Lottery is a form of gambling that dishes out cash prizes to paying participants. The process can be applied to a variety of situations, such as a lottery for kindergarten admission or one held by the NBA in order to determine which team gets the first draft pick for the season.

In the era immediately after World War II, states used lottery proceeds to add to their social safety nets without imposing especially onerous taxes on working class people. Some of these new advocates, as Cohen observes, dismissed long-standing ethical objections to the idea of state-sponsored gambling because they figured that if people were going to gamble anyway—on a chance at a small jackpot instead of on heroin—then it made sense for them to spend their money supporting services that would make their lives better.

As time went on, state-run lotteries grew into a big business in their own right, as did the cynicism and hypocrisy that accompanied them. Early America, for example, was short on revenue and in need of public works, so it relied heavily on lotteries to fund everything from churches to schools and even to finance the Revolutionary War.

The lottery is a story about how people blindly follow old traditions and rituals, without realizing their negative effects on the world around them. It also shows how people are willing to commit evil deeds, as long as they appear friendly. This is what the writer tries to convey through her character names, which are a perfect example of the hypocrisy and evil nature of human beings.

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