the lottery

09 September 1998

I used to think legalized gambling -- casinos, the lottery -- was a boil on the butt of our society, a leech to be avoided at all costs because of the negative impact it had on the poor Southern states where I grew up. All that money from the casinos that was supposed to be getting poured into the school system was somehow disappearing before it made it there. I was dead set against it, especially the lottery.

But I've decided something (about the lottery, anyway). It's a good idea.

Now don't flame me; just hear me out. It's a good idea because of Darwinism. "Why Darwinism?" I hear you cry. Because Darwinism can happily be summed up as "survival of the fittest." Now think about this. What type of people do you see at the 7-11 buying lotto tickets? Let's put it this way: they're usually not the ones in Italian suits driving Mercedes. Am I right? Usually people who buy lottery tickets -- and here I mean the ones who purchase them religiously, in great quantities -- are the type whose career choices include such great phrases as, "Would you like fries with that?" or "Anything else today besides gasoline?" The great majority of lottery tickets are bought up by stupid people.

Yes, that's right, STUPID PEOPLE. This isn't to say that everyone who flips burgers or pumps gas is stupid, nor is it to say that every rich person you'll meet is a genius. But let's face it; if you don't have money to burn, which most of us don't, lottery tickets are not the best investment you can make with your cash. As a great man once said, you have a better chance of getting struck by lightning twice in each pupil than of winning the lottery. Especially now that they've come up with the brilliant idea of the Powerball lotto, in which several states go in on a jackpot and sell tickets for it. Now, instead of having odds of merely a couple of million to one, you have several states worth of losers to compete against. Is the jackpot bigger? Of course it is, but so are your chances of coming up with absolutely nil. A real life example of this mass stupidity occurred a few months ago when the Powerball jackpot in Kansas and surrounding states got up to a ridiculous amount -- several hundred million, if I recall correctly. Since residents of Colorado couldn't buy these Powerball tickets in their own state, hundreds of them ACTUALLY DROVE TO KANSAS to buy Powerball tickets. Not just the ones living near the border, either; there were CARAVANS of people coming from Denver and even farther away. These people drove HUNDREDS OF MILES at their OWN expense for the privilege of spending EVEN MORE MONEY on the millions-to-one chance they'd strike it lucky. Even better than that is the tiny fact that the Powerball jackpot is not won by one person; it's split among several people, so everyone gets a smaller piece of the pie. These sheep^H^H^H^H^H people flocked to Kansas in droves and snatched up literally hundreds of tickets each. Now, I ain't no Einstein, but something about that seems REALLY REALLY STUPID. Why on God's green earth would you deliberately spend hundreds of dollars, put miles on your car and take time off work (which actually MAKES YOU MONEY) on the miniscule chance that you're going to strike it big? I really don't understand this.

But THIS is what makes the lottery a good idea. Doesn't make sense? Sure it does. After all, buying a lottery ticket is a voluntary activity. You don't HAVE to buy one, and most people don't, outside of the occasional, "what-the-hell" whim. But the people who spend a good chunk of their income on lottery tickets are just plain STUPID. And this is fine, because it makes the lottery become... a tax on stupidity!

That's right, friends. The lottery is nothing more than a tax on stupid people, because only stupid people buy lottery tickets regularly. If they weren't stupid, they would stop to calculate how much money they're burning on scratch-off tickets and the like, and they would probably arrive at the conclusion (as I have) that if you're going to spend the money, it might as well be thrown at something that you know will have a return. Even a simple savings account draws interest, not to mention IRAs and other investments. Hell, if you REALLY want to gamble, play the stock market. At least there it requires a bit of thought, and you might actually get something back from it.

So I have concluded that I'm firmly behind the lottery. If we're going to have stupid people around, we might as well make money off of them. And the beauty of it is, they don't even know they're being taxed, and they're doing it to themselves, VOLUNTARILY. It's perfect.