Saturday, August 10, 2019

Not All That Glitters . . .

Related image

What does it take to be rich? 

Consider this thought experiment:

Imagine an island where the trade winds and the sea currents effectively prevent any ships from reaching it. On this island is a tiny mountain of gold about 10-feet high and 10-feet wide at its base. The value of this gold at today’s price of $1,500/troy ounce is about $6.89 billion.  But it is the 1800s, and this island is completely uninhabited and never discovered. Is this island rich?

Now suppose a big storm causes a ship to go off course and wreck into the island. There are 30 survivors of the shipwreck cast away on the island. The island has a minimal amount of resources to sustain these shipwrecked survivors. They live for a few years and then sadly perish having not been found. Before their deaths, are the shipwreck survivors rich?

Now suppose that modern air travel has revealed this island's existence. The shipwreck is discovered decades after its occurrence, and no one since the wreck has come upon the island. Although all of the survivors have a long died, the direct descendants of the survivors (some of them had children before having left on the final voyage) are tracked down and happen to be a limited number of people--about 1,000. It is determined that the shipwreck survivors were the first to stake claim on the island and are thus the rightful owners. By inheritance the 1,000 descendants are equal owners of the island and all its possessions. Are these descendants now rich?

No comments:

Post a Comment