Would You Rather …

Last time out, we asked if you’d rather be arrested for embezzlement or prostitution. Your response was overwhelmingly in favor of prostitution.

Here’s another choice between two bad options: Would you rather be Conrad Black or Michael Vick?

Yesterday, both of them were sentenced to prison terms, Vick for nearly 2 years and Black for 6-1/2 years. (Black’s sentence was lighter than it could have been; Vick’s was relatively severe; see this article for commentary on judges’ recent gains in sentencing latitude.)

Aside from sharing a sentencing date, the two men had quite a bit in common: they were both wealthy, powerful, and celebrated, with what would seem to be all kinds of incentives not to do something that would have their wealth, power, and freedom taken away from them. And yet, they did.

So, keeping in mind the two men’s ages, crimes, prison terms, reputational hits, post-prison opportunities, etc., tell us who you’d rather be, Conrad Black or Michael Vick. Include your reasoning if you’d like and, also if you’d like, include your gender, age, occupation, and race and/or nationality, and we’ll break down the answers by these metrics.


The easy answer here is Vick because his sentence is so much shorter. But that is the easy answer, so I'll with Black for publicity reasons. Black is just another in a long line of white collar criminals to make a mistake and get caught by the feds. He will serve his time, no one will remember, or care to remember in 6 years what happened, and he can move on. On the other hand, Vick used his money to kill dogs in the most inhumane way. I disagree with the length of his sentence, especially compared to sexual predators, rapists and manslaughter cases, but in the end of the day, Vick will ALWAYS be known as the guy who completely blew his chance at fame and riches by being cruel. That will hang around his neck in ways that Black's crime never will. I would much rather be black, another run-of-the-mill criminal.

Blaze Sarkisian

Personally, I'd rather be T.I.

Alexi de Sadesky

conrad black because I'll have lived most of my life without prison time behind me and when I get out of prison I'll still have a nice chunk of change to retire on. michael vick is nearly broke, may never play in the nfl again, and obviously isn't that bright. therefore, he has a hard road ahead of him. he can probably make some money through a book deal, "my life fed to the dogs", or a reality tv show, but other than that, what is he going to do?


i have said vick.dog fight maybe sick.but no one life is ruin beside his.

Ron Mexico

Are you kidding? I'm not going to prison for an extra 55 months for any reason. Michael Vick, all the way. (Male, 29, lawyer, white.)


Definitely Black. While Vick's staying in a federally funded shiv-me prison(not that he can't take care of himself), Black will spend his 6.5 years in country-club like surrounding, complaining that he can only play squash once a week

Marc P

41, SWM, BS, finance, U.S.

If both are sociopaths, the likelihood for rehabilitation approaches zero. In that case, I'd rather have lived large nearly an entire lifetime. I suspect that Black will feel ambivalent about his demise. Vick's situation is much more dire. I suspect he'll be bitter the rest of his life.

Conrad Black, hands down


Vick - he has the sense to admit his shortcomings and when he was caught, admitted it. Besides if he's not going to have a job in the NFL, there's always Arena football.

Black - an egomaniac as I ever saw one. That's the person I don't ever want to be. Born with a silver spoon in the mouth and berates people on a whim.

I'd be Vick for the type of person I am.

Nick Martens

VIck, for one simple reason: he's younger. I can't think of any situation for which I would be willing to trade more than 40 years of my life. Not even to trade spots with Hugh Hefner.


Definitely Vick. As heinous as his crimes may seem, he can always use the excuse (for the rest of his life, when publicity is an issue) that he wasn't directly involved and that it was just something that happened on his property. He will probably say that he looked the other way and it was a mistake. Black, meanwhile, may not be shed in as negative of a light publicly, but I don't think the difference is enough to account for other issues.

When Vick gets out of prison (in two years), he'll be 29. When Black gets out of prison (in 6.5 years), he'll be almost 70. Six and a half years is almost a life sentence at that age. I'd be Vick, hands down.


Vick, no question. The prison term is far shorter and I'd get to play in the NFL when it's over! (Yes, he will be playing again, just look at how many crummy QBs are in the league these days)

Male, 31, White, Software Developer, U.S.


