The Problems of the Lottery

The Problems of the Lottery


In the small town where Tessie Hutchinson lives, the lottery is one of many civic activities she and her neighbors take part in. It ranks alongside square dances, teenage clubs and a Halloween program. For most of its participants, the lottery is simply another form of entertainment, a way to pass an evening without worrying about planting and rain or tractors and taxes.

Like any other business, state lotteries must continually generate new revenues to survive. To do this, they must increase the number of games available, and expand into other types of gambling such as keno and video poker. They also spend heavily on advertising. These costs, however, can eat into the overall profit.

Historically, states have used lotteries as an alternative to raising revenue from direct taxes. In the late twentieth century, as the nation experienced a tax revolt, states began to turn to lotteries to meet budgetary needs. New Hampshire, famously tax averse, passed the first modern-day state lottery in 1964. Soon thirteen more followed suit, all in the Northeast and Rust Belt.

These new lotteries quickly became popular, largely because they allowed states to avoid increasing taxes. Furthermore, they were relatively easy to implement and run, making them attractive alternatives to other forms of government-sponsored gambling. The lottery’s new advocates dismissed long-standing ethical objections, arguing that people are going to gamble anyway, so governments might as well pocket the profits.

But there are several problems with this argument. As the narrator points out, the vast majority of people who play the lottery do not win, and those who do are not particularly good at it. Furthermore, the narrator points out that while a small percentage of players become millionaires, most do not enjoy any greater quality of life than they did before they won.

A more serious problem is that lotteries create a false sense of participation in the public good, and can have negative effects on society as a whole. The lottery is a form of gambling, and as such can cause problems with addiction and the development of a negative outlook on life. It can also affect the social fabric of a community, leading to a lack of trust between citizens and government officials.

There are, of course, other reasons to be suspicious of the lottery. For example, the fact that it is largely a form of entertainment and does not improve the standard of living for its participants suggests that it may be a tool for the elite to control the masses. And there are other ways of funding public projects that do not involve the manipulation of people’s hopes and dreams. Instead of using the lottery to fund important projects, we should look at alternative methods of fundraising.