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“If Money Were No Object” — Behind Our Obsession With the Powerball

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As Florida continues to search for their Powerball winner, some people are still fantasizing about what they would do if they won.

Though the jackpot weighs in at $590.5 million dollars, the real prize isn’t exactly this precise amount, but instead the concept that for the winner, money will no longer be an issue.

In capitalist societies, people must work in order to survive. We are tied to our labor, and thus, to money, as we need it to feed ourselves and maintain shelter.  We can’t really escape this system, and so it isn’t surprising that when presented with a possibility to break out of it, we rush for the chance, despite our odds. In fact, 1 in 5 Americans believe that the best way to achieve financial security is to play the lottery.

Winning the jackpot means that no longer does someone have to be tied down to the 40-hour workweek our society cruelly created. It means no longer does someone have to go into debt to pursue their interests. It means no longer does someone have to worry about taking a sick day, vacation, spending more time with family, affording children or retiring.

Capitalists, however, argue that winning the Powerball would mean taking the purpose out of your life. They believe that people will just become lazy blobs if they don’t have the financial incentive to do something productive. But here lies the big capitalist myth. In fact, while people struggle to maintain their existence, many are unable to utilize their yearning passions — which are better (not to mention more ethical) incentives of production than the fear of poverty, homelessness and even death. 

I recently asked my friends what they would do if they won the Powerball, or essentially, if money were no object. Their answers were remarkably innovative, creative and resourceful. (After paying off their student debt), my friends told me they would pursue their dreams. From opening art centers to building community farms, their ideas were beyond exciting.

Now, of course, there are always some people that can’t even imagine life without financial struggle or concern. After being alienated all their lives, it’s no surprise that some people say that if they won, their only desire would be to relax on an island somewhere or whatever. But their responses indicate just how socialized we are to be controlled. Hopefully, they would eventually be encouraged to embrace the unfamiliar territory of a real sort of freedom that would allow us to produce things because we want to, not because we need to, and produce these things creatively, not mechanically.

When I talk about the concept of winning the Powerball, I’m not promoting greed or any type of pursuit of wealth. Nor am I saying that you can’t be creative or follow your passions with little money or within the confines of this economic system. Instead, I’m pushing for quite the opposite. I’m hoping we fight for a different economic system, where our lives don’t rely on finances. I hope we work toward giving everyone opportunities to follow their passions. I hope we fight for a society that provides us with safety nets and, essentially, allows us to feel like “money is no object.” I hope we change society enough that something like the Powerball wouldn’t be so popular because people wouldn’t desire such financial freedom — they would already have it. 

But right now, too many people have all their dreams hanging on a winning Powerball ticket. And the odds of winning are 1 in 175 million.

I think it’s about time to rethink our economic system and make sure it works for us — instead of us working for it.  

Then we’ll all hit the jackpot. 

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