Is Playing Powerball More Rational than Voting for President?

powerball-voting-2Op-Ed by Dan Sanchez

The writer Ambrose Bierce called the lottery a “tax on people who are bad at math.” Those who agree have scoffed at the hullabaloo over the recent Powerball, with its $1.6 billion jackpot and 1 in 292 million odds. After the drawing, such skeptics have smirked at amusing news stories about lottery losers doubling down on their innumerate antics.

There was Cinnamon Nicole, a Tennessee woman who had spent her family’s life savings on Powerball and started a GoFundMe drive to raise money to “reimburse” the losses and to, as her short-lived campaign page put it, “spend another fortune trying to hit it big again!”

Then there were the two Floridians who “purchased $146,000 worth of Powerball tickets in a social media pool that went viral.” Although they failed to win the jackpot, they plan on “rolling over” whatever relatively meager returns they win right back into the next drawing. “We’re just going to buy more tickets and buy more tickets until we either hit a jackpot or it’s gone,” one of the budding financiers boasted.


All very amusing indeed. However, come November, many of the sophisticates who smugly snickered at these stories will themselves have wasted time and energy on their own statistically senseless participation in yet another faith-based fantasy drawing: they will have voted in a U.S. presidential election.

A voter has a greater chance of dying in a car accident on the way to the polling station than of affecting the outcome of the presidential election. But you wouldn’t know it from the way engaged voters assiduously deliberate and strategize over their presidential “pick”: balancing pros and cons, prioritizing issues, and agonizing over character judgments, as if they were pondering a decision that would actually make a difference in their lives, like choosing a romantic partner or a dentist.

Get a grip. Handing in a piece of paper is not going to make you a billionaire, and it’s not going to make you a political kingmaker either. Agonizing over your World of Warcraft avatar would impact your future happiness far more than agonizing over your pick for president. Whether you vote for or support candidate X or candidate Y, or whether you doodle on the ballot, it will not make a whit of difference. So you might as well show a little independence, say to hell with the whole corrupt lot of them, and take a public stand for principles instead of personas.

At least with Powerball, if you do beat the odds, you end up benefiting financially without depriving anybody of their rights. However, if you beat the overwhelming odds against influencing the presidential elections, then you will have empowered an official who will, like all U.S. presidents, perpetrate murder (war), enslavement (incarceration for victimless crimes), and theft (kleptocratic taxes and fines). And even non-decisively participating in such empowerment is immoral.

Imagine gigantic siege engines that are moved by millions of people pushing them. Let us say one of those engines runs over and kills someone. Did the victim’s death just “happen”? No, of course, he was murdered. But by whom? By the millions who pushed the engine, of course. It is true that no single person among those pushing would have made a difference had he chosen not to push. But that does not change the fact that, by choosing to push, he has contributed, as much as anybody else, to a murder.

By choosing not to lend your weight (voting) to an engine of death (the State), it may not make a practical difference as to its path of destruction, but you will at least have abstained from participation in injustice and maintained a clear conscience.

Moreover, the whole electoral folderol is essentially a power ritual, the purpose of which is to drape the autocratic power of the oligarchical state with the sanctifying mantle of “popular sovereignty.” It engenders public docility by creating the illusion of public control. By taking part in that power ritual, you are not only helping to propel an engine of destruction, but helping to maintain it. The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was to invite the damned to join Hell’s steering committee.

If it gives you pleasure, please, play Powerball. But don’t play ball with those seeking power. That is a game in which almost everyone loses, and loses badly.

For more reasons to abstain from the electoral process, see my essay, “Let’s Boycott Hate Season.”

This article (Is Playing Powerball More Rational Than Voting for President?) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Dan Sanchez  and theAntiMedia.org. Anti-Media Radio airs weeknights at 11pm Eastern/8pm Pacific. If you spot a typo, please email edits@theantimedia.org.

  • FuccTheCops

    rofl at the name cinnamon nicole

    • I.M. Pistoff

      Anybody make a wrong guess as to her ethnicity..?

  • OratorImplored

    Yet, somehow there is still no candidate supported and endorsed by the people. Guess things just haven’t gotten bad enough, don’t worry though, they will.

    • Ferdinand Lundberg wrote in 1968 about “the people” :

      We should find a meaningful term for the masses with reference to their inadequacies of judgment. I propose, therefore, that they be regarded, in varying degrees, as handicapped, crippled, unable to make sound judgments and decisions in their own self-interest. They live blindly in a system that offers wide although not unlimited free choice and they are unable to choose wisely. They are victims of their own choices. Nobody protects them from themselves ! The masses are handicapped in that they are ready believers in tales and promises of nimbler wits, prone to give credence to the improbable or very doubtful. They believe that some obvious charlatan – a preacher, a politician, a vendor of cheap merchandise – is going to do something very good for them at only a slight fee or absolutely free. At their most extreme these people are the followers of astrologers, spiritualists, religious dervishes and messiahs of all kinds, very often political messiahs. They tend strongly to resist whatever is objectively the case if it does not harmonize with their delusions.

      Gullibility and muddle-headedness are functions of insufficient intelligence. The intelligent person is prone to make significant distinctions, to analyze, compare, reflect and seek out difficulties in proffered propositions whether flattering or promising to himself or not. Skeptical self-analysis is beyond the powers of the gullible because they already feel insecure, must (as they say) “believe in something” if only in believing. Intimations of any lack in their judgment are resisted. Hence it follows that they believe whatever ethnic, religious or national group to which they belong is inherently superlative. Having little sense of individual identity, they derive their identity from some extensive tribe – hence White Supremacy, Black Power, God-Jesus, Dallas Cowboys, etc.

      While all men may have been created equal, whatever that means, what strikes the most casual observer is their disparity of age, circumstance, capability and condition. And, considering people in general with respect to their judgmental powers, what is most unequal about them is their intelligence.

      • oldwoman

        They are the Bikura. Reference Dan Simmons’ Hyperion series.

      • OratorImplored

        Saddening to say the least.. Nevertheless a very good read, so thanks for that.

  • gweneth

    So long as electronic voting is the norm there will not be ‘real’ elections – only selections.

  • Lance Steele

    Rationality aside, both activities are perfect examples of “exercises in futility”.

  • yEshUA ImmAnUEl * ben-‘Adam

    “The physical body is not the real Self, but merely a form to which — the divine Man— is for the time being attached.”

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