Public Benefits of the Lottery

Whether it is used to select students for kindergarten admission, to determine who gets a unit in a subsidized housing block or to identify a vaccine for a disease, lottery can be an effective way to allocate scarce resources. It can also be a source of funds for philanthropic projects, such as building schools or libraries. It is especially popular in countries where there are few large public assets and where property taxes are high.

In colonial America, public lotteries were popular and played a significant role in financing private and public ventures. Many of the universities, churches, canals, roads and fortifications in the colonies were financed by these lotteries. The lottery was an excellent way to raise money for these projects without increasing taxes.

While the story is fictional, there are still real-life lotteries in the United States and other nations. The United States lottery is a state-controlled enterprise, and its profits are devoted to the benefit of public programs. In the United States, the only way to participate in the lottery is to buy a ticket. The odds of winning are very low. However, if the entertainment value or other non-monetary benefits are perceived to be high enough, the disutility of a monetary loss might be outweighed by the expected utility of a lottery ticket for the individual making the purchase.

Shirley Jackson, in her short story The Lottery, uses a small town setting to criticize blind following of traditions and rituals. She shows that human evil is very present in places that look harmless and friendly.