In a world of rational thinkers, goods would cost exactly what they're worth to us. This is not that world, however, so we wind up spending five dollars on a cup of coffee, and somewhere there is a guy still hanging on to a room full of collectible Beanie Babies that he was sure would fund his retirement.
But even outside of the obvious and silly examples, there are all sorts of situations where money works in ways that we just can't wrap our minds around. As hard as it is to believe, experts say ...
Buying Homes for the Homeless Would Actually Save Money
The homeless will always be with us. No one wants to hire them, and there's no way society can afford to just give them a place to live. When a dude is sleeping in a box he found in the alleyway and eating rats cooked over a cigarette lighter, it's sad, but he's not costing us anything -- at most, he costs whatever spare change he collects in his hat every day.
But has anyone gone ahead and calculated the actual cost of keeping someone alive and homeless? Someone did! And it's around a million dollars.
"This city is my mansion, and you're all terribly ungrateful butlers."
First of all, as a society we're not cool with just letting poor people die in the streets. So while we don't provide housing, we do provide emergency room care. It's counterintuitive, but this begrudging little bit of help actually winds up costing society way more than if we just went the whole way.
Why? Well, it should come as a surprise to nobody that living on the street is kind of unhealthy, and that's before the depression and its accompanying substance abuse come into play. For example, Boston Health Care for the Homeless tracked 119 chronically homeless people for five years. In that time, those 119 people racked up an astounding 18,834 emergency room visits, despite the fact that 33 of them died and seven were placed in a nursing home during that time. In Washington in 2002, 198 individuals generated 9,000 emergency room visits, or a little under one a week. At a minimum of $1,000 a visit, that's a heck of a medical bill that those hospitals are trying to collect from a homeless person. Unless they have a really good day panhandling, that money is coming out of your pocket.
"You mean this won't cover my co-pay?"