The Lottery and Utilitarianism


The lottery is a form of gambling in which people pay a small amount to have the chance to win big. The prize money is determined by a random draw of numbers. Many different types of lotteries exist, including those for housing units in a subsidized development or kindergarten placements at a good public school. Some states regulate these, while others do not. In any event, the majority of ticket sales are used to pay expenses and profits to organizers, and a percentage goes towards prizes for winners.

The short story The Lottery by Shirley Jackson describes a village that holds a lottery every year. The head of each family draws a piece of paper from a black box. One of the papers is marked with a black spot. The winner of this lottery is then stoned to death by the whole community. The people in the story seem to have forgotten the original reason for this ritual, but they keep it because they believe it brings good luck to their homes.

In a society that values utilitarianism, actions or policies are considered to be the most valuable if they produce the greatest amount of good for the most number of people. The villagers in the story seem to have subscribed to this view, since their motivation for holding the lottery is to bring rain and produce good crops. This will then lead to a better life for everyone in the town.

Utilitarianism also emphasizes that people should not be prevented from engaging in activities that they believe will make their lives better. Thus, it is rational for the villagers to continue their lottery tradition. This is particularly true if it increases the likelihood of a successful harvest. However, it is not clear how much more efficient this action would be if they were to change the way they conduct it, such as by using a lottery system that offers smaller prize amounts more frequently.

A common criticism of the lottery is that it is regressive, with those at the bottom of the income distribution spending a larger share of their incomes on tickets than those at the top. This is partly due to the fact that low-income people have less discretionary money available to spend on lottery tickets. However, it is possible that the entertainment value (or other non-monetary) that lottery players receive from playing the game offsets the regressive nature of the purchase and makes the activity a sensible choice for them.

Nevertheless, the high tax rates on winnings can prevent individuals from taking advantage of the opportunities that the lottery can offer them. Moreover, even if winning the lottery is a good idea from an economic perspective, it is important to know how to manage the money you win in order to make the most of it. For example, you should consider putting the money in an emergency fund or paying off credit card debt. You could also use it to invest in the stock market.