Imagine a group in your community called the lottery holds a raffle. You and your neighbors buy tickets. At the drawing, you know the number of tickets in the jar far exceeds the number of tickets sold. Therefore the chances are good that no one will win the prize. The prize, or pot, is the money collected from the sale of the tickets. Each time the lottery draws a number with no winner, it repeats the process: sell more tickets, draw from a jar that holds a large number of unsold tickets, determine whether someone holds the number drawn.

The lottery repeats this rather odd process of holding drawings without winners until the pot of prize money becomes huge. The gamblers don’t even mind because they love to see the pot get bigger and bigger. At last the lottery draws a number that someone actually holds. When it awards the prize, it withholds more than half of the money in the pot to keep for itself. You have to cover the cost of all those tickets, don’t you know.

Would you regard this activity as a racket? Would any state attorney general allow this activity to occur if a private outfit organized it? If private individuals would be prosecuted and locked up were they to organize this kind of lottery, why is the same activity legal for governments? It’s a good illustration that governments often operate as quasi-criminal organizations, and we have consented to it.