Category Archives: Economics

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!

The circus in the Imperial City continues apace, China has produced a possible pandemic, some sportsball guy and his daughter was (sadly) killed in a helicopter crash.

On the other hand, the sun still came up this morning; children are still playing, business is still humming, pretty girls haven’t lost their appeal, and back home in Colorado, the mountains are still there, waiting on my next visit.

Sometimes a fella just has to calm down and remind himself to take an even strain, you know?  And, with that said…

On To the Links!

I’ll take “Shit That Never Happened” for $500, Alex.

The House is considering rescinding the ban on earmarks.  Of course they are.

Angling to emigrate to the U.S. for the generous welfare benefits?  Not so fast.

And in that same case, Justice Gorsuch lays a beat-down on some lower-court judges.  About damn time!

I Love a Happy Ending.

Consider the curious case of one Hunter Biden, whose main accomplishments in life have been 1) getting kicked out of the Navy for cocaine use, 2) conducting an affair with his dead brother’s widow, 3) knocking up a stripper, and 4) inexplicably parlaying those previous three assets into a million-dollar-a-year gig with a Ukrainian energy company.  I’m sure his family connections have nothing to do with that last bit.  Now, if his name was Cheney, that’d be a much different story.

(The U.S. Senate):  “Wait, wait – there were eighteen witnesses?”

Gun Dog Magazine is at the 2020 SHOT show, and they are presenting the best upland game shotguns for 2020.  Many nice pieces, but I’ll keep my Citori and my Model 12s.

Peace in our time?

This Week’s Idiots:

The Colorado Legislature in increasingly the habitat of idiots.

David Hogg is an idiot.

Prince Charles is an idiot.

CNN Chief Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin is an idiot.

Need to take away the sting of this week’s idiots?  I think we need to take away the sting of this week’s idiots.  Let’s end the day with some bonus Hump Day totty from the archives.

And Now…

On that toothsome note, we return you to  your Wednesday, already in progress.

Animal’s Daily Work Incentive News

Before we move on, check out the latest in my Allamakee County Chronicles series over at Glibertarians!

Now:  From one of the few bright members of Congress these days, Rand Paul, comes this:  If No One Has to Work, No One Will.  Excerpt:

A few years ago, NPR did a fabulous story on China’s rise from the ashes of Mao’s Marxism to allow a modicum of freedom. The story takes place in the small village of Xiaogang in 1978. Several farmers had come together in a dirt-floor shack to sign a secret compact. To these farmers, this contract was dangerous. They still feared the terror of Mao and believed that if this contract were discovered, they could be executed.

The farms had been owned by the collective since private property was abolished in the 1950s. To defy common ownership of any farmland was very risky.

Yen Jingchang, one of the farmers at this secret meeting, said that “back then, even one straw belonged to the group. No one owned anything.”

One of the men present remembers a farmer asking at a local communist meeting, “What about the teeth in my head? Do I own those?” The party official responded: “No. Your teeth belong to the collective.”

Jingchang said in those days, “In theory, the government would take what the collective grew, and would also distribute food to each family. There was no incentive to work hard – to go out to the fields early, to put in extra effort.”

So these Chinese farmers broke the rules:

According to NPR, “In the winter of 1978, after another terrible harvest, they came up with an idea: Rather than farm as a collective, each family would get to farm its own plot of land. If a family grew a lot of food, that family could keep some of the harvest.”

It had been nearly 30 years since anyone had “owned” his or her labor or the fruits of their harvest. This “new” old idea went against 30 years of communist dictates, which is why the farmers met in secret to discuss a new compact.

One by one, they filed furtively into the agreed-upon farmer’s home. As NPR described it, this home was “like all of the houses in the village – it had dirt floors, mud walls, and a straw roof.. no plumbing, no electricity.”

Despite the danger, the farmers agreed to try privatizing the land – they formalized the agreement and wrote it down as a contract. One of them, Yen Hongchang, wrote out the agreement.

