Ethics Dunce: Ohio Governor Mike DeWine


Starting on May 26, the Ohio Lottery Commission will announce the winner of a drawing for adults who have received at least the first dose of a Wuhan virus vaccine. The announcement will take place during the evening lottery timeslot at 7:29 p.m. A total of 5 drawings will take place over 5 weeks. Each winner will receive $1 million.

The list of people in the lottery pool will be derived from the Ohio Secretary of State’s voter registration database. A website will also be available to sign up for people are not already in the database.

Just wait: there is something racist about all this.

The Ohio Department of Health will sponsor the drawing and it will be conducted by the Ohio Lottery. The money will from existing federal pandemic relief funds. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced this brainstorm during a statewide televised address.

Calling it “Ohio Vax-a-Million”—yes, it’s really called that—DeWine channeled local used-car salesmen, tweeting, “I know that some may say, ‘DeWine, you’re crazy! This million-dollar drawing idea of yours is a waste of money.” But truly, the real waste at this point in the pandemic — when the vaccine is readily available to anyone who wants it — is a life lost to COVID-19.'”

Besides, Ohio gets to start kids out early relying on the state-sponsored con known as the lottery. Ethics Alarms has consistently objected to state schemes that amount to paying people to do what they should do as a matter of social responsibility, citizenship and basic decency. Substituting non-ethical considerations for what shouldn’t require consideration at all is reinforcing unethical habits and anti-social thinking. Paying kids to go to school, do their homework, get good grades, not speed on the highways, stay out of jail, not get pregnant—these have all been tried. It’s a dubious short-term solution with toxic long-term consequences.

And, of course, these same kinds of incentives can be used to promote other government-dictated objectives that are a lot more sinister than getting the public vaccinated.

Use your imagination. I guarantee government bureaucrats will use theirs.

10 thoughts on “Ethics Dunce: Ohio Governor Mike DeWine

  1. I don’t know.

    For context, governments have been using the tax code to put financial incentives into various areas, and to an extent, they work, at least in the long term. I’m not sure if this would be more or less effective if Ohio announced that it would pay you $50 to be vaccinated. I’m also not sure if changing the scheme from a lottery entry to a straight payment would make it better or worse. But the government of Ohio was given those finds to try to drive pandemic relief, and vaccinations *will* relieve the pandemic. It’s unfortunate that they couldn’t figure out something a little less…. infomercial… to run with, but I’m definitely not as against it as you seem to be.

    • They are giving a life changing and/or life ruining amount of money to four random people for doing the barest minium public health duty. These are my theoretic children’s tax dollars, part of a gamble that offsetting today’s suffer will be balanced against future prosperity. That gamble is already tenuous, and this governor is essentially flushing down the toilet in a cheap stunt that might motivate a few dults on the fence to have a needle stuck in there arm. This is regular government pork. This is bacon wrap prime rib served with kolbe beef. I pay something like $10K in taxes. It would take a single taxpayer like me 100 years of to pay off this government bananza that benefits a single person. This “lottery” with “relief funds” single handledly proves every doubt about the sincerity and appropriateness of the program. Instead of feeding 3500 homeless for a year, providing permanent housing to 35 people, AND straight up give a house to 3.5 familes, 4 people get to never work again (if their lucky) or lose it all in the kinds of schemes lotto winners all to frequently fall for. This is an incredibly irresponsible, cynical abuse of power and waste of resources of the highest order.


      • I agree. They are cursing these people to be targets for every scammer, criminal and needy relative. Government should be better.

      • This will all hinge on how effective it is, because lockdown restrictions are literally killing people; mental health issues and suicide are on the rise. And the economic fallout of these lockdowns are a disaster. The sooner we can get lockdowns lifted, the better.

        I want to be clear: If this is actually effective at getting a material number of people in Ohio vaccinated, it was money well spent.

        As to the whole “woe to the winners” angle… The reason running a lottery is unethical is because lotteries amount to a tax on the poor and stupid, but in this case the buy in is functionally free. While recidivism into poverty is common among lottery winners, and that highlights that you can’t fix poverty by throwing money at it, there is nothing inherently unethical in giving someone a million dollars. I’m just saying: If someone wanted to give me a million dollars, I’d deal with the scammers.

