Lotteries are successful because they promote and market the idea—to the uneducated—that they generate income. They trick the poor and superstitious into believing that they are investing or making making money (via periodic, small payouts and regular massive payouts) when they are actually dumping it into the toilet.
Just like Casino’s, they are designed to, and are very effective at, bringing money in—not paying it out.
Think about who’s playing lotteries and thinking that it’s working for them. It’s not the rich, or even those doing fairly well. It’s not the top 25% of income earners. It’s also not the middle class. Most people who make over 60K/year know that it’s dumb to play the lottery.
So who’s playing? The poor. The people who make the absolute least, and who need it the absolute most.
Why are the poor playing when nobody else is? Because they don’t know any better. They’re not educated. They don’t understand statistics. They believe the commercials. They actually think it’s a way to make money, since they have none.
There are two ways to look at this, and this is a valuable exercise to check your own moral compass. Which of the following is your viewpoint on this?
- People have a choice in how to spend their money. If someone chooses to spend it on lottery tickets then that’s on them. And if their kids have less money or food or whatever as a result, that’s on the parents.
- This is society’s fault. We’re reducing the quality of the education, making college too expensive, and we’re not paying people living wages. So it should be no surprise that people grow up and are too ignorant to know that the lottery is a scam.
Which of these fits you most?
If you’re conservative, or a Libertarian, it’s usually the former. If you’re liberal, it’s usually the latter.
The difference is how much choice you believe people have. Conservatives love to believe that the poor people in the world with no education can simply decide to act like educated folk with great families.
They have to believe that, or else their apathy toward the suffering would be hypocritical.
Unfortunately, the poor and educated do actually act like the poor and uneducated. People do make it out now and then, but in general they don’t.
So playing lottery commercials in the middle of TV shows watched by the poor isn’t one equal presenting another equal with a take-it-or-leave-it proposition. It’s an adult telling a child that candy is good for them. And guess what? They’ll believe it.
They’ll believe it because people like you didn’t want to fund education, or protect good jobs for the working class. They’ll believe it because America has put profit ahead of the American people.
Lotteries are a backhanded and cynical tax on the poor, and they’re immoral.