Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Only Tax I Willingly Pay, and Why


For a long time, I was kind of embarrassed to admit that Tamara and I occasionally buy lottery tickets. After all, Ambrose Bierce accurately described the lottery as "a tax on people who are bad at math." The odds of winning in one of the big drawings like Powerball or Mega Millions are infinitesimal. As an "investment" made with hope of monetary return it's pretty much throwing money down a hole.

But we do throw a buck or two at these kinds of drawings every now and again, when we happen to notice that the jackpots are huge (several hundred millions of dollars -- in the case of the next Mega Millions draw, more than half a billion). And I think we get our money's worth. Here's why:

We're buying entertainment. We get more than a dollar's worth of fun out of yakking about the things we'll buy in the incredibly unlikely event that we do win.

With half a billion bucks, even minus taxes, we can live anywhere we want. Heck, we can live in as many places as we want. Where will we live? What kind of houses will we buy or have built? (My calls: A nice home in Florida, a condo in St. Louis, a cabin in the Rockies or Sierras, a cottage in Ireland)

With half a billion bucks, we can have whatever kind of transport we deem fitting. Cars and drivers, or just cars? (Just cars is my guess) Will those houses need helicopter pads? (No -- I've spent enough time in helicopters to not trust them -- and I'm guessing even if we fly a lot, it will be commercial or charter, not "buy a plane and hire a pilot").

And yeah, we would travel quite a bit. We haven't seen most of the world, and there's a lot of it we'd like to see.

With half a billion bucks, we can support whatever causes we like. Better start buttering me up now, folks.

And so on and so forth.

We probably get 60-90 minutes of this kind of family round-robin entertainment out of a $1 or $2 ticket a couple of times a year. Four tickets to a 90-minute feature film run about $50 in our area. And the popcorn is cheaper at home too.

And hey, we might wi ... no, we won't win. But trying to persuade ourselves we might is part of the entertainment value, too.

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