Certainly, in terms of its randomness, the procedure of the lottery is about as fair as it gets. No one family or individual is favored over another; any single individual is as likely as any other to draw from the ancient black box the fateful piece of paper with the black mark on it. So, in that respect, the drawing is fair.
But what of the more overreaching fairness? On a certain day, once a year, the whole town shows up and one of them gets chosen to be stoned to death by all the others. Does that sound fair to you? I suppose, if it's a time-honored tradition in the town and everyone agrees to take part in it, well, in that sense too, it's fair. I suppose.
Now, this is when it gets interesting.... suppose we take away the black box and the lottery and the special day, and we're just left with a group of people. One day, one of those people, for no sensible reason gets sick with some awful disease. The person has lived a normal, happy life for, let's say thirty-five years and out of nowhere gets a fatal disease, some terminal illness. He or she suffers dreadfully for a few months or years, and then, to the dismay and anguish of family and friends, the person dies.
Is that fair? Well, is it?
The term "fairness" is an interesting one. At one end of the spectrum, it was fair in that no one family had a particular stronger or weaker chance of being drawn. From an experimental probability point of view, there was a sense of fairness in that all parties had an equal chance of being drawn. In terms of actuality, I think that a case can be made that the entire process was actually quite unfair. The entire ritual itself which called for one person's name to be drawn and pelted with stones might exceed the standard definition of "fairness." Tessie continually points to this notion. While simultaneously being fair and unfair, perhaps this becomes the ultimate moment where one is left to assess whether there is a difference between a sense of procedures being fair and/ or a sense of institutional frameworks having to be reconcieved in terms of fairness.
In the Shirley Jackson short story, "The Lottery," the drawing was designed to be as fair as possible. The name of each family member in the town was included, and every able-bodied citizen was required to be present. The box of names was protected and a committee was designated to administer the proceedings. The lottery itself was quite fair; the reasons for holding the drawing and its intentions might not seem so.
Only the family chosen in the intial drawing was included in the final pick. When Tessie realized that she was one of the "finalists" of a drawing that no one wanted to win, she panicked. In a selfish act of desperation, she pleaded that her other relatives be included in the final drawing, thus giving her a longer shot of winning.
In the story "The Lottery" the people of the community gather in anticipation of the yearly lottery. The reader is led to believe that the lottery will be a good thing. They see the boys gathering rocks and guarding their piles, people rushing to join and gathering at the town square. An official is sworn in, the postmaster, to preside over the vent. The lottery has been set up to be fair to everyone in the town.
There is mention in the story that other societys have done away with their lottery. However, tradition is important in the community and it is hard to change. This is addressed by the narrator stating that the black box was splintered and a new one was needed. It was not made because the people were not ready for change.
The Hutchinson family begins to become aware that they may be the family with a member to receive the winning paper. People begin to look around nervously and the reader begins to understand that the lottery is not a good thing. Tessie wants to her relatives to be included. She is afraid and knows that more names in the box might mean less of a chance to be chosen.
It is only in the climax of the story that the reader becomes aware of the true horror of the lottery just as it is the chosen person who is the one that experiences the horror of being the winner. Life goes on following the lottery until the next year when it will all happen again.
Is it weird that math makes me horny?
If you really want to crunch the numbers I would say that the lottery is fair for the families but not so much for the individuals. Basically the bigger the family you had the smaller of a chance you had of being selected. Mrs. Hutchinson even realized this as her family was called. She immediately began trying to pull her daughter into the drawing even though she had married into a different family.
To put it simply if I was in that town I would have as many children as possible and hope they were all boys so they would marry and bring all their wives into the family as well. Thus dramatically decreasing the odds that I was picked for the lottery.