The Bizarro planet, occasionally mentioned on “Seinfeld,” was a humorous feature in Superman comics, a cube-shaped planet populated by flawed clones of Superman and Lois Lane. Nothing made sense on the Bizaaro world, since its denizens were sub-cretinous, their traditions absurd, and their logic inverted. They threw away food and ate the plates—that sort of thing, hilarious if you’re a nine-year old boy in 1962.
I sometimes refer to “Bizarro World ethics,” which invokes the principle that it is difficult, if not impossible, to be ethical in a culture where a lack of ethics is the norm, just as behaving normally with Bizarro Supie and Bizarro Lois would be rude and confusing to them. This is the dilemma facing North Carolina, which is apparently trying to devise an ethical way to run a state lottery. That is a hopeless goal. It is like insisting on clean mud-wrestling, non-violent Jason Statham films, or healthy junk food. State-run lotteries are by definition unethical. The states that run them, and almost all do, have traded principle for encouraging and endorsing activities they once declared harmful and criminal, as a cowardly way to acquire revenue without paying the political price of raising taxes.
By doing this, they…
- Engage in state-approved deceit, calling the gambling “gaming”
- Take the first step on the ultra-slippery slope to casino gambling
- Avoid responsible budgeting and revenue gathering, choosing a gimmick instead
- Install a regressive system that takes more revenue from the poor than it does from the rich
- Promote an extremely remote chance of winning as a reasonable objective to those most likely to be deceived, the uneducated, the dim, the desperate, and the gullible
I give North Carolina legislators two cheers and the applause of one hand clapping for recognizing that something is amiss, but their proposed solutions, as embodied in draft legislation yet to be voted on, are Bizarro World specials. One proposal, for example, would prohibit sales of lottery tickets to people who receive public assistance or who are in bankruptcy. State Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam, R-Wake, said, “We’re giving them welfare to help them live, and yet by selling them a ticket, we’re taking away their money that is there to provide them the barest of necessities!” Outrageous! And only slightly less outrageous than inducing low-income citizens not on welfare to waste their scarce resources on a slim chance at riches. Stam’s Bizarro solution is to discriminate against the poorest of the poor, by telling than that their low status disqualifies them from playing the exciting, fun, rewarding and harmless games that the state happily promotes to everyone else. As for the slightly better off, they will have the privilege of making themselves too poor to be allowed to play later…when they need the winnings most. What a country!
Another proposal Stam likes would remove the word “education” from the ads for the so-called “N.C. Education Lottery.” Why? He feels the word “education” shouldn’t be used to sell “something that is essentially a scam.” Ah. It’s okay for a state to promote and benefit from a scam, but it should choose its words carefully. “It’s just inappropriate to take what is a very important function of state government … and use that as a selling point, when obviously the more educated you are, the less likely you are to play the lottery,” Stam explains.
This is futile and embarrassing. The North Carolina legislators should just face the fact that the state lottery is unethical, and there is no way to make an unethical activity ethical. That is, unless you stop doing it. Nobody is suggesting that, however.
I think I’m going to go eat some dinner plates now.
Facts: Wisconsin Gazette
Graphic: Low Culture