I'd much rather MV than CB. I pulled the life expectancy based on race and gender for both people and found that CB would be spending roughly 38% of his remaining life in jail, while MV would be spending 5%. I don't think money should be an issue because CB has several lawsuits outstanding and is likely to lose a majority of his money. I also feel that MV is better adjusted to prison life. The social capital gained by running a dog fighting ring probably skewed towards individuals with prison backgrounds. (Male, 25, Econometrician, White)


male, 35, white, teacher, US

Ignoring their ages, Conrad Black. He's got prospects and connections that he could use once he gets out of prison. Vick's physical skills will erode and he's got nothing to fall back on. His post-prison life will not be at all like he envisioned his post-NFL life.

However, Vick is 27 years old and Black is 73. 46 years is a big difference. If I didn't get to enjoy Black's life to date, there's probably not enough left to recommend him. Vick, on the other hand, has a long time to figure things out. Even though he likely won't make millions in football once he gets out of jail, he can make enough to get himself started on a new life.

So, if I am to factor in their ages, I'd say Vick.


I expect CB will be out after only a couple years anyway, and will have a lot more money and friends (who never seem to depart white-collar criminals) waiting for him when he does. He also can look forward to future employment in his field while Vick mmay have already played his last professional game. I'll take Conrad Black.


Vick- being younger and with a shorter sentence, there is more life ahead of him. His experience may enable him to become a "convert to PETA" and campaign against the abuse to animals. Who knows?

But seriously- I question Dubner's logic on wealth and power being incentives to stay within the law. Isn't it really the other way around? Isn't it wealth and the perception of power that makes people think they are above the law? Case in point the trial of the Sabhnanis- who kept two women as slaves and tortured them.

Seriously- wealth and power are not one sided incentives to be law abiding. Read Machiavelli's treatise on power if you're rusty.

Glenn Dale

I'd rather be Michael Vick. Primarily for reasons unrelated to their respective criminal situations.

Most importantly, Conrad Black is ~62/63 years old and Michael Vick is 27. Ignoring the difference in life expectancy between black and white men, Michael can expect to live at least 35 more years than Conrad Black. In addition Conrad Black will spend at least 4 more of his fewer remaining years in prison than Michael Vick. Assuming a life expectancy of 80 years. Black has about 12 years of prison free life remaining while Vick has about 50 or at least 4 times as many years remaining to him outside of prison (assuming I, as Vick could avoid going back into prison).

Thus to prefer Black's life to Vick's I would have to think that I -as Black- could, on average, milk 4 x as much enjoyment from each year of life as I could as Michael Vick. Michael is not as preposterously wealthy as Black but is wealthy enough to not have to work again.

In addition, Michael is single wearas Mr. Black is married thus magnifying Michaels prospects for greater enjoyment (tongue in cheek).

I suppose if I was more concerned about my children (in this imaginary life do I bring my real children along with me) I might want to be Black who can bequeath more money to his children than Vick can but that is really getting confusing.

Conrad Black or Michael Vick. Include your reasoning if you'd like and, also if you'd like, include your gender, age, occupation, and race and/or nationality, and we'll break down the answers by these metrics.



Without a doubt Conrad Black.
No threatened amount of jail-time could make me torture, degrade and kill dogs.
In other words, i would rather spend 6 odd years in jail (no matter what my prospects may or may not be when i get out) and have only stolen money, then spend only 2 years and be someone who did what Vick did....( by the way, he has admitted to hanging 2 dogs in addition to "just" allowing it to go on on his property.)
My life, even if it was behind bars, would be better knowing i was not a part of so many lives being lost.
~Female, 29, Nurse, Pit bull Advocate


Anyone else notice how it's mostly white males near their 30s that are providing their information. Do white 30 yr old males tend to comment more, read this blog more, or provide their info more freely?

I'd be Vick. Even if Vick had the longer sentence, he'd still have more time left to live. It ultimately comes down to what you can make of yourself out of prison, and there's just more to do when you have more time.

Male, 22, Korean, Finance


Conrad Black.

Although the sentence is longer, Vick will be treated worse. And he's unlikely to play football at the same level again, while Black can get some quiet time and access to the prison library to write a few more books.

Male, 29, White, IT, Vancouver Canada


""There's not a white man in here who would trade places with me, and I'm RICH."
-- Chris Rock, 'Bigger & Blacker'