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Billionaire to Dole Out $9M in 'Serious Social Experiment'

Japanese entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa wants to see if $9K will make 1K lucky winners happier
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 8, 2020 9:15 AM CST

(Newser) – Money supposedly doesn't buy happiness, but a Japanese billionaire thinks it might at least cheer some people up. Just a couple of weeks after Zozo founder Yusaku Maezawa donated more than $18 million to a Japanese city hit hard by a typhoon, the fashion-minded entrepreneur is back in the news with yet another giveaway. Reuters reports that this time, Maezawa will pony up $9 million, to be distributed in $9,000 bundles to 1,000 lucky recipients, chosen at random after they retweeted his Jan. 1 Twitter post on the matter. "It's a serious social experiment," Maezawa said in Japanese in an accompanying YouTube video, adding he hopes this initiative piques the interest of those in academia and economics.

That's because Maezawa is curious on how the overall concept of universal basic income—an idea often floated by US presidential candidate Andrew Yang, in which a nation's citizens receive a regular, guaranteed payment—would affect people's overall well-being and happiness. An economist tells Reuters that what Maezawa is doing is somewhat different than the basic income idea: It's just a one-time payment to each recipient, and in Japan at the moment, people are still finding jobs in general due to a tight labor market. Still, Maezawa wants to see how his "winners" react. "What happens if someone who can't help themselves with their own power is given money ... to rebuild their lives?" he tweeted. "Can you turn your life around?" (Read more Yusaku Maezawa stories.)

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