Search the Site

For $25 Million, No Way, But for $50 Million I’ll Think About It

At least for me, there are not too many questions that would lead me to respond, “For $25 million, no way, but for $50 million I’ll think about it.” Twenty-five million dollars is so much money that it’s hard to think about what you would do with it. It sure would be nice to have the first $25 million. I’m not sure what I would need the second $25 million for.

The U.S. Senate is hoping there are some folks in Afghanistan or Pakistan who don’t see it that way. Frustrated by the failure of the $25 million bounty on Osama Bin Laden to lead to his capture, the Senate voted 97-1 to raise the bounty to $50 million.

At one level, you have to applaud this move by the government. To a Pakistani peasant, $50 million is an unthinkably large amount of money. To the U.S. government, which is spending $10 billion a month in Iraq, $50 million is next to nothing. If one of the major goals of the Iraq war was to get rid of Saddam Hussein, think how much cheaper it would have been to offer a reward of, say, $100 billion to anyone who could get him out of office by whatever means they saw fit. Saddam himself might have graciously accepted the offer and traded the hassles of running a country for a pleasant $100 billion pension and a well-appointed French manor.

Indeed, we have blogged before about the virtues of big prizes to encourage people to work on problems, whether it is curing disease or improving Netflix’s algorithms.

On the other hand, if I can’t tell the difference between $25 million and $50 million, I can’t imagine upping the ante will push a wavering Pakistani over the edge of collaborating with the U.S. government.

Much more important, but harder to do, would be to find a way to make it credible that we will actually pay the bounty. I’m sure there is plenty of discretion in deciding to whom and how much of that bounty gets paid. For instance, if I did some statistical analysis that somehow narrowed down his whereabouts to within 1000 yards, and then the Navy SEALS canvassed that area and found him, would I get the money? I’m not so sure they would give it to me. I’m sure the Pakistani peasant who has some information on Bin Laden probably shares my doubts.