What Would You Do With $92 Quadrillion?

A blog about business and economics.
July 17 2013 2:07 PM

What Would You Do With $92 Quadrillion?

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With a helicopter and money, I would drop money from a helicopter.

Sikorsky publicity image.

Chris Reynolds briefly had $92 quadrillion in his PayPal account. The error was promptly corrected, but it naturally raises the question of what you would buy if you had $92 quadrillion in your PayPal account.

My initial instinct was to say that the boring answer is that you need to get some of your wealth out of cash and into real investments so you can have time to ponder the issue. But with money on that scale, any effort to buy stocks (or whatever) is going to move markets and create problems. Your best bet is probably to put a few hundred million dollars into index funds or a lifecycle retirement fund and then leave the rest where it is. Reynolds told the Philadelphia Daily News, "I would pay the national debt down first. Then I would buy the Phillies, if I could get a great price."

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Those are actually pretty good ideas. Debt and deficit hype is massively overblown in the United States, and I have half a mind to scold Reynolds for mistakenly thinking that this is a big deal. But in fact precisely because debt and deficit hype is so overblown, if you were able to use your $92 quadrillion to wipe the entire outstanding debt away you'd be doing the country a huge favor—everyone would have to shut up about the debt! So that's a huge win right there. Buying your favorite sports franchise is a total no-brainer (if you like sports).

My next pet move would be to initiate a little bit of DIY monetary stimulus. I would buy a helicopter (I hear good things about this one), hire a helicopter pilot, and spend some time literally flying around the country throwing fistfulls of hundred dollar bills out of the chopper. In order to establish a cooperative relationship with the monetary authorities, I naturally would promise to stop the helicopter drops if core PCE inflation rose above 2.5 percent but not otherwise.

Then having saved both the American economy and the Washington Wizards, I would become a regularly reader of Superyachts.com and start trying to bribe politicians to allow skyscrapers in the District of Columbia.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.