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Warren Buffet is one of the richest men in America. But he begins every workday driving his car to McDonald’s. He pays for a breakfast sandwich with exact change.
Some people might find that charming. I do not.
Boring billionaires are insufferable. We want our rich people to be fascinating and eccentric.
Before most people had even heard of computer viruses, young John McAfee understood the danger of self-replicating programs. And he devised a way to defend computers against them.
In the late 80s, McAfee anti-virus software was making him a multi-millionaire. In 1994, John was pushed out of the company he founded.
After spending his early years of retirement as a yoga guru, John McAfee decided to embark on an insane midlife crisis adventure.
In 2009, he moved to Belize. He founded a lab to study unknown jungle plants. But instead of discovering new medicines, John McAfee became a Central American strongman.
McAfee was easily the richest man in the isolated village of Orange Walk. According to documentarian Nanette Burstein, he took full advantage.
He found the toughest ex-cons in town, gave them automatic weapons, and made his own little army. He built them a police station and had them enforce a curfew. If anyone who stole from McAfee or threatened him, he had the power to make them regret it.
John McAfee had his men pick up teenage girls and bring them to his compound. Before long, he had a harem of girlfriends who were 40 years younger than him. Interestingly, the women have nothing bad to say about the software mogul. They agree that he was honest with them and made them each feel special.
One interviewee who definitely isn’t a fan of John McAfee is Arthur Faull. Mr. Faull’s son Gregory was McAfee’s next door neighbor. Gregory Faull didn’t care for McAfee’s entourage or his guard dogs. One night, Gregory poisoned the dogs.
John’s girlfriend recalls that the usually macho McAfee sobbed as he put his beloved dogs out of their misery. A few weeks later, Gregory Faull was found dead in his home.
Nanette Burstein is a brave, focused investigative journalist and she has made a compelling documentary. She also has good reason to hate John McAfee. He’s probably a murderer and he threatened Ms. Burstein while she was making the movie.
However, some of her attacks on McAfee seem unfair. Burstein accuses him of sexually assaulting his lab assistant. I am not saying he is innocent; I certainly don’t know the truth. But the accusation completely contradicts the information given by McAfee’s girlfriends, who testify that the eccentric millionaire never had traditional sex. He has a specific fetish that doesn’t involve touching. (I’m not going to tell you what it is in case you are eating or drinking something right now).
And while Burstein makes a powerful case that John McAfee hired a hitman to kill Gregory Faull, she doesn’t fully convince us to turn against him. I imagine how I’d feel if someone made my pets suffer so badly that I needed to euthanize them. I’d probably do nothing and hate myself for being a coward. What the heck is the point of being a rich, powerful guy if you won’t avenge your loved ones?
I’m not alone in my feelings. America has forgiven John McAfee, too. He’s back in the States – living freely and making money. He even finished 2nd in the 2016 Libertarian Presidential Primary.
Our society creates more rich people than any other. And this creates a philosophical dilemma. Who do we like better? A boring, useless billionaire like Warren Buffett – eating his Egg McMuffins? Or a dangerous dynamo like John McAfee?
My mind says Warren Buffett. My heart says John McAfee.