In the contract, the farmers agreed to apportion the land between families. The families would not get to keep the entire harvest. There still would be taxes and a portion for the collective, but for the first time in a generation, the vast amount of the harvest would go to the family that grew the crop. The more you grew, the more you and your family would profit.

The result?

An American Farm Worker.

The contract was kept secret. NPR reported, “Yen Hongchang hid it inside a piece of bamboo in the roof of his house.”

What they couldn’t hide was the dramatically increased harvest. Farmer Hongchang estimated that the harvest was bigger than the last five years together. A miracle occurred, albeit a miracle known at least since the time of Adam Smith: Incentives do matter.

As NPR reported: “Before the contract, the farmers would drag themselves out into the field only when the village whistle blew, marking the start of the work day. After the contract, the families went out before dawn.”

What do you know.  Incentives matter!  Who knew?

Well, as Senator Paul points out, Adam Smith knew.  So did Thomas Sowell, and Ludwig von Mises, and any number of other people.

When they unfettered themselves from the brutally repressive Communist “collective” system, the entire system changed.  And why?  Because serfs claimed back some of their personhood that the socialist government denied them, and decided that henceforth they would produce not for the “Collective” – whatever that is – but for themselves, for their own families, for their own gain.

And it worked.  Wonder of wonders, it worked!  That’s the great thing about freedom; it works.  The freedom to produce, to profit from your production, to know that the fruits of your labor will be yours, that your property belongs to you and not some bureaucrat in Beijing – or Washington – that will always exceed any reward that socialist central planners could ever promise.

Animal’s Daily Lady Stalin News

Know how the far left defines a “gaffe?”  It’s when one of them accidentally says what they really mean.  Case in point.  Excerpt:

It has been clear ever since the creation (and later the fall) of the Soviet Union that socialism is an inherently dictatorial, tyrannical ideology. Only those who worship the state and power want to have anything to do with it. Which is why it makes perfect sense that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a passionate Marxist.

As Madam Tyrant put it herself recently:

“To be ethical, if you’re a billionaire today, the thing that you need to do is give up control and power,” Mrs. Stalin said. “So I don’t want your money as much as we want your power,” she went on to say while quickly changing the “I” into “we.” “The people, not me,” she added.

Haha, of course not!

“That’s gonna be cut in clips,” she said after the gaffe.

You hope.

Here, True Believers, is the naked face of a would-be tyrant.  (Or tyrantita.)  This stupid, stupid girl, who supposedly has a degree in Economics and yet was working as a bartender before the people in her district stupidly put her in Congress, would cheerfully confiscate the property of thousands, maybe millions, of Americans.  Not just billionaires; if she got her way, she could confiscate the property of every billionaire in America, and it still wouldn’t pay for her Utopia.  And that’s assuming that not one of those billionaires – people with, you know, the resources of a billionaire – fled for less repressive shores.

And when her failure became obvious, she’d look next to millionaires – then the “very wealthy”, whatever that means – then to you and me.

There can only be one response to this:  Fuck off, slaver!

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!

On to the links!

This rates an enormous, ninety-decibel “No Shit”:  High-tax states are driving people away.

Alaska is blowing its top.

Horseshit.

This has a frighteningly familiar ring to it.

Thousands of pro-Second Amendment protestors turned out in Richmond.   And, amazingly, nobody died.  The whole thing ended peacefully.

Remember the last time a pro-Second Amendment rally ended with a massive shootout?  Me either.

More UFO kookery.

White supremacists, my ass.

Our good friend and fellow author Jillian Becker has some thoughts on homelessness and crime that are well worth reading.

Payback’s a bitch.

Why are there seven days in a week?  And why is only one of them Saturday?

The correct answer is, “who gives a shit?”  Seriously, why are so many Americans so fascinated by these “royal” non-entities?  Didn’t our ancestors fight a bloody revolution to ensure we wouldn’t have any of those royal nobs nobbing it up over here on our side of the Atlantic?

This Week’s Idiots:

The leaders of Iran are idiots.

