A recent viral story involving three asset managers from the prosperous town of Greenwich, Connecticut who won a $254 million Powerball jackpot has captured the attention of many disgruntled citizens particularly of the Occupy Wall Street Movement. The winners have been deemed disgraceful, shameful, and indicative of the problems facing our country according to the New York Daily News. Adding to the pain of the pubic, the lottery win was astonishingly the 12th biggest jackpot in Powerball history, allowing the three men to take home an after-tax lump sum of $104 million dollars in cash, not a bad pay day.
For those advocating against the income inequality and failing economy of our country, this storycannot be more disturbing. In an article regarding the events from the New York Daily Times the author writes, “the lottery screws the poor to begin with, the fact that rich men won is an insult.” Connecticut Lottery Corp. chairman Frank Farricker told the Wall Street Journal that he did a “double take” when learning who the winners were, but “While the stereotype may be a poor guy down on his luck who wins, the facts of the matter is: Everyone is equal when they play. These guys, they played one buck.” The irony of well-to-do bankers hitting the jackpot was perhaps best appreciated at Zuccotti Park, in New York City, center of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, where protestors have been complaining for months about the top 1% making out like bandits while everyone else struggles.
Yet under further investigation from one of our recent readings, these men winning the Powerball may not be a critical sign of the failings of our economy and fractured American way. Certainly Edmund Burke, author of “Reflections on the Revolutions in France” would agree that the Occupy Wall Street movement, similar to his stance on the French Revolution, is flawed given its radical and impractical nature.
“Politics is a practical science, based on experience, and therefore radical reform is dangerous,” noted Burke in our selected reading. Therefore, these Greenwich men might be better off with the money than any one particular low-income person that has been the primary focus of American policy.
Burke, who believes that inequality in society is absolutely necessary, could note the winners as productively gaining more capital for their hedge fund Belpointe Asset Management, and thus, having the capability to invest more money and stimulate the economy. Similarly, the men in this case have a higher likelihood of making practical and rational decisions with their winnings, a point Burke stresses for a stable political community. Their efforts to donate money have already surpassed five million dollars to Veterans and are likely to continue to other charitable organizations.
In one of his most powerful quotes regarding that “regulated liberty” doesn’t entail equality, Burke’s vision of society is transparent with the Powerball winners’ unexpected fortune. “If civil society be made for the advantage of man, all the advantages for which it is made become his right. It is an institution of beneficence; and law itself is only beneficence acting by a rule. Men have a right to live by that rule; they have a right to justice; as between their fellows, whether their fellows are in politic function or in ordinary occupation. They have a right to the fruits of their industry; and to the means of making their industry fruitful” (p. 109 hp. 51).
1) Do you believe Burke’s feelings that inequality in society is absolutely necessary relate to this story as I have suggested? If so, what do you think Burke would make of the Powerball winners?
2) Another question to consider regardless of your position on Burke’s argument is if you believe that the Powerball winners are a good or a bad thing for our country. Are they emblematic of the problems of our society, or does society stand more to benefit with them intelligently using the money for their business and philanthropy?