Letter: From Plato and pagans to ping-pong balls

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The Independent Online
From Mr Adrian West

Sir: I am puzzled by Niall Ferguson's statement ("Triumph of hope over probability", 8 January) that there are only two reasons for boycotting the lottery - Calvinist beliefs, and the realisation that the chances of winning are tiny. I can think of many other reasons.

You might, for example, realise that you could not cope with a really large amount of money (even if you were resolved to give it all away, you might well feel ill-equipped to play God with so much). You might just think there are more exciting and interesting things to do with your money, things that would not cast a shadow over Saturday nights. You might think that the Government was morally wrong to introduce the lottery, and therefore, as a matter of principle, you should not take part in it. You might think it wrong to throw away your "spare" money when there are deserving causes and people who desperately need it. And so on. All excellent reasons for a boycott, it seems to me.

What I should have liked Mr Ferguson to do is to give me one good reason why I should buy a lottery ticket. The idea that winning might make our lives happier does, indeed, seem to involve a triumph of hope over experience.

Yours faithfully,

Adrian West

London, N21

8 January