Social justice shouldn't be a lottery

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Commenting on the new Theos report on the National Lottery, which says it is a bad bet for the poor, Simon Barrow, co-director of the religion, society and politics thinktank Ekklesia said:

"For some, buying a lottery ticket is a harmless flutter, albeit one with astonishingly poor odds attached to it. Most people would be far better keeping their money under the bed, saving for a really good night out, or investing it in some social purpose - many ethical funds have done better than average recently.

"But the underlying issues go much deeper than the National Lottery itself. Through the 1980s and onwards, we have created a 'lottery society' more generally. Inequality has grown. A financial system based on large-scale gambling has produced insecurity and disaster as well as great wealth, and the main political parties have colluded deeply in all this. They are in no position to moralise about gambling unless they are willing to contemplate a radical shift in their own values and aspirations.

"The Lottery is a fact of life. But we have a choice whether we participate or not. And we need an honest debate about its impact - not one dominated by the interests of industry on the one hand, and those who are against fun on the other.

"On the question of charities and churches taking lottery money, I think an approach based on a combination of principle and pragmatism is advisable. Some will be against in principle. Others might feel that they need to take some money because other options for funding a really vital cause have shrunk - but even so, they can and should bite the hand that feeds them. The rhetoric of a lottery is choice, but the reality is that it ends up leaving many with none. Social justice isn't about 'the luck of the draw'."

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Background on recent gambling issues from Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/tags/1184

Read more about the analysis from Theos here: http://tinyurl.com/mb4nct