An unknown Briton has won £113,000,000 in the European Lottery.
With no more physical effort than it takes to walk into a shop and hand over a few coins, and in the space of a few days, he has achieved a place on Britain’s Rich List above all but the most successful entrepreneurs – above people who have built their fortunes over decades, through trial and error, effort and initiative, and risk and self-sacrifice.
The Lottery winner is in fact even richer than his official place on the Rich List might suggest. Rich Lists are based on estimates of wealth that are arbitrary and inaccurate. Few could actually liquidate their assets for anything like the notional sums claimed on the Rich List. The very act of liquidating a very large holding devalues it. The Lottery winner’s holding, however, is real because it is all in cash.
As if that was not enough, the Lottery winner, unlike those who earn their money the hard way, pays no tax on his windfall.
This is obviously wrong. It is a poorly run economy in which reckless gambling is rewarded more than enterprise and judgment, and in which it is easier to keep the rewards of a game of chance than it is to keep the fruits of one’s labours. It is unfair to those who earn their own money by adding value to the economy.
It is also unfair to the Lottery winner. Few are psychologically prepared for sudden wealth. Those who build it gradually over many years are better equipped to enjoy it sensibly. They are also trained to manage their money properly. Anyone who is suddenly given £100 million in untaxed cash has the potential to become a considerable player in the markets overnight. It is a great responsibility. Few have the necessary experience and expertise to live up to it.
No wonder many big lottery winners end up unhappy. They lose their privacy as the media shines an unflattering light on every aspect of their private lives. They lose their friends as it becomes harder to tell the sincere from the free-loading. They lose the satisfaction that comes from knowing that they have something because they worked for it. They lose the ability to live a normal life as security becomes an issue. Eventually many of them lose even the money itself as they become addicted to high spending without the ability to earn more.
Better by far to earn a million over a decade through one’s own enterprise and effort than a hundred million overnight in a lottery.