Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Moral Cost of the Lottery

This is unconscionable:

State governments have played a role. They aggressively hawk their lottery products, which some people call a tax on stupidity. Twenty percent of Americans are frequent players, spending about $60 billion a year. The spending is starkly regressive. A household with income under $13,000 spends, on average, $645 a year on lottery tickets, about 9 percent of all income. Aside from the financial toll, the moral toll is comprehensive. Here is the government, the guardian of order, telling people that they don’t have to work to build for the future. They can strike it rich for nothing.
David Brooks doesn't stop the blame there. He names payday lenders, credit card companies, Congress, the White House, and Wall Street. Our culture has exalted keeping up with the Joneses so much that we are all now Joneses. Unsecured debt is seen as normal. Wanting it NOW is one of the characteristics of our way of life. We need to get back to a frame of mind where debt is a trap to be avoided. The Bible says that the borrower is a slave to the lender, and living in debt is psychologically crushing.

He proposes some solutions as well: Make debt as acceptable as smoking, have churches issue no-interest payday loans, strengthen usury laws, and others. One of the main problems I see with strengthening the usury laws is that it has to be done nationwide. Ever wonder why so many credit card banks are chartered in Delaware?

So. How do we change the culture? What are we showing our kids? Do we reject debt in favor of savings? Do we have an emergency fund that we don't touch unless it really is an emergency? How are you teaching your children to handle money?

H/T: LoneStarTimes


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