Chumps and Change

Does This Widow Deserve $23 Billion? – The Daily Beast

A jury awards a woman $23 billion. The Constitution said nothing about this.

Last week, a jury of her peers awarded a lone human, Cynthia Robinson, over $23.6 billion to punish a cigarette company for the death of her husband. And poof, they were no longer her peers—that is, unless they happened to be the only jury in history to be composed entirely of multi-billionaires

I’ve already blogged about this.  She won’t see anything like this kind of money.

The only reason I’ve revisited it is a thought I had about the sort of jurors who would even award this soft of amount.  Are they insane?

No.  They just have no innate conceptual understanding of numbers.  Essentially, million, billion, and trillion are all squished together into a single definition:  A hell of a lot of money!

You used to almost never see the word “trillion” in print, except for articles on some field like astronomy.  But now the word is in common, everyday usage, usually describing some form of horrendous debt the nation or some section of its citizenry has assumed.

And so people have come to think of it the way they used to think of “billion.”  Which itself used to represent an unthinkable amount of money.   The federal budget in the year I was born was at an all-time high – of $228 billion.

Now that much money is a rounding error.  And people tend to think of it that way.  Once upon a time, Americans aspired to become millionaires.  Now they want to become billionaires.  And why not?  When some snot-nosed kid puts up a web page at his college, calls it “Facebook,” and ten years later can be worth 33 billion dollars, people tend no longer to think of that as an impossible amount of cash.

So, sure.  We’ve got an innumerate jury looking to punish somebody, and so they come up with an award like $23 billion dollars for the death of this woman’s husband due to a habit he could have stopped at any time, if he’d had a modicum of willpower.


About Bill Quick

I am a small-l libertarian. My primary concern is to increase individual liberty as much as possible in the face of statist efforts to restrict it from both the right and the left. If I had to sum up my beliefs as concisely as possible, I would say, "Stay out of my wallet and my bedroom," "your liberty stops at my nose," and "don't tread on me." I will believe that things are taking a turn for the better in America when married gays are able to, and do, maintain large arsenals of automatic weapons, and tax collectors are, and do, not.


Chumps and Change — 5 Comments

  1. if he’d had a modicum of willpower

    It’s just sickening that a hater like you is allowed to put your hate and intolerance up where anyone — even children! — can see it. Where is the government when we need to put a stop to the hate????

  2. While I agree with your basic sentiment, and your outrage at the innumeracy of the public at large, I must disagree with the “modicum of willpower” thing.

    Nicotine addiction is real. I hang out with alcoholics in recovery, and they universally agree that quitting smoking is harder than quitting drinking.

    Still, that doesn’t remove their personal responsibility for continuing smoking.

    • Gee, lp, it’s not like I wouldn’t know anything about it, having smoked three packs a day from the age of fifteen to the age of 55, at which point I stopped cold turkey.

      And all it took was a modicum of willpower. A pretty big modicum, true (I found it easier to cold turkey a meth habit many years before, and more difficult than dumping a quart a day vodka habit in my early thirties, but still…willpower). And I never blamed anybody else for my personal addictions.

  3. “Nicotine addiction is real.”

    Certainly, but so is the psychological addiction. Which is greater? I do not know. My own theory as a nicotine addict is the difficulty lies in the fact that nothing bad happens as a result of smoking. You don’t get high, you are not impaired, you don’t die. Maybe, way down the road after 20-30-40 years your health is affected. So, easy to quit, IMO, and easy to start back…

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