Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Lottery

The Lottery

A popular new years resolution is to get rich... or die trying. I mean, that seems more like a fantasy and less of a resolution. I suppose you can boil it down to "save more money" and "invest better" as the proper new years resolution. So why is it that the lotto is ever even an option for folks? It's not investing wisely nor is it even saving you money. You're better off burning that dollar on alcohol than you are on that piece of paper with random numbers on it.

I'm not seeing the whole benefit of wasting your side cash on these things, especially when there's an economic hardship going on in the world. Besides that, what do you get out of playing these games? I'm not sure exactly. Do you think that you're destined to win something by some higher power? But oddly enough...There's a study that suggest there is something positive out of playing the lotto.

Apparently playing the lotto is actually good for something after all.. if you believe this study...
Jordan Ellenberg at Quomodocumque links to an old article he wrote about the expected value of lottery tickets. Despite the fact that the article is in Slate, it is free of knee-jerk contrarianism, and this so disturbs the fundamental order of the universe that I feel like I have to supply some of my own. I claim, therefore, that playing the lottery can be quite rational in cost-benefit terms, even if the expected monetary value of the ticket is negative, and one is risk averse. (And what God died and left expected utility in charge?)

The benefit to playing the lottery comes entirely between buying the ticket, and when the winner is revealed. During this interval, someone who has bought the ticket can entertain the idea that they might win, and pleasantly imagine how much better their life could be with the money, what they would do with it, etc. It's true that in some sense you always could just make yourself think about "what if I had $280 million?", but many people find it very hard to get their imaginations going on sheer will-power. A plausible and concrete path to the riches, no matter how low the probability, serves as a hook on which to suspend disbelief. In this regard, indeed, lottery tickets are arguably quite cost-effective. If a $1 lottery ticket licenses even one hour of imagining a different life, I don't see how people who spend $12 for two or three hours of such imagining at a movie theater, or $25 for ten hours at a bookstore, are in any position to talk.
Doesn't it make you feel sorry for the wealthy? They will never experience the joy of hoping to maybe one day get rich. Such divine pleasure from the peasant view of potential riches.

I have to say, I don't need to buy any lottery ticket to imagine what I would do if I won the lottery. It's like suggesting that one can create a meaningful and moral life without any God. I know, how insane of an idea. But I assure you, it can be done!

Essentially this writer is stating that lotteries are good because you're buying false hope. Yes, that's right. You're just $1 and some imagination away from being able to pretend that one day you will be rich!

I guess if there was a lottery pool at work I would probably throw in a dollar every now and then solely to make my co-workers shut up with the whole "You're gonna be sorry when we're all rich and you're stuck working here" bullshit that I'm sure must circulate in every office environment.

I'm pretty sure that there's a lot of excitement towards what differences will occur in your life if you win the lotto, but then the total letdown of not winning probably puts you in a depression and having faith in such a stupid savior is likely to discourage the player from taking practical steps to improve your life.

It really boils down to the fact that only suckers play the lottery. and I'm sure that's not going to stop you from playing Mega Millions for 330 million. You might as well pay the poor tax of $15. The lottery is essentially the worse possible scheme that states can do any sort of fund raising. Perhaps the only useful things Lotteries do is fund education. Ironic, wouldn't you say, that it's those who have so little education that are funding it.

It's not that I'm telling you that your dollar is better saved. I don't see the reliability behind a dollar saved, is a dollar earned. Especially when tools to work smarter now and tomorrow in and of itself cost anorexic now dollars.

This whole mentality of lotteries does fill folks up with false hope. It makes it seem that for the poor it is the only method and chance out of abject poverty. Then if they so happen to be divined into fortune they face the harsh reality that this new wealth will simply be stolen from them because they don't understand finance, and will just go in a vicious circle of capitalistic horror.

I suppose consumerism is all just a tax on the poor. But what isn't? Insurance? HA! The Stock markets? Double HA! Maybe this is all just from the annoyance of being stuck in line behind the idiots buying lotto tickets. Thinking that there's some destiny in it for them to choose the correct series of numbers that some random balls will spit out of a machine and highlight....

....And yet the Lottery has given a lot more hope to the poors than Obama has.

But speaking of that, what exactly is the hope of a lotto win? You sort of have to look at all the odds. Well, I'm glad I brought that up. For you see, you can use this handy tool to see how small they are. You essentially have a better chance of getting killed by lightning than you do of winning the lotto.

The odds of buying a lottery ticket and hitting the jackpot are the same as not buying a ticket and still winning the jackpot. Pretty trippy, don't you think? Yeah. Think about it for a few minutes. We might as well just replace lotteries with legitimate taxes and do away with robbing the poor of their money.

Or maybe we should do away with all taxes and mandatory lotteries. And by that I mean replacing all taxes with Shirley Jackson's The Lottery! Bet you didn't see that one coming, did you? Why yes, I am suggesting we replace taxation with human sacrifices. What of it?

1 comment:

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