The Dangers of Tradition and Conformity


A lottery is a game wherein people are given the opportunity to win something of value by chance. Prizes can be cash or goods, such as houses and cars. People can also win things like a college scholarship or a medical procedure. People often participate in a lottery to get something they want that is otherwise not easily available. Lottery games may be run by a government, a private organization, or an individual.

Many states use the lottery to raise money. The majority of state lottery proceeds are used for education. Other uses include public works projects, veterans’ benefits, and public safety initiatives. A few percent of the proceeds are kept as profits for the organizers and other costs. The remainder of the prize money is distributed to winners. Some governments prohibit the lottery, while others endorse and regulate it. Regardless of state policy, the lottery is not without its critics. They argue that it encourages gambling addiction and has a negative impact on poor families.

The short story “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson illustrates the dangers of tradition and conformity. The story begins with a man named Mr. Summers carrying out a black box. He stirs the papers inside to prepare for the lottery. The reader is told that the box is ancient and that this has been a tradition for a long time.

When the lottery begins, the Hutchinson family takes their turn. They each draw a number. The father of the family tries to talk Tessie out of participating, but she is determined to win. Mr. Summers and Mr. Graves try to convince her that the lottery is unfair and not worth the effort.

As the lottery continues, the prize amounts grow to thousands of dollars. This leads to more and more people purchasing tickets. However, as the prize money grows, the odds of winning diminish. A few people end up with very large prizes, but the bulk of the prize money is divided into smaller sums. Organizers must consider these factors when planning for the future of the lottery.

Most lotteries are a classic case of governmental policy made piecemeal and incrementally, with the general welfare taken into consideration only intermittently, at best. Initially, there is a great deal of enthusiasm about the lottery and its potential to raise revenue for public programs. However, once revenues start to decline and become a source of dependency for state budgets, the political leaders who set up the lottery are forced to introduce new games in order to keep revenue levels high. This creates a situation in which the lottery becomes at cross-purposes with the larger public interest. In addition, it promotes gambling at a time when the public is concerned about its consequences for poor families and problem gamblers. This is a serious issue that must be addressed in a lottery’s planning stages. Despite these problems, most lotteries continue to prosper. They are an increasingly popular way for states to raise money.