Lottery As a Symbol of Public Good

Lottery is the way that states raise money for things such as schools and road projects. It is not only a source of money, it is also a popular symbol of public good, a way for citizens to support the government without the onerous tax burdens that are attached to more traditional forms of public funding. It is a system that has been around for centuries, and it seems to have found its highest popularity in the period that followed World War II.

Lotteries are a classic example of how state policy is made in an incremental, piecemeal manner. It is often a matter of following the crowd, and it is not uncommon for the decisions that are made to work at cross-purposes with the general public welfare.

There is an inextricable human impulse to gamble, and that’s partly what lottery plays on. But it is also a way of buying hopes and dreams in a world of inequality, where the odds are long for most people to ever make their mark. That’s why lottery advertising focuses on the idea that playing the lottery is fun, and it obscures how regressive it really is.

The story “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson is a cautionary tale of the role that scapegoats play in societies organized around patriarchal family structures. It is a reminder that societies organized this way tend to oppress those who don’t fit into the cultural norms in order to valorize their own. The narrator of the story describes her family as one such society, and the family ritual around the lottery is emblematic of this pattern.