Mona Eltahawy is an idiot.

Andrew Cuomo is an idiot.

California is run by idiots.

And now…

This guy deserves special mention.  Relevant excerpt:

Two hours later, authorities in Exeter, another nearby town, got a call that the coyote had charged a family walking on a trail.

“The coyote attacked a young child, and the child’s dad went into protection mode and suffocated the coyote until it succumbed,” police said.

Man Card earned, for life.  And on that hairy note, we return you to your Wednesday, already in progress.

Animal’s Daily Colorado News

Near Gore Pass.

I’ve lived in Colorado for a little over thirty years.  I moved to Colorado after coming off active Army duty (the first time) in 1989, because I wanted to live in the Mountain West, and the Denver area presented the best opportunity to find a job.  I don’t regret that move; I never have.  There’s a lot I still love about Colorado.  I love the mountains, the plains, the hunting, fishing, the outdoor opportunities; I love the 300+ days of sunshine a year.  There are many things I still love about Colorado.

This isn’t one of those things.  Excerpt:

In the last 20 years, Colorado’s population has increased by a little more than 1.5 million people. As of 2019, the state had 5.7 million residents.

“I think we’re probably going to get to 5.8 million [people] for 2020,” said Elizabeth Garner, Colorado’s state demographer.

Population growth slowed during the 2008 recession.

Since 2010, however, Colorado has welcomed about 700,000 new residents. On average, the state is growing anywhere from 70,000 to 80,000 people each year.

That said, it experienced a bit of a slow-down in 2019, when the population increased by about 67,000 over the prior year.

“Compared to the year before where we increased by about 80,000 — it’s about 13,000 fewer people in terms of total growth we’ve seen over that time period,” said Garner.

Much of the growth has been concentrated along the Interstate 25 corridor.

“Which is also where we’re creating all of the jobs. So it makes sense where we’re seeing the job growth and population growth,” Garner said.

According to state data, in the last two decades, most newcomers moved to the Front Range (about 91%) and nearly 8% decided to call the Western Slope, home.

For the record, I live an eastern suburb of Denver, which sits at the foot of the Front Range.

To be perfectly candid, Colorado has gone frickin’ nuts.  There always was a bean-and-granola set here, mostly in Boulder and some of the nuttier mountain communities like Aspen and Vail.  But the Denver/Boulder Axis is taking over the state, and the results are becoming more and more uncomfortable.

Look back on the Colorado that was.

Mrs. Animal and yr. obdt. have long planned to retire elsewhere – and by elsewhere, I mean Alaska – but we may not wait now until we’re ready to retire.  Our kids that live in Colorado are growing restive as well, as they were raised to appreciate the blessings of liberty, which an increasingly left-leaning state government ever seeks to restrict.

Plenty of folks have told me I should stay, that I should fight for my state.  But part of the fight is knowing when you’re licked.  I think we’ve lost Colorado.  Thirty years ago, Colorado was South Wyoming.  Now it’s East California.  And that’s a shame.  But it’s increasingly looking like it’s time to vote with our feet.

Rule Five Income Inequality Friday

Thanks as always to our pals over at The Daley Gator for the linkback!

Here’s another take on “income inequality,” and on why it’s not as big a problem as the daffy old Bolshevik from Vermont, Princess Spreading Bull, Occasional Cortex and others would have us believe.  Read the excerpts below and, indeed, the whole article, and then I’ll give my opinion, which is that “income inequality” isn’t a problem at all.

Income cannot be measured precisely. There are definitional issues such as how to define “household” and how to treat unrealized capital gains, non-market transactions such as childcare provided by a stay-home parent and negative taxes like the Earned Income Tax Credit. And there are measurement issues like how to track income from the underground economy and to get accurate information from people who may be evading taxes or protecting privacy.

