In Port Day 2

It’s a lay about day; no events scheduled save a visit to a hamburger place to have lunch. Team members are spread about the house, each doing independent things.

Mariner watched TV. He watched CNN for twenty minutes with no gain in information except for the relative non-event about Chapo. Twenty minutes…..

The youngsters are preparing a delicious pulled pork supper. Outstanding.

Of course, the entertaining talk is about the lottery. The team is trying to work out compromises for how to split winnings. The mariner and his mate have read horror stories about how lottery winners aren’t happier. In fact, they are less happy, pursued endlessly by conmen and marketers like most are pursued by hornets, and often end up stone broke in a few years.

Mariner received two tickets as a birthday gift. We’ll see. He’s not holding his breath. Odds: 292,000,000/1. Rand Paul could win the Presidency 292 thousand times at these odds.

In a recent post, mariner offered an excellent book, How Not To Be Wrong, the Power of Mathematical Thinking by Jordon Ellenberg. Ellenberg’s book has a chapter called ‘What to expect when you expect to win the lottery.’

Two quotes, the first by Ellenberg, the second by Adam Smith, author of The Wealth of Nations:

“Should you play the lottery? It’s generally considered canny to say no. The old saying tells us lotteries are a “tax on the stupid” providing government revenue at the expense of people misguided enough to buy tickets.”

“…The world neither ever saw, nor will ever see, a perfectly fair lottery, or one in which the whole gain compensated the whole loss… [Meaning the amount played is always greater than the amount paid out]”

Lotteries, at least in the western world, began in Genoa during the seventeenth century as a method to determine which two of 120 lower house members would move to the upper chamber council for a year. It wasn’t long before gamblers started betting on which two would be selected. Eager for more betting than once each year, gamblers created an independent lottery very similar to today’s Powerball without lesser payoffs for nonwinners. Ellenberg covers other tales of government lotteries including the Michigan and Massachusetts “Cash Winfall” lotteries where unwon cash – millions of dollars – was rolled down to nonwinner pools to increase sales. Unbeknownst to the two states, on the occasion that cash was rolled down, three groups, MIT students, an Asian community, and a neighborhood group each pooled to buy 10,000 tickets or more. The enlarged cash pool made payoffs profitable, indeed guaranteed. More was won with one or two winners than the cost of all 10,000 tickets. Many in each group became independently wealthy by the time the government caught on and stopped Cash Winfall.

Is there a lesson to be learned by governments and Powerball players? Is there a more rational and predictive way to fund governments and healthy libidos? Of course, but neither will admit it. The truth is it takes stupid government officials who don’t know how to run government income and budgets properly to depend on lotteries as well as the stupid ticket buyers. Historical fact shows neither bode well in the long run.

Ancient Mariner