How to Steal $100 Million from the Parisian Government

Although Voltaire's best known for his writing and philosophizing, he also manage to trick his way into a boat load of money from the government

July 21, 2015
How to Steal $100 Million from the Parisian Government

You’ve heard of Voltaire, right? You probably had to read Candide in high school. Although he’s best known for his writing, philosophizing, and general disdain for the Catholic church, he also managed to steal $100 million from the Parisian government.

As he fittingly wrote in Candide, “It is up to us to cultivate our garden,” and he definitely did that.

The year was 1729 and the city of Paris had defaulted on a bunch of municipal bonds. They issued the bonds to help raise money. However, the economy declined forcing the city to look for other methods of repayment so it could continue to issue more bonds. To give folks the chance to get their money back, the government started a lottery.

The lottery worked like this: each bond owner could buy tickets based on the value of his bonds, with each ticket costing 1/1000th of the bond’s value. Each month the government would select a winner, and would give the face value of his bond plus a bonus of 500,000 livres. In 1729, that amount of money would make you insanely rich, setting you up for life.

It turns out that there was a flaw in the system…..shocking that a government would have a flawed project, huh?

Of course, Parisians were eager to recoup at least some of their money, so the lottery system seemed to be the perfect opportunity for the government to win back the trust of its citizens.

Turns out, some Parisians were even a little more eager than others to recoup their potential losses.

Voltaire was one such individual.

He and some of his comrades did some calculations and came to the conclusion that the value of the lottery winnings were greater than that of the tickets in circulation. They, then, hatched a brilliant plan:

If we buy all of the tickets, we are guaranteed to win!

And it worked…they won!

So they did it again. And again, until the Parisian government finally caught on to their scheme and put an end to the lottery.

When it was all said and done, Voltaire and his gang made close to 7.5 million francs…..or $100 million in 2015 dollars.

Now, go back and read Candide, bitches.

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