The History of the Lottery and How it Can Be Used For Social Control

The lottery is a process that relies on chance to determine winners of prizes. This can be applied to a variety of situations, such as filling vacancies in a sports team among equally competing players, assigning seats in school or university, and so on. It is considered a fair way to distribute resources because it gives a person a fair chance of winning. However, it has its drawbacks, such as the possibility of fraud and corruption. This article takes a look at the history of lottery and examines how it can be used as an instrument for social control.

The word lottery has its origins in Middle Dutch loterie, and may be a calque on Middle French loterie. It was originally a method of selecting a work crew in the Netherlands, and later became a means of raising money for church or municipal projects. The first state-run lottery was introduced in the United States in 1964, and more than thirty states now offer it. In recent times, lottery jackpots have grown to enormous amounts, generating huge publicity for the game and drawing in people who would otherwise not buy tickets.

Many people play the lottery for the hope that they will be the lucky winner of a large sum of money. But the odds of winning are very low, and it is not uncommon for several people to chip in together to buy a ticket. This is common in workplaces, where groups of co-workers will purchase a ticket and then split any winnings.

It is no coincidence that this fascination with unimaginable wealth coincided with a deterioration in economic security for most working people. During the nineteen-seventies and eighties, health care and insurance costs spiraled, job security eroded, and pensions dwindled. Increasingly, the national dream seemed like an impossible fantasy.

But while these trends might have made people a little less willing to pay taxes, they also made it harder for politicians to justify a lottery. Instead of arguing that a lottery would float most of a state’s budget, legalization advocates began to say that it could fund one specific government service, invariably education but sometimes veterans or elder care. This narrower strategy made it easy for a voter to support the lottery without seeming to endorse gambling.

Although the story of Shirley Jackson’s Lottery has an obvious moral, it is worth noting that it also contains a number of other themes. The most important is that people should be able to stand up against authority, even in small and seemingly peaceful communities. This is illustrated by the fact that Mrs. Hutchinson is not opposed to the lottery until it turns against her. She then realizes that she should have opposed it from the start.