Tessie Hutchinson and the Lottery

In the United States, 44 of the 50 states run state lotteries. The six that don’t are Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Mississippi, Utah, and Nevada (the latter because of Las Vegas). State lotteries are widely favored by the public; they generate significant revenue, have no direct relation to state government debt, and are perceived as painless forms of taxation. Moreover, they can provide significant benefits to specific groups.

Regardless of these advantages, lottery critics point to various flaws in the operations of the industry. These include deceptive advertising (e.g., misrepresenting odds of winning the jackpot and inflating the value of money won by a jackpot winner—in fact, the jackpot prize is often paid out in annual installments over 20 years, which are then subject to inflation and taxes that dramatically reduce the actual value). They also point to evidence that lottery play correlates with lower socioeconomic status and other characteristics. For example, men play more than women; blacks and Hispanics more than whites; the young and the old play less; and Catholics play more than Protestants.

Despite these flaws, the story does reveal some truths about human nature. It demonstrates the destructive power of conformity and how easily people can fall into oppressive traditions, as well as the need to be willing to question and challenge outdated systems. It also serves as a reminder that the pursuit of justice requires a critical and open-minded approach to culture. Tessie Hutchinson’s plight illustrates the importance of taking a stand against an unfair system, even if it threatens one’s own life.

Posted in: Gambling