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While many states run lotteries, most prohibit individuals and businesses from doing...

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soman2006 | Student, Undergraduate | Salutatorian

Posted June 8, 2012 at 1:42 PM via web

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While many states run lotteries, most prohibit individuals and businesses from doing so. Is that ethical?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted June 8, 2012 at 2:07 PM (Answer #1)

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To ask whether something is ethical presumes some system of ethics you are using to judge the ethical quality of an act. What might be acceptable under utilitarian ethics might not be under a deontological system and what might be an acceptable ethical norm in one culture would not be in another. Thus your answer really lies in trying to think through your question.

First, you may mean not "ethical" but "consistent". In other words, if you are presuming the categorical imperative, and deontological ethics, this might fail a test of universalizability.

Next, under consequentialist ethics, you could look at the outcomes of state vs. private or corporate lotteries. Is gambling on public lotteries as likely to have negative consequences as for the gambler as other forms of gambling? Is the financial benefit of the lotteries greater than the harm to individual gamblers? To do a utilitarian analysis you would need to think about how to quantify relative benefits and harms in order to calculate the "greatest good to the greatest number."

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melonsmasher | Student, Grade 9 | Valedictorian

Posted June 9, 2012 at 8:08 AM (Answer #2)

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To ask whether something is ethical presumes some system of ethics you are using to judge the ethical quality of an act. What might be acceptable under utilitarian ethics might not be under a deontological system and what might be an acceptable ethical norm in one culture would not be in another. Thus your answer really lies in trying to think through your question.

First, you may mean not "ethical" but "consistent". In other words, if you are presuming the categorical imperative, and deontological ethics, this might fail a test of universalizability.

Next, under consequentialist ethics, you could look at the outcomes of state vs. private or corporate lotteries. Is gambling on public lotteries as likely to have negative consequences as for the gambler as other forms of gambling? Is the financial benefit of the lotteries greater than the harm to individual gamblers? To do a utilitarian analysis you would need to think about how to quantify relative benefits and harms in order to calculate the "greatest good to the greatest number."

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