Finally, the goal is not clear. We want everyone to have enough for comfort and dignity, but do we want wealth equality between someone who works hard to become a world-class surgeon and her brother who only surfs and loafs? Should government clerks with secure jobs, good benefits and 9 to 5 hours earn the same as people who found and run successful businesses? Should people with expensive tastes be allowed to work hard to buy champagne and Teslas, while others can afford only beer and Chevys but can sleep later and spend more time with their kids?

And:

However you feel about any of those proposals, or others, it’s clear that the social problems caused by the economy in the United States should not be viewed through a lens of simple generalized inequality, with crude redistribution the only solution. Low-income and high-income people each, on average, consume adequate amounts for dignified comfort; as do earners and non-earners. There are plenty of social and economic problems to tackle—people missed by government benefits either accidentally or on purpose, economic insecurity even among people with enough to spend today, government programs that make things worse, racism, sexism, crime and discriminatory criminal justice, child abuse and neglect, to name a few—but lumping them all together as inequality and promising to soak the rich until they go away is misguided.

Here’s the problem:  Too many politicians – people who set policy and make laws – think that inequality is a problem, that the problems of the poor and somehow caused by the existence of the rich.  There are a few deep, fundamental flaws with this thinking:

  1. The economy isn’t a zero-sum game.  If it were, then, as this article points out, one person could only amass wealth at the expense of others.  But that’s not how this works.  Wealth is created and earned, not distributed.  We don’t have to divide the pie into smaller or more equal pieces; we can make a bigger pie.
  2. Wealth and income aren’t the same thing.  Wealth can be the result of income, but it’s not synonymous with income.  A person can be “wealthy” while having a relatively low income; a person who owns a large farm, for example, may be “wealthy” in the sense that they own assets worth a great deal, but they may still have a modest income.  That’s a key difference that many, most notably Lieawatha Warren, don’t seem to understand.
  3. “Redistribution” won’t solve the perceived issue, because most causes of income/wealth inequality are either age-related or behavioral.  Most people move through income levels as they grow, as they go through life.  Myself, for example.  At 20, I had a young wife, a baby daughter, and not a pot to piss in.  Now, I’m pushing sixty, in my peak earning years, Mrs. Animal and I are empty-nesters with a good nest egg and a substantial net worth.  Why?  Because we have worked hard, saved and made good choices; which brings us to the behavioral aspect.  A major cause of “inequality” is that rich people will always do things that make them rich, while poor people will continue to do things that make them poor.

That last bit, item #3, is key.  That’s why redistribution schemes will never solve anything; moving money by force in an economy is like shoveling flies across a barn.  Wealth is generally gained by people who make good decisions and lost by people who make bad decisions; but the only time wealth or income is gained by some at the expense of others is when government confiscates it by force and gives it to those who did not earn it.

Income or wealth redistribution by force means that one portion of the population is compelled, by threat of force, to labor involuntarily on the behalf of others.  The only proper response to such redistribution schemes is “fuck off, slavers!”

Animal’s Daily Dire Predictions News

National treasure Dr. Victor Davis Hanson has some things to say on the dangers of elite groupthink.  Excerpt:

When the supposed clueless Trump was elected, a number of elites pronounced his economic plans to be absurd. We were told that Trump was bound to destroy the U.S. economy.

Former Princeton professor and Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman insisted that Trump would crash the stock market. He even suggested that stocks might never recover.

Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers said Trump would bring on a recession within a year and a half.

The former head of the National Economic Council, Steven Rattner, predicted a market crash of “historic proportions.”

In contrast, many of Trump’s economic advisers during his campaign and administration, including outsider Peter Navarro, pundit Steven Moore, former TV host Larry Kudlow and octogenarian Wilbur Ross, were caricatured.

Yet three years later, in terms of the stock market, unemployment, energy production and workers’ wages, the economy has been doing superbly.

The point of these sharp contrasts is not that an Ivy League degree or a Washington reputation is of little value, or that prestigious prizes and honors account for nothing, or even that supposed experts are always unethical and silly.

Instead, one lesson is that conventional wisdom and groupthink tend to mislead, especially in the age of online echo chambers and often sheltered and blinkered elite lives.

