A warning to politically ambitious billionaires

What else could the billionaire have done with that sum? He could have saved 108,700 lives in countries stricken by malaria, if the effective-altruism organization GiveWell is correct that the Malaria Consortium saves a life for each $2,300 it spends. (Diminishing marginal returns might reduce the actual figure to many tens of thousands of lives saved.) He could have paid for four years of tuition and fees for 9,000 low-income students at California State University, Dominguez Hills. He could have seeded a super PAC with more than the total amount President Trump has raised for his 2020 reelection campaign…

Still, their campaigns were extremely wasteful investments. At best, they produced very little value. At worst, they arguably influenced the presidential race in ways that the billionaire candidates disliked. For example, Bloomberg’s presence in the race arguably helped Bernie Sanders. Given the dismal rate of return, one can’t help but see their vanity campaigns as acts of hubris, and lament all the good that could have been done with the large amounts of money they squandered.

That’s worth noting not to demonize either of them, but as a lesson for the next billionaire who starts thinking about his or her ambitions or legacy and ponders a run for the presidency: Don’t do it! Instead, call a press conference, admit that politics tempted you, then tell the world about the awesome project you’re going to launch instead with your millions. The opportunity cost of that decision? Winning six delegates in American Samoa.