of time, and only after initially paying – in other words, not fucking free at all) through a website that wanted to sell you on subscriptions to financial newsletters in conjunction with their “free” offer.
Still, during the interview, he talked about gold, and that was enough to send me Googling for a Forbes article about buying actual gold through a depository. I found one, and it wasn’t long before I was pricing it “just to see” how long it would take with the pittance I currently make to actually afford some (and this after I’d calculated at work [the night before] that – using all of my wages – it would take 112 years of work to afford a plot of land I was looking at).
It turns out that, if I could somehow live without food or other necessities (i.e. – only paying rent), in my current state of employ, I could afford – in .999 pure form – (these are the smallest quantities this depository sold, by the way): 500oz of silver ($11,340) in about 2 and 1/2 years, or 20oz of gold ($28,011) in just under 6 years. That’s right – the weight of an average bottle of American soda in gold… in exchange for 6 years of my life.
To put that in perspective, a goodly majority of both a traumatic Naval enlistment and one terrible marriage (with three not-sure-how-I-was-fortunate-enough-to-have-had children), one year of fruitless community college, four years of writing, and one holy nightmare of a year working for Verizon wireless collections… could have all been condensed into two tiny 10oz bars of pure Perth Australian gold. That seems rather inequitable, if you ask me.
But enough of that… here’s how it got me to the titular question. Six years of anguish sounds like far too much for the average American to bear. So, your mind starts thinking of the “path of least resistance” (as all we electrically-trained sailors are wont to think), and I was reminded of the few fun times we’d sit around the shop on the ship with ET1 Roberts (I hope I’m remembering his name correctly – he was always my favorite at my first command.) coming up with hypothetical questions.
As guys, you’re never really thinking of the social implications of asking whether or not you’d (murder someone/suck a man’s dick/anything else awful to hetero males) for a million dollars (or what-have-you). It was really like Facebook questionnaires… before there were such things. You asked the questions purely for fun, had a laugh, then changed uniforms to go stand watch and get eaten alive by bugs.
But considering we were now talking about my life (and by now I was strongly considering going downstairs to re-heat some pizza in the oven – which would increase the likelihood of running into my landlord/talking buddy by 99%), I decided it would be interesting to flip the question for my landlord (if I saw him) – who we’ll call “Al” (because I’m a child of the eighties). Instead of asking Al if he’d kill someone for a million dollars (a pretty pedestrian hypothetical, considering the movies that have been made about it – the last of which that I can recall was The Box), I decided I’d ask him for how much money would he kill someone he’d never, ever have otherwise met (provided the murder wouldn’t negatively impact his or his family’s lives in any way).
I mean, think about it. On the lowest end, you have people starving in some far-away country who would kill for enough food to last them the week. That’s only $100, even by the most bloated American standards. In the middle, you have people like me who aspire to things beyond their current purviews (yet can provide most of their basic needs for themselves), who may be willing to kill for a few years of security… say, $100,000? On the upper end, you’d have billionaires who want for little (if anything) in life, who might actually pay for the opportunity to kill without consequence (Most Dangerous Game, anyone?). So, as worldly wants/needs wane, there’s obviously a diminishing return on how much you’d actually need to pay someone to murder.
So, since Al wasn’t downstairs when I got my pizza, I leave it you, dear readers. Consider that you could possibly live and save years before you could afford even the tiniest amounts of gold or silver or even land. Then consider that you could name the price you’d receive to take the life of a complete stranger without consequence…
How much would you kill for?