Perhaps the two biggest stories in California today both involve very rich people giving away lots of money.
For the last week or so, a frenzy has been growing as an anonymous man who says he made a fortune in real estate has been leaving envelopes stuffed with cash in the Bay Area. On Thursday night, he brought the hidden envelope act to Los Angeles.
And on Friday morning, we learned that Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan are giving a $120 million gift to Bay Area public schools.
I admire the generous spirit behind both of these stories, but they're also both examples of the same kind of stupid.
First, let's talk about the cash envelope scavenger hunt.
It's not that I'm angry or jealous of the people who found the money. And I don't think it's an actual crime that the anonymous real estate magnate is obviously taking some pleasure in giving away money in a novel way.
The problem is that we're celebrating the lucky envelope finders while at the same time we continue to ignore and sometimes attack the people who actually worked hard to gain their fortunes. And we also are celebrating someone who is giving away money to random people regardless of need when we know of so many people in real need of that money.
We do the same thing with Lotto winners. We look upon them with admiration and we're actually grateful to the state governments who run the lotteries even though the money poured into them could be much better spent in and out of the public sector. But every time I see one of those big lottery billboards I cringe when I think that my tax money is being spent to induce millions of people poorer than I to throw their money away. And people get upset when big companies get tax breaks to actually hire people.
That's because America is seduced by what I call "The Cult of Luck."