Is the Lottery Fair and Ethical?
Historically, states have used lotteries to raise money for a variety of purposes, including public services and infrastructure. In the immediate post-World War II period, lottery proceeds allowed state governments to expand their array of services without especially onerous taxes on middle and working class families. But by the 1960s, that arrangement began to collapse as inflation eroded state budgets. State officials, seeking to offset falling tax revenues and soaring entitlement spending, turned to the lottery as an alternative source of revenue. Lottery proponents argue that it is more ethical and fair than raising taxes or cutting other government programs. But are they right?
Lottery is a gambling game where tickets are sold and prizes are awarded based on chance. Prizes are usually cash but can also be goods or services. The word lottery is derived from the Latin phrase lotto, meaning “fate” or “chance.” The casting of lots for decisions and fates has a long history in human society, with numerous examples recorded in biblical texts. The first recorded public lotteries to award money as prizes were held in the Low Countries in the 15th century for purposes such as town fortifications and helping the poor.
The idea that a large sum of money could be won by a random process is a powerful psychological lure. It is not surprising, therefore, that the lottery has become an important part of many people’s lives. It has been estimated that about a third of American adults play the lottery each year. Some states allow the purchase of multiple entries, so that a player has a better chance of winning. Others limit the number of entries to a certain percentage of the population.
A person’s decision to purchase a lottery ticket may be based on a combination of factors, including the entertainment value and non-monetary benefits. If these factors exceed the disutility of a monetary loss, the purchase of a ticket is a rational choice for that individual. But if the entertainment and other non-monetary benefits are not sufficient to overcome the disutility of a monetary risk, the purchase of a ticket is irrational.
The setting of the story is one of the most important characterization methods. The action that happens on the lottery square is a powerful symbol of how people can be manipulated by a system they believe to be fair, but is in reality cruel and unfair. In addition, the act of Tessie picking a stone is a sign that she is determined and quick to anger. In her way, she is trying to rebel against the tradition of the lottery. But she soon finds that her actions have the opposite effect, as other villagers begin to see her as dangerous and threatening.