Lotteries for Cab Licenses

Just when you thought the anti-lottery arguments couldn’t get any stupider…

I would suggest that anyone who thinks that simply entering a lottery for a cab license is “blasphemous” needs to read Thomas Gataker’s The Nature and Use of Lots (now back in print thanks to Conall Boyle). It’s almost 4 centuries old, but it’s more up-to-date than the religious texts that many of these folks are using to control their lives.

5 Responses

  1. Reading through the article it was unclear to me why taxi licenses are deliberately being made scarce. If we follow the recommendation that lotteries should be used for distributