Sunday, June 01, 2008

Walking Away from Omelas ...(State Lottery)



The great Preacher Charles G. Finney was once practically abducted by a man who took him into the back of a building and locked the door behind him. The fellow then produced a revolver and leveled it at Finney. He told Finney that he had killed two men with the gun. Then he asked the preacher if there was hope for a man so wicked as he. Finney assured him that there was hope for him in one place- in the forgiveness purchased by the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

The man with the gun then told Finney that he owned the saloon that they were standing in. He said that men would spend their last dollar on booze, and he would sell it. Wives would come in and place their babies on the counter and beg him not to sell their husbands any more liquor. He would run them off. "Is there any hope for a sinner like me?" he asked. Finney assured him that there still was hope.

Then the man confessed, among other crimes and outrages, that he ran a crooked gambling hall in that saloon. He said, "A man leaves the saloon with some money left in his pocket, and we take his money away from him in our gambling hall. Men have gone out of that gambling den to commit suicide when their money, and perhaps entrusted funds, were all gone. Is there any hope for a man like me?'

Finney again told the man that their was hope for the repentant sinner in Christ. The man did repent. He spent the night smashing up his saloon and gambling club. In the morning he went home and for the first time became kind to his much-abused wife and daughter. The whole family joined the local church, and the man spent the rest of his life warning others of the evils of alcohol and gambling addiction.

That man was driven to repentance in part because he had to look into the faces of the men he cheated, and see the destructive effects of what he was selling. It is my view that politicians and university officials who are pushing for the lottery proposal are in worse spiritual condition than this man. They mean to do the same things this fellow did to enrich themselves, but unlike him they will be insulated from the destruction they bring to families in the process.

The guilt this man felt for his wicked deeds brought him to repentance. Today outwardly respectable men push for gain by the same methods and feel no guilt at all. Instead, they commend themselves, and pass off what they are doing as some sort of good work! Truly, that former saloon and gambling hall owner, who killed two people and beat his wife and daughter, will gain entrance to the kingdom of Heaven before these men. Wicked though he was, he saw the harm he was doing and was moved to repent of his work. These men, who should know full well that the "good" they mean to do will be purchased with the misery of others, not only fail to feel guilty for their sins, but are actually proud of what they are doing!

The Arktimes website mentions that the Arkansas lottery amendment would not ban "video lotteries", which are the functional equivalent of a slot machine. That carries a far higher risk of addiction than a once-a-week "winning number" traditional lottery. Additionally, no money from the lottery could be used to deal with the increased child abuse and family issues caused by an increase in gambling addiction. "Higher Education" will get 100% of the profits from this enterprise. The increased social services to clean up the mess of gambling addiction will have to be paid for with additional taxes out of our pockets.

Lt. Governor Bill Halter claims that an increase of college graduates will produce economic growth in Arkansas that will far outstrip any costs. That is foolishness. College graduates are not fixed assets. They can go to where the jobs are. A state that unwisely churns out more college graduates than its businesses can absorb is simply subsidizing the economies of other states where such graduates are needed.

Before Wal-Mart, J.B. Hunt and other companies in NWA took off, the U of A sent many graduates to cities like Dallas. The U of A graduates went to where the jobs were. Mr. Halter's premises are simply incorrect. In addition, his proposal is written with such inflexibility as to who gets the loot that any social clean-up costs will have to be born by the taxpayers, not the institutions that benefit from the lottery.

Science fiction writer Ursula K. Le Guin once penned a classic short story called "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas". As Wikkipedia describes the story, Omelas is a utopian city of happiness and delight, whose inhabitants are smart and cultured. Everything about Omelas is pleasing, except for the secret of the city: the good fortune of Omelas requires that an unfortunate child be kept in filth, darkness and misery, and that all her citizens know of this on coming of age.

Some of them walk away; the story ends "The place they go towards is a place even less imaginable to us than the city of happiness. I cannot describe it at all. It is possible it does not exist. But they seem to know where they are going, the ones who walk away from Omelas."

This lottery proposal cannot deliver on its promises of wealth, intelligence, and happiness for the people of this state. But even if it could, it would be purchased with the misery of others; with the pain of children who have to live in homes destroyed by gambling addictions; the agony of addicted fathers and mothers who lose the rent money to our "scholarship program".

That is not a trade I wish to make. I would hope that you would not either. Together, let's you and I walk away from Omelas.

7 Comments:

OpenID szechuanpork said...

There was a women that asked for my signature for this at the Farmer's Market in LR on Saturday. She didn't mention the lottery, just the college part. I told her no.

10:43 AM, June 02, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They're still petitioning? I thought they announced that they had enough signatures already.

12:43 PM, June 02, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Then she didn't get the word I guess. Was Saturday, May 30 around 1 PM.

3:24 PM, June 02, 2008  
Blogger F. Prefect said...

Generally, very small percentages from the proceeds of state lotteries makes it into the promised 'for the children' causes like 'education'. Large percentages are funneled off into other various and sundry areas. There was an article in the ArkDemGazzie on it last year.

Banning things because they may be harmful to a few people (or you believe them to be so)is a bit over-reaching IMRAO (in my radically awesome opinion), as our failed Prohibition experiment indicated, but that's a far cry from a state-run lottery.

The only thing worse than organized crime is a marriage of organized crime with ambitious politicians.

8:16 PM, June 02, 2008  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

I believe that your last statement is indeed the key. The issue of "should a lottery be legal" is very different from the issue of "should the government expand into operation of a gambling business."

That would make them their own regulators- a recipe for disaster human nature being what it is.

4:39 PM, June 03, 2008  
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12:18 AM, November 26, 2009  
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