Sunday, June 1, 2014

The American Dream Raffle

It was for a good cause, but I could only afford one ticket for the Washington State Special Olympics Dream House Raffle. The grand prize was a huge house on a lake or four million dollars.

I began to wonder how the winning entries were picked and since there was no limit on the number of tickets an individual could purchase I guessed the odds would be greatest for the person who bought the most tickets. Still, there is always one chance for a lone ticket to be picked, right?

Yesterday was the final drawing. I went to the website and looked down the list of winners and saw that no one whose last name began with the same two letters as mine was even on the list. That tiny detail was an added paper-cut to my already dashed hopes.

The concept of a raffle drawing makes a pretty good economic metaphor. Most people live below the threshold of risk-cost-effectiveness for lack of a better term. In other words, they don't earn enough money to stay out of debt and save for future emergencies or retirement, let alone risking some money for a chance at success.

Like a raffle, there is one chance that you will start a business that takes off to make you prosperous, but the odds are greatest that you will be swept away in the tsunami of competition by vertically integrated multinational conglomerates. If you have enough money to throw away on the one-time chance so that losing your business won't hurt you, then you are one of the lucky few who could say you gave it a shot and it didn't ruin your future.

A lot of people take that risk in the form of a college loan. Gambling that their chosen field of study will get them ahead in the world, but tuition costs, loan debt, unemployment, and the odds that the chosen career path becomes obsolete just before graduation takes a terrible toll.

So congratulations to the winners of the raffle. I wonder how many of them purchased only one ticket?