The Corner

Helicopter Ben and the New Lottery

I had a column on Friday in which I touted the idea of suspending the income tax for 2008 (2009 works for me too!). Some liberal readers thought that wasn’t “innovative” enough. So herewith begins a new series of modest propsals on what we could do with the money instead.

Ben Bernanke has gotten a lot of grief for his line — borrowing from Friedman — that the Fed could always just drop bags of money from helicopters if things got really bad. Well, that’s probably a bad idea (though not without its amusing possibilities).

But why not have a daily national lottery where the grand prize is $1 billion dollars tax free? At $365 billion dollars a year, it would take most of Obama’s administration to equal the cost of what we’ve already laid out.  Stimulus plans give a few hundred bucks to individual Americans. What are they going to do? Meanwhile imagine what 365 new billionaires would buy! We could put strings attached (you have to stay in the country, for starters).  I trust 365 random Americans to generate jobs faster than a bunch of bureaucrats. We could use Social Security numbers for the lottery.

The explosion in reality shows alone would stimulate the economy more than a bunch of new windmills.

Jonah Goldberg — Jonah Goldberg holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute and is a senior editor of National Review. His new book, The Suicide of The West, is on sale now.

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