We forget that knowledge can be found at all ages, and in all places. And ethics has nothing to do with degrees or pedigrees.

We also forget that knowledge does not equal wisdom, a quality which is in damned short supply these days.

It’s a rare thing to find an ideologue at any point on the political spectrum who can admit “I was wrong.”  Look, for example, at the endless contortions the anti-Second Amendment types are going through to try to downplay the instant response by armed parishioners that ended a would-be mass shooting in Texas – in six seconds.

Dr. Hanson points out many more examples on economic issues in the linked article.  The problem is, as Dr. Hanson points out, that the popular wisdom usually is neither popular nor wise.  The horse’s asses sitting in Congress are no exception.  Policy proposals coming out of the Imperial City these days are largely crap, proposed by panderers and littered with confirmation bias.  And, as Dr. Hanson further points out, so many of their fever-dream outcries and predictions of horror turn out to be just plain wrong.

It’s little wonder that political croakers and bureaucrats generally have approval ratings somewhere between vultures and polecats.

Rule Five Climate Apocalypse Friday

I stumbled across this last week, read it a couple of times to digest it properly, and found it interesting.  In short, if puts the boots to many of the arguments of the climate-apocalypse doom-criers.  Excerpts, with my comments:

First, no credible scientific body has ever said climate change threatens the collapse of civilization much less the extinction of the human species. “‘Our children are going to die in the next 10 to 20 years.’ What’s the scientific basis for these claims?” BBC’s Andrew Neil asked a visibly uncomfortable (Extinction Rebellion) XR spokesperson last month.

“These claims have been disputed, admittedly,” she said. “There are some scientists who are agreeing and some who are saying it’s not true. But the overall issue is that these deaths are going to happen.”

“But most scientists don’t agree with this,” said Neil. “I looked through IPCC reports and see no reference to billions of people going to die, or children in 20 years. How would they die?”

Well, they won’t.  That’s the point.  The alarmists like Extinction Rebellion and their enablers (like the Swedish Pippi Longschpieling and the American dullard Alexandria Occasional Cortex)  are just plain wrong.  Sure, the climate is changing; it always has.  Through the vast majority of Earth’s 4.55-billion-year history it’s been warmer than it is now.  Solar activity and ocean currents are major factors, and yes, human activity has some effect – but not enough to justify destroying the global economy.

In fact, it is the global economy and modern technology that will shield billions from the effects of any warming:

Last January, after climate scientists criticized Rep. Ocasio-Cortez for saying the world would end in 12 years, her spokesperson said “We can quibble about the phraseology, whether it’s existential or cataclysmic.” He added, “We’re seeing lots of [climate change-related] problems that are already impacting lives.”

That last part may be true, but it’s also true that economic development has made us less vulnerable, which is why there was a 99.7% decline in the death toll from natural disasters since its peak in 1931. 

In 1931, 3.7 million people died from natural disasters. In 2018, just 11,000 did.  And that decline occurred over a period when the global population quadrupled.

What about sea level rise? IPCC estimates sea level could rise two feet (0.6 meters) by 2100. Does that sound apocalyptic or even “unmanageable”?

Consider that one-third of the Netherlands is below sea level, and some areas are seven meters below sea level. You might object that Netherlands is rich while Bangladesh is poor. But the Netherlands adapted to living below sea level 400 years ago. Technology has improved a bit since then.

In other words, as is true in so many ways, the modern world is a better place to live than at any other point in human history.  It’s also important to note which nation has done the most to assure that statistic noted above, where in 2018 only 11,000 people perished in natural disasters.  Which nation, for example, immediately sent a naval task group to succor the victims of the Indonesian tsunami?  The United States.  Examples abound.

And as for agriculture?  The Chicken Little folks are also forecasting mass starvation; again, it just isn’t true:

What about claims of crop failure, famine, and mass death? That’s science fiction, not science. Humans today produce enough food for 10 billion people, or 25% more than we need, and scientific bodies predict increases in that share, not declines. 

