Previously posted June 9, 2005
There’s been a lot of discussion on various threads about the statements people who think they know, (politicians, academians, religious zealots, know-it-alls, do-gooders and others with the wisdom to know what’s best for people who aren’t fortunate enough to be them) that most of the people who play the lotteries are poor and under educated.
I’d be the first to agree that people who are one or another level of ‘poor’ play the lotteries. Most of us are poorer than we’d like to be…. that’s why folks such as Hollywood Henderson and Jack Whittaker bought tickets.
But how poor can a person be and still buy lottery tickets?
The poorest people I know are living on the streets panhandling. They have their values straight, as a rule. Priority one, when some money falls into their lives: A bottle of something, a fix of something.
Priority number sixteen, or thereabouts: Something to eat.
Priority number twenty-seven: A lottery ticket.
Those folks aren’t buying a lot of tickets.
The somewhat higher level of poor people do buy some tickets, I’ve observed standing in line behind them at the convenience store. They drive up in automobiles, buy a case of beer for the evening, some chips, and probably go home to watch the results on television. They mightn’t have a nice home…. maybe a trashed out mobile home in some park full of human lessons to be learned, anger and loud music, but they aren’t actually poor.
In fact, by any standard besides the one we judge such things by today for social reasons, these ‘poor’ people are generally enjoying a level of wealth seldom experienced in human history. There’s food available to them through food banks all over this nation to keep them from starving. They have shelter from the weather and warmth in the winter. They can purchase clothing at any garage sale for a quarter. They drive automobiles or use public transportation unless they choose to walk.
In a world where the history of human living conditions have predominantly involved worrying about where the next meal is (or isn’t) coming from, where death by exposure to the elements has almost always been a reality, the US doesn’t have more than a smattering of poor people by standard that existed a century ago.
Those poor people referred to by the politicians and statisticians are adults, making choices about what risks they wish to indulge with the money they have in hopes of improving their lot. They’re submerged in wealth. If you don’t believe it, imagine those pictures you probably see on television of villages somewhere with kids lying around with pot-bellies, flies walking all over their faces, them without the energy to lift a hand to brush them off, one step away from exiting the vehicle because there’s nothing to eat and there’s not going to be. That’s poor.
I happen to have a pretty fair formal education, though I’m ‘under-educated’, as is everyone I’ve ever met. Which boils down to all lottery players being under-educated, and that being a shared trait with all those who don’t play. Until someone invents an educational level that includes being ‘over-educated’, and ‘just-the-right-educated’, none of the above tells us much about who plays the lottery.
But it does tell us a lot about manipulative rhetoric, politics by guilt, religious posturing, hypocracy, and a willingness (or unwillingness) to allow adults who might be just as smart and savvy as we are to make their own choices about how they want to spend their money. About what risks they’re willing to take in life. That comes under the heading of something called, “freedom”. Not a lot of it floating around these days.