        • But there is scant evidence that the lockdowns and other measures have had any positive effect on reducing the spread of covid-19 at all (and any tiny effect that might be teased out of the data is certainly outweighed by the enormous costs of the lockdowns that you allude to). If that’s so (and the experience of states like Texas and Florida seems to suggest it is), then the lockdowns can be lifted immediately, without pissing away millions of dollars on this harebrained scheme.

  2. HT
    The long term consequences of these schemes is that people will learn that if they wait long enough the government will pay them to do what they would have otherwise done on their own. Just look at the jobs that go wanting to be filled but government money creates the disincentive for work. If the unvaccinated are against getting the vaccine for religious or medical reasons then taking the vaccine for money obviates their original reasons for not taking it.

    The tax code incentives have proven themselves to bear out exactly what I just stated. Many projects are put on hold because the lobbyists are working to get favorable legislation or tax abatements. While I have no problem with tax abatements for investments leading to local job and wealth creation I have a hard time with how they are administered. My rationale for supporting favorable tax treatment for wage bill creators is that the community benefits from added income and sales tax revenues as well as a more stable employment base thus it should invest in helping to create what the politicians take credit for.

    However, tax abatements or credits should be either granted to all on a wage bill basis or not at all. Would your community prefer to have say a dozen small enterprises that employ 5 highly skilled and highly paid workers each or one plant that employs 60 low skilled low wage workers? Currently the firm creating 60 jobs will get the credits and the others will not with a fixed amount of credits because 60 is a bigger number than 5 in the newspaper.

    More often than not the small business is effectively screened out because the ED office has a finite amount of credits they can issue. As a result those credits are reserved for the Jeff Bezos’s of the world who the ED professionals spend most of their time courting. Most ED professionals spend far too much time elephant hunting. These firms play community against community to see who will pony up the best offer for locating their site. Yet hundreds of small businesses get zilch in terms of favorable tax treatment or even attention from those professionals who claim to be their to serve them.

    Even if the low wage plant doubles the number hired to 120 if the total wage bill is lower than the others the community will not be developed if the firm winds up having to attract more low skill workers from other areas to your community. You will need more schools, more low income housing, and other community supports. And, when the economy turns down and your elephant seeks greener pastures the tax incentive perversion has screwed your community. If one of the five smaller firms goes belly up you still have the other four to absorb some of the labor displaced. Large rich firms have more choices available to them. In our community, we had two large credit card processing centers Citicorp and First Data. Each employed many hundreds if not a thousand plus workers. Both are gone now but they got massive aid to locate here. When another community upped the ante or Corporate decided they were going to consolidate they moved and shuttered operations. All of those costs are of course deductible. Our community courted a paper pulp recycling plant. Again significant public resources used to convince them Hagerstown was the place to be. The bottom dropped out of the market for paper pulp and now we have a plant that has lain dormant for a decade. We are still paying off some of the guarantees. Economic Development (ED) as a profession is rife with politics. I know, I was in it but I only oversaw the development and operations of a tech business incubator. The only interest the state and county ED pros had in us was when we could give them good press. Keeping your name in the paper with big news was the goal.

    • I…. Don’t see your point.

      This scheme doesn’t incentivize holding out on doing the right thing, because all vaccinated adults, regardless of when they were vaccinated, are included in the lottery pool.

      And as a broader point…. I know “we live in special times” is on the fallacy list, but almost very one of the fallacies on that list become actual reasons under certain conditions. “It’s not the worst thing” is actually legitimate in the context of “I’m going to hold my nose and do x, because it’s still better than doing y” as opposed to “x is good because y is worse”. People throughout history always like to think that they live in extraordinary times, but there are full generations that never made the history books. I thought 9-11 and the fallout might have counted. I’m certain that the Covid pandemic will.

      We do live in extraordinary times, and while that doesn’t mean that we throw ethics out the window, some conventional wisdom just isn’t going to apply the same way.

  3. Some bar offered a shot for the shot. I suppose that’s one way to get your customers vaccinated. My in laws got paid $500 each at their work. Being self employed and in the middle of nowhere it’s a 2 hour round trip and $0.00 for me to get a vaccination. Will people decide to hold out for money now? I’d say some might.

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