The winners of the $ 254 million record-breaking POWERBALL lottery identified themselves in Connecticut: the three money managers won a combined $ 108 million after taxes (that’s a lot of taxes!). They bought just one ticket, with numbers selected by the computer. Well, not exactly….it appears these 3 guys are fronting for a very wealthy guy who does not want the exposure. Maybe this win highlights the similarities between lotteries and capitalism: Winner takes all? And if the winner is super-wealthy, he wants to conceal the wealth as much as possible and minimize the tax exposure. What amazes me is the comments attached to the online press reports about this win: Many feel this win is unfair as the winner is already rather wealthy. Really? Many say lotteries are a disguised tax on the poor…..so why are these wealthy guys buying lottery tickets? When poor winners become rich overnight, surely the win qualifies them as rich and the win is unfair too? And what is the value of a dream, even if the chances of it becoming true are super-slight?
The bigger message I see is that wealth concentration happens everywhere. In lottery wins, in capitalist societies, in socialist societies, in communist societies, in dictatorships. The decider in all is either luck, skill or influence…..often it is corruption. Surely capitalism comes out of this cleaner as it does not pretend to be anything other than a winner-takes-all mentality (of course in its purest form, capitalism does not allow cheating, stealing, lying, undue influence, etc)?
So the big question arises again about wealth distribution: Would the lottery be as successful if there had been say 1,000 winners? Would as many people have bought the tickets knowing they could only win a maximum of $ 108,000.00? It would be an interesting test to see if a lottery that offered this payout was successful or not…..it may help us all answer the questions we ask daily about whether wealth concentrated amongst a very, very small group benefits or hurts the big picture.