Every so often, an extremely wealthy person decides that they should use their riches to mount a long-shot bid for the presidency. Ross Perot did it twice and failed. Steve Forbes also did it twice and failed. But Donald Trump won. And although his celebrity was a much more important factor than his wealth, he inspired two very rich people to mount long-shot bids to challenge him in 2020.
Almost no one thought that the California businessman Tom Steyer would win the Democratic nomination. Nevertheless, he spent roughly $250 million before dropping out of the race last week.
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.