In a small, unnamed American village, children and adults gather to participate in a lottery. This annual ritual, conducted on June 27, was once practiced to ensure a good harvest; Old Man Warner quotes an old proverb: “Lottery in June; corn be heavy soon.” But the lottery is under threat. Some nearby villages have discontinued it, and rumors are spreading that others are considering doing the same. The villagers argue that the lottery is traditional and should continue every year.
In the immediate post-World War II period, lotteries offered state governments a way to expand their services without particularly onerous taxes on middle and working class people. But the fact that winning the lottery is a big gamble coupled with the meritocratic belief that we’re all going to get rich someday gives rise to a pervasive sense of inequality. And I’ve never seen a cost-benefit analysis that puts the benefits of lottery funds in the context of overall state revenues.
Winning the lottery is a life-changing event, but not necessarily for the better. For instance, you may find yourself being inundated with requests from charities, and your privacy may be compromised if you choose to go public with your winnings or hold press conferences. To protect yourself, consider changing your phone number and setting up a P.O. box before turning in your ticket. You can also form a blind trust through your attorney to avoid the media frenzy and keep your personal details private.