Dumb Money

when a rich person carelessly loses a chunk of net worth in a risky venture, there’s usually a conversation about ‘dumb money’ and wasteful spending generally.

although funny in some cases, the ubiqutious association of ‘dumb’ and ‘money’ has a consequence. over time it persuades the public that rich people are dumb, which is only a couple steps away from “rich people shouldn’t exist.”1

this dangerous conclusion yields dichotomous interpretations. at best, that success is based solely on luck and thus, why try? at worst, that our “haves” should be eliminated and replaced by non-builders with superior ideas and morality.2

but these subversive effects can be avoided with an ounce of nuance.3 the random rich guy doesn’t lose his shirt in startups because he’s dumb. it’s because he is (likely) smart in a different domain.4

so go on. make fun of realtors5 who build social media networks and ecommerce gurus6 who launch a smartphone. just know it’s also useful to figure out why they had cash to blow in the first place. because without dumb money, we wouldn’t have anything smart either.


1. nobody wants ‘dumb’ to multiply. 2. “put your house in order, then fix the world.” 3. if the first casualty of war is truth, the second is… 4. Domain neglect bias – the tendency to neglect relevant domain knowledge while solving interdisciplinary problems 5. Trump 6. Bezos