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) forecasts crop yields increasing 30% by 2050. And the poorest parts of the world, like sub-Saharan Africa, are expected to see increases of 80 to 90%.

Nobody is suggesting climate change won’t negatively impact crop yields. It could. But such declines should be put in perspective. Wheat yields increased 100 to 300% around the world since the 1960s, while a study of 30 models found that yields would decline by 6% for every one degree Celsius increase in temperature.

Rates of future yield growth depend far more on whether poor nations get access to tractors, irrigation, and fertilizer than on climate change, says FAO.

So what’s the answer for that?  Well, liberty, of course.  Modern, free states, with economies unfettered by central control, have done more to assure human rights, prosperity, technological advancement, and rising standard of living than any other system in human history.  Today’s problems are solved with tomorrow’s technologies, and tomorrow’s technologies are most effectively developed by free people with ideas and a free market.

The doom-criers will never get that.  Neither will most of the politicians.  And that, True Believers, should be cause for much more concern than a couple of degrees of warming.

Animal’s Daily Prescription Spectacles News

Like many men of my vintage (mid-to-late middle age) I have for a few years required some vision correction.  In my late forties I began to notice what was determined to be a fairly routine, normal, expected age-related farsightedness, and since then I have been wearing prescription bifocals.

Now, whenever I go to buy new glasses, I have to have an eye exam prior.  Sometimes I’m glad to do so – my last purchase of spectacles, for example, I sought out the eye exam as I was certain my prescription had changed, and indeed it had.  But what if I broke my glasses and just wanted a new pair?  Not so much.  Excerpt:

In every other country in which I’ve lived—Germany and Britain, France and Italy—it is far easier to buy glasses or contact lenses than it is here. In those countries, as in Peru, you can simply walk into an optician’s store and ask an employee to give you an eye test, likely free of charge. If you already know your strength, you can just tell them what you want. You can also buy contact lenses from the closest drugstore without having to talk to a single soul—no doctor’s prescription necessary.

So why does the United States require people who want to purchase something as simple as a curved piece of plastic to get a prescription, preceded by a costly medical exam?

The standard argument in favor of the American status quo is that impaired vision may point to serious health problems that a new pair of glasses will neither treat nor heal. Compelling Americans to see an optometrist helps to ensure that the largest possible number of cases of progressive eye diseases will be caught at an early stage.

As Barbara Horn, O.D., the president of the American Optometric Association (AOA), told me, “Today, at least 2.2 billion people around the world have a vision impairment, of whom at least 1 billion have a vision impairment that could have been prevented or has yet to be addressed … That’s why it’s clear to health experts, policymakers, the media, and the public that increased access to eye exams and eye doctors are needed to safeguard health and vision.”  

But this argument rather begs the question. After all, the added cost of having to see an optometrist presumably stops many Americans from accessing the corrective lenses they need to improve their vision. Is the desirability of an eye exam performed by a medical professional a sufficient reason to prevent Americans who would rather not—or cannot—visit an optometrist from buying glasses and contacts? We can only answer this question by acknowledging a trade-off between competing goods.

On the one hand, some number of Americans who visit an optometrist to get a new prescription will indeed discover that they have a serious condition that requires immediate care. On the other hand, it is likely that a much greater number keep wearing glasses that are too weak—or won’t wear glasses at all—because they want to avoid the cost, time, or stress of a visit to a doctor.

Let’s cut through the bullshit.  This is cronyism, pure and simple.  If the AOA wants to make the argument above, then let them make it – pure and simple – and let the public decide.  They argue that having to see an optometrist protects them from missing the diagnosis of a serious problem; but as the author here points out, the added cost may well prevent them from seeking new vision correction in the first place, so that argument doesn’t hold much water.

Once again:  It’s not the role of government to shield people from the consequences of their own bad decisions.  Get the government out of the business of mandating eye exams, let people make their own decisions, and let the damned AOA make their case directly to the public instead of lobbying pols to force people to do business with them!

