Saturday, January 23, 2021

Lotto Madness Takes A Toll On Our Culture

A Billion Dollars In Cash!
The failure of anyone to win two of America's largest lotteries recently caused the jackpots to soar unleashing a bout of "Lotto Madness." This spread like a wildfire across America revealing something very significant about our culture. While this might not reach the level of needing a post-event "debriefing" a closer look at how these large lotteries affect our culture may be important and meaningful. A close inspection of how people react to the idea of winning a large sum of money exposes more than a few flaws in our values and the way we think. It seems that society has reached the point where it thinks the road to riches is not through the valley of hard work and savings and that we can by-pass the important area known as sacrifice.

Family Guy Wins The Lottery!
When we have a large jackpot, lotto madness can even extend into the media and influenced television shows like the animated comedy "Family Guy." During one of the big payouts years ago, an episode had the Griffin family living on a strict budget until a local news story on the lottery influences Peter to buy a ticket in hopes that he will win and set the family on a better financial platform. In fact, Peter reveals to his family that he has not bought just one, but several thousand lottery tickets, admitting that he has taken out a second mortgage on the house to buy them. After watching the results of the lottery that night, they discover that they have indeed won it yes, they have obtained the American dream.

Articles occasionally appear in the media with in your face revelations of incomes and comparing salaries. One showed an athlete making $15,900,000 a year, next to a government employee making $165,000, a CEO at $120,000,000 a year, and a business owner at $24,000 a year, this is the sort of thing that gives us a reason to pause.  No wonder we as a society are totally screwed up as to how we value and relate to money.  We must question our values, we must question the fairness of such inequality. It is hard to measure the discontent generated by such fluff pieces and irresponsible articles like these that are often inaccurate or fail to tell the full story.

It is clear that many people feel the trade-offs we face by living in a free market-consumer-based society and it wears away at them. The fact is economic growth is accompanied by  “wheel spinning”, inefficiencies and waste.  While the benefits of our system often outweigh the negatives we find society is paying a toll through increased rates of addiction, depression, and economic inequality.  On the emotional side, many people are not achieving the degree of being content or happy they had hoped for and are left with feelings of insecurity. This all contributes to people going totally bonkers and off the deep end at the prospect of winning a great deal of money even if the odds are massively against them doing so.

Government sanctioned gambling and especially lotteries send a message to the populace that conflicts with many important cultural values. These can have far-reaching effects. These messages promote a "let it roll" mentality.  Simply allowing such activities and promoting them are two different issues.  The government has climbed into bed with the devil to gain revenue from taxing these activities.  Gaming does not benefit the average man.  Truth is the laws of nature and the odds are against you, that’s why they call it gambling and not winning. It might be interesting to place more focus on how many people suffer post lotto depression when they do not win. 
Many people who can least afford it spend $5 or $10 a week on lottery tickets in a futile attempt at striking it rich. The problem is, few people comprehend the chance to win a lottery is very small. These lotteries redistribute wealth from the working poor to the government which wins every week. Some studies indicate when lower-income players do buy tickets, they spend far more money on lottery tickets than wealthier players. A study published in the Journal of Gambling Studies found that those in the bottom fifth of income spent the most on lottery tickets, and more than twice as much as the richest lottery players - $433 a year vs. $193 a year.

Huge sums of money from lotteries are unmanageable by the average man and often cause adjustment difficulties, resulting in pain and not happiness.  Large jackpots also result in a disconnect in true and associated values causing unrealistic expectations.  The thought that we might at anytime win a jackpot in excess of one hundred million dollars gives a false impression of reality that is harmful in cultivating positive work ethics and makes a mockery of those who toil to produce a better life. In the past, some winners have used the line "be careful what you wish for" after having their life turned upside-down and disrupted by good fortune. One person that won big and experienced having his brutalized is Jack Whitaker. He has been quoted as saying he wished he had torn up his ticket after he was afflicted numerous times by the "lottery curse".

Our modern consumer-based society has made us slaves to material objects and producers of waste.  Many economists urge us to consume, even when we must borrow to do so, saying it creates more jobs. We follow Governments and leaders that we often neither like nor trust.  Today’s youth growing up besieged by marketers are now vilified for being materialistic, marred by too little perspective, they find themselves angry and disappointed. During the latest lotteries that sported a massive well-publicized jackpot people used covid-19 relief money that was intended to be used to pay rent and even the food stamp money given to them by taxpayers to buy tickets. Bottom-line this is indeed madness.
( Republishing of this article is welcomed with reference to Bruce Wilds/AdvancingTime Blog )


  1. Simplicius Simplicissimus said it best. To sum: gambling is theft from your fellow man.

  2. While I agree that many people nowadays shun the ethic of hard work and earning your success, human nature hasn't really changed much over the centuries. Just look at the Dutch Tulip Mania back in the 1700s, South Sea bubble in the 1800s, and the 1920 market crash. In their lust for riches people poured money into speculative investments and lost it all. I would much rather allow fools who buy lottery tickets to pay for things than have responsible, frugal folks like myself being taxed to pay for them. Unfortunately, instead of rewarding production and saving, our perpetual growth, cheap money and credit Keynesian economic model punishes savers and encourages constant and excessive borrowing and consumption on the part of the masses and the govt. to keep the party going. Will the party ever end? Boy, I hope not, as there will be hell to pay.

    1. Thanks for the comment Dave2020. It could be argued that by jumping on the lotto bandwagon governments are promoting bad behavior that negatively affects low-income people the most. My concern centers around the fact that when these people, many already receiving some kind of government help, lose money playing speculative games they rapidly in some form or another return to the government for further subsidies.
      This wounds the idea lotteries take us off the hook for some government spending. Regardless, if we must have lotteries limiting the size of jackpots and "spreading around the bounty" might have some degree of merit.

  3. the randomness of life brings many low probablity high impact negative events -- cancer, auto accidents, divorce, disruptive career events, etc. I would argue that the mirror-image low probability high impact positive events do not occur in order to balance out our inevitable exposure to these random negative tail events. This is why I play the lottery -- I am creating the possibilities for positive tail events to occur where they otherwise do not naturally exist. It's sort of like creating positive skew in life.
    Thanks for the blog in any case.

    1. While overall I'm not a fan of these lotteries, I do believe in your freedom of choice. Best of luck with your playing, I hope you hit a big one. After all, it seems you have thought it through.

  4. Irrelevant and nonsensical, when compared to the real toll on American culture.
    And that is the division, extreme fascism, and misanthropic prognostications by those on the far-right.

    Therein lies the real Madness of American culture.