Saturday, December 28, 2002
I only missed by six numbersI usually agree with James Taranto, but he had a ridiculous overreaction to this week's lottery hype in Friday's OpinionJournal. With regard to the news coverage of the man whose tickets I wish I had, he writes:
All this media attention to lottery winners serves only to glorify gambling. And the lottery is a bigger rip-off than any other form of legalized gambling. Innumeracy.com ran an experiment to see what would happened if it made 10,000 random selections and entered them in each of 479 drawings in the British lottery. Result: An "investment" of £4,790,000 returned just £1,375,082, which means that each £10,000 "invested" would have cost the player £7,129.To be fair to Taranto, this isn't an uncommon sentiment, though it usually comes from those on the left side of the political spectrum. As if. Do these commentators really believe that most people who gamble think they're going to get rich by doing it? Saying that the lottery is a "tax on the stupid" because it provides a negative return on investment -- I think it awfully strange that Taranto felt the need to provide a link to an "experiment" which proved this, as if basic probability isn't sufficient -- simply demonstrates that Taranto doesn't understand the appeal of the lottery. People don't argue that a movie ticket is a "tax on the stupid" simply because the purchaser ends up with $8.50 less than he started with, do they? Of course not. He's purchasing a couple of hours of entertainment, not an investment vehicle. And, despite what Taranto thinks, that's what lottery players are purchasing. They're purchasing the excitement of anticipating a possible win, of figuring out what they'd do with the money if they won, of mutually commiserating their friends and coworkers the next day when none of them win. And there's nothing wrong with that.
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