Animal’s Daily Lotto Winner News

It’s all about the Benjamins.

Before we get going, make sure to check out my latest article over at Glibertarians – especially if you’re a fan of old Colt cap-and-ball revolvers.  And if you like that, you can read the rest of my Glibs articles at the link on the right.

Now then:  I’ve long referred to the various state lotteries as “a tax on stupidity.”  The New York Post’s Howard Husock agrees, but I do take issue with a couple of his points.  Excerpts, with my comments:

The advent of government-organized gambling, in the form of state lotteries, is one of our age’s most unnoticed social transformations. Before 1964, America had no such lotteries. Today, only five states don’t run their own, and most others permit interstate games such as Powerball, which jack up prizes to extravagant levels. Lottery participation has skyrocketed. Overall revenues total some $80 billion; New York is the state leader, with $10 billion in ticket sales. The spread of lotteries has played a leading role in the normalization of gambling, once considered a vice akin to drug use or prostitution — and lottery sales are boosted by publicly funded advertising campaigns that prey on the weakness of gambling addicts while encouraging non-gamblers to get involved, too.

Now, let me tell you where I sit before I tell you where I stand; I think that gambling should be legal.  It’s not the role of government to shield people from the consequences of their own bad decisions.  But with that said, I agree, the various levels of government should not be spending tax dollars to encourage people to play state-sponsored lotteries.  It’s a stupid waste of taxpayer’s money, which is, of course, money confiscated from the citizenry with the implied use of force.

At least the lotteries are voluntary.

It’s common for states to frame lotteries as being for a good cause — for public education, say. The claim is meaningless, though: All state money is fungible. The lottery proceeds go into the state’s general fund; one could just as easily say that they’re used to pay down interest on debt.

In Colorado, the money supposedly goes to parks and open spaces – but as Husock points out, that’s all fungible.  Money is money is money, and once absorbed into the State, it’s impossible to control where it goes.

But here’s where Husock and I part ways:

It’s time for states to ban lottery advertising. Sure, let people play, post the winning numbers — but stop selling the dream.

Let’s be careful with the terminology here.  I think the various state governments should cease wasting taxpayer dollars on advertising the lotteries – and lots of other things.  But a complete ban on advertising?  That would imply a prohibition on a private store owner putting up a sign stating “Lottery tickets sold here!”  That’s not reasonable.

Weaning government from our addiction to promoting lotteries wouldn’t be easy. An adjustment period would be necessary as lottery revenues fell — though perhaps the adjustment would not be dramatic. Massachusetts, among the first states to mount a lottery, later moved to limit advertising — at one point, cutting it from $12 million to just $400,000 a year — but the state has not seen lottery revenues crater.

I doubt many states would see much difference.  Everyone knows the lotteries are there.  Everyone knows where you can get tickets.

On the positive side, tax revenues might even increase as citizens, freed from such dispiriting messages, re-embrace working and saving. In any case, though, getting states out of lottery advertising is the right thing to do.

I doubt that.  If you were to draw a Venn diagram with one side being “people who embrace working and saving” and “people who plan on the lottery as their retirement plan,” you’d have very little overlap.

Most people don’t want to make money. They just want to spend money.

My issue with state lotteries, and the reason I call them “a tax on stupidity,” is primarily this:  The odds are awful.  And why?  The vigorish.  That’s the cut the house takes in any gamble.  If you want to gamble, your odds are much better if you just go to the nearest casino and play slot machines.  In Las Vegas, most slots pay out between 95 and 98 cents on each dollar gambled.  The state lotteries?  Under 50 cents.  The vigorish on state lotteries is awful, which is why the states love them.

So, play the lotteries if you like; it’s a free country, and there’s nothing wrong with paying a couple of bucks for the chance to fantasize about what you’d do if you won.  Just be aware that the odds are astronomically small.  And, yes, be aware that your state may well be wasting taxpayer dollars encouraging you to indulge in a bad deal.