John Goodman on the Lottery
By David Henderson
I was waiting for others to take up John Goodman’s June 12 challenge, but I think I’ve waited long enough. Goodman mentioned Neil Wanless, who won a $200+-million jackpot in a lottery. Statists, both economists and non-economists, often argue against free-market outcomes on the basis of a certain amount of luck that creates sometimes-enormous differences in wealth and/or income. A lottery is all luck. Shouldn’t the statists, Goodman asks, then be even more critical of lotteries? And yet lottery winners seem to get, if anything, positive press and certainly not negative press. How come?
I added my answer on his blog. I’ve thought of one other. Could it be that many of the statist critics see choice as the key issue? One of the lines I’ve heard from many of them is, “You don’t get to choose your parents.” The idea is that parents, through genes and nurture, affect outcomes for the kids. That’s a lottery that we’re in that we can’t choose. Is that the key difference? The problem is that if that’s the key difference, then statists should be against other lotteries that we’re forced into. They don’t seem to be. I posted on one recently, the one involving lawsuits for some kinds of torts. If anything, statists have been the ones pushing for such forced lotteries.
What say you, gentle readers?