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Surfers' paradise

Dixe Wills


If you were filthy rich¹ and you had a sudden yen to do some good in the world (and, let's face it, it's about time you started - Lord knows you've taken enough from society) by giving away part of your fortune, what would you do? Set up some sort of grant-making foundation? Lavish your millions on worthy charities? Or stash small amounts of cash in little white envelopes, hide them in nooks and crannies around your neighbourhood and post clues on Twitter as to their locations?

Well, if you took your lead from Jason Buzi, the Lord Bountiful behind the phenomenon @HiddenCash, you'd even now be bulk buying plain stationery. Launched in May this year, the real estate magnate said 'I've made millions of dollars...and yet many friends of mine, and people who work for me, cannot afford to buy a modest home in the Bay Area. This has caused me quite a bit of reflection. I am determined to give away some of the money I make, and in addition to charity, to do it in fun, creative ways like this.' The Lord does, after all, love a cheerful giver.

Cue 600,000+ Twitter followers, scenes of frenzied crowds scouring the streets for lucre (typically $100 per envelope), and a rash of spin-off operations (keep your eyes skinned, citizens of Peterborough). But does this self-styled 'social experiment for good' say anything about modern Western values?

At first sight, it smacks of the Victorian toff tossing a handful of coins so that a band of impoverished ragamuffins might scrabble around for them. However, judging by the selfies posted by those who have found envelopes, the beneficiaries have been mainly smartphone-touting middle-class types taking part for a laugh (which rather calls into question the scheme's effectiveness as a redistributive measure).

Perhaps then the most telling perspective on the whole shebang comes from Jason Buzi himself: 'Hidden Cash is not going to save you... Be smart and responsible and research all the ways to make money that are out there. Now, to the 'haves': please be a little more generous and help people more and pay it forward. You have been blessed and many people are struggling.'

In other words, don't challenge the economic structures that produce so many poor people - heaven forbid that Hidden Cash Man should pay 'the people who work for me' enough for them to afford to buy a modest home - but if you're rich, do remember to brush some crumbs off your table. After all, if you ask, as Oxfam did in their report on UK poverty last month, why the poor have no bread, they might start calling you a Communist.


1 I know you're not - the last time a multi-millionaire read Third Way was when King Solomon absent-mindedly riffled through a copy in a dentist's waiting room in Tyre. We know this because the following month's mag carried his letter defending the young Billy Graham.