Is this the liberal mentality boiled down to its essence?
The most important reason Easterbrook dislikes lotteries is because they make some people very rich, while the vast majority of lottery players win nothing at all. As Easterbrook writes:
Finally, I find it wrong that the news media exult lottery winners without context or perspective. One of the problems of the United States is an ever-widening gap between rich and poor. When the media celebrate lottery winners, they are celebrating inequality -- a small number receiving far more money than they could ever possibly need, at the expense of a large number with money problems. Most lotteries yield back about half their ticket sales as prizes. So if the $194 million Mega Millions jackpot was based on about $400 million in ticket sales at $5 a ticket, that means four tickets made their holders extremely wealthy while 80 million tickets paid nothing. Those 80 million tickets that paid nothing were mostly purchases by working men and women who became worse off -- especially if they bought a lot of tickets -- in order that a very small number could become much too wealthy. The $56 billion spent overall by Americans on legal gambling lotteries in 2006 mainly caused large numbers of citizens to become less well off so that very small numbers could become much too wealthy. Doesn't this describe a core problem with the United States social system -- that large numbers of people are set back so that small numbers can become much too wealthy? Why should the media celebrate this regressive, caustic force?
Amazing, isn't it? Winners win "at the expense" of those who lose. In other words, lotteries, like the economy, indeed life itself, is a zero sum game in which the success of some people can only be obtained by the failure of others. Despite the fact that every person who plays the lottery does so voluntarily, despite the fact that every lottery player has the same chance of winning the jackpot, despite the fact that no lottery player is made worse off because someone else wins -- Easterbrook darkly hints that those who win the lottery somehow are exploiting those who don't.
If anyone is exploiting the predominantly working class people who play lotteries, it is the government -- but, being a liberal, Easterbrook refuses to acknowledge that the state can do any wrong.