Tycoon puts up US$9m in challenge on Twitter

Reuters
Maezawa will give 1 million yen to 1,000 followers selected at random from those who retweeted a January 1 post, with the impact of the money to be tracked through regular surveys.
Reuters

Japanese fashion tycoon Yusaku Maezawa is giving away US$9 million to his Twitter followers in what he says is a “social experiment” to see if the payment boosts their happiness.

Maezawa will give 1 million yen (US$9,000) to 1,000 followers selected at random from those who retweeted a January 1 post, with the impact of the money to be tracked through regular surveys.

“It’s a serious social experiment,” said Maezawa on YouTube, adding he hopes to attract interest from academics and economists.

Maezawa, who is to be the first private passenger to fly around the moon with Elon Musk’s SpaceX, is known for his high spending on art and sports cars but also has a predilection for musing on ideas like a world without money.

He tied the giveaway to the idea of a basic income, or the theory of providing a periodic no-strings-attached payment to all citizens, that has gained traction in some political circles and is backed by Democratic US presidential candidate Andrew Yang.

“Basic means a regular minimum amount offering a sense of security, what Maezawa is offering is totally different,” said Toshihiro Nagahama, senior economist at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute.

Maezawa said that given that he “has the money and free time” to make the payments, he felt the need to try and inspire greater debate over the merits of the theory in Japan.

The idea of a universal basic income has gained support over fears technology such as artificial intelligence will wipe out large numbers of jobs but that concern is for now less pronounced in Japan with its tight labor market, said Nagahama.

In November Maezawa sold his online fashion business Zozo Inc to SoftBank Group Corp for US$900 million.

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