Mega-Happiness

Mega Millions logoHappy Mega-Millions day, everyone! What a wonderful day it is! Fools across the country (myself included) have spoken as if our odds of becoming unfathomably rich are closer to 1-in-100 than 1-in-176,000,000. But it’s all in good fun, what with the random camaraderie that perfect strangers feel from having also thrown a few bucks away in the hopes of striking it big. But here comes the Atlantic Wire blog to throw cold water on all of our fun:

We have collected the true, terribly sad stories of lotto winners that show that winning the lottery, despite the seeming wonderfulness of having some $500-600-million more dollars (before taxes) to your name, is not all it’s cracked up to be. In fact, what seems like an American dream may actually be something of an American nightmare.

Yikes! Read the whole thing and you start to become worried you actually will win. They list examples of the sad ways in which the lottery has caused people’s lives to go wrong. Which is true, it often does, and not surprisingly.  The lottery, entertainment industry, and professional sports are the only areas where you can become impossibly wealthy without ever having had to develop money management skills. And being the most rare of all, lottery winners have very few people who can relate to them and help them learn how to deal with it. Many handle the situation poorly.

But I believe it goes further than that. The cliché “money doesn’t buy happiness” has been drilled into our heads since childhood. Charles Murray’s latest book, Coming Apart, touches on that, and backs up statistically what he summarizes brilliantly in his 2009 AEI Irving Kristol Lecture. Murray lays out the foundations of happiness, which is achieved in one of four areas (family, community, vocation, and faith), and requires an activity that is important, takes a lot of effort, and which you are responsible for the outcome. The lottery, of course, does not apply. Neither does the liberal welfare state, which seeks to “take some of the trouble out of things”, and in the process reduces human flourishing.

So when your pick-6 numbers don’t hit tonight, I recommend reading over and contemplating Murray’s lecture. Me? I’ll be making a bid on Latrell Sprewell’s old yacht.

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