Teaching Reckless Spending By ExampleSeptember 16, 2008
When you go to Las Vegas you enter a surreal world of fake Eiffel Towers and Venetian gondolas that wander through shopping malls. After a couple of days, you walk right past Elvis without bothering to ogle. Vegas is a temple to faux-culture. Yet, there is something distinctly honest about what happens there. When you play black jack at the Rio you know that management is not terribly concerned about your financial well-being. They are out to make a buck on you, as many bucks as they can. Their motives are pure and well understood.
State run lotteries are the real sham. They put Las Vegas to shame. If I feel like I’m ready to “Go for the Gold” Virginia has a lottery ticket for me. If I’m nostalgic for my old Who albums “Pinball Wizard” might be my ticket that day. But, the lottery cloaks itself in moral goodness. Go to the Virginia Lottery web site and you will see proudly displayed “More than $3 billion for public education.” For most people, playing the lottery is an act in financial irresponsibility….in reckless spending. But, more than just allowing this kind of behavior, the State supports it.
Depending on your particular political persuasion you probably believe that:
- Financial decisions are strictly personal. Federal and state governments should not seek to influence personal financial decisions by constructing policies aimed at encouraging thrift — or
- Federal and state governments should seek to encourage citizens to save more through active policy measures.
Short of deep cynicism, “I think the lottery is a tax on stupidity and stupid people should be taxed,” no reasonable political philosophy would advocate the state encouraging financially reckless behavior. And make no mistake, lotteries are successful not because some of us spend a buck once in awhile to have a good time, but rather because many people who have very little spend a lot of their bucks. If you doubt this for a minute, you can look to the recent uptick in lottery sales driven by the financial downturn to convince yourself. The worse off some people are, the more likely they are to buy lottery tickets. Lottery money is like crack cocaine for the State. It is wrong, and we all know it is wrong, but we just keep on shooting up.