Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

A whole lotta lotteries

One of my first ever journalistic ventures involved inveighing against the lottery proposed by Georgia’s then-governor Zell Miller. I haven’t ridden that hobby horse much since then, but I remain of the opinion that lotteries are craven and counterproductive means of funding allegedly worthy public purposes. They’re craven because they enable politicians to evade having to make the case for raising taxes to pay for some government program. And they’re counterproductive in at least this sense: a lottery that, for example, funds public education or scholarships implicitly teaches the lesson that financial success depends upon chance, rather than upon hard work and education. What’s more, of course, because the folks who are likeliest to play a lottery tend to be less likely to take full advantage of the educational programs the lottery funds, the lottery tends to redistribute from the less wealthy to the wealthy.

All of this is a long-winded way of recommending Jordan Ballor’s
blog post and op-ed on the latest lottery craze--privatization, which basically involves trying to sell the things off before they cease being profitable. I feel curiously vindicated.

Discussions - 4 Comments

Yes. State-sponsored lotteries are a disgrace, because government should not be promoting the idea that you can get something for nothing. They are a symptom, and a partial cause, of cultural decline.

Agreed, David. Lotteries turn State governments into the "pusher man."

A lottery is a tax on people who are bad at math.

Here’s the effectual truth of the Georgia lottery: It’s a tax on the poor and desperate to send middle-class kids (who could easily come up with the low tuition) to college for free. Poor and desperate kids qualify for the Pell Grant and so never see a dime of the lottery/free tuition money. Middle-class kids don’t play the lottery. I wrote an article about this in THE AMERICAN ENTERPRISE several years ago, but I’m too lazy to even to try to find it and link it.

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