Lottery Uses for Social Engineering

Lottery is a game of chance in which tickets are drawn and prizes are awarded based on the number of numbers chosen. It has long been a popular form of gambling and a way to raise funds for public purposes. But the lottery has also been a tool for social engineering. It has been used to assign units in a subsidized housing block, kindergarten placements at a prestigious school, and even – once upon a time – human slaves.

During the immediate post-World War II period, when the state was building its expansive social safety nets and America was flush with prosperity, lotteries seemed like a great idea. They would allow the states to expand their services without raising taxes too much or cutting programs for the poor. But that arrangement started to crumble in the nineteen-sixties, as growing inflation and the cost of the Vietnam War sagged state budgets. In that environment, state legislators saw the lottery as a good alternative to higher taxes and budget cuts, which were politically unpopular.

In the end, most of the money that isn’t your winnings goes to the states, and they have full control over how to spend it. Many of them have been creative in their use, funding things such as support centers and groups for people struggling with gambling addiction or recovery. They’ve also put some into the general fund to address roadwork, bridgework, police force, and other needs.