Japanese Billionaire To Give Away $9 Million In 'Happiness Experiment'

Japanese Billionaire To Give Away $9 Million In 'Happiness Experiment'
Japanese fashion tycoon Yusaku Maezawa is giving away $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 ($9,000) to 1,000 followers selected at random from those who retweeted a 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.

Here's the tweet that he shared:



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 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 U.S. 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 labour market, said Nagahama.

Maezawa, who recently grabbed headlines after his split from actress girlfriend Ayame Goriki, has gathered almost 7 million followers on Twitter with his mix of displays of conspicuous consumption and folksy pronouncements on the meaning of life.

Newsmakers - People and Celebrities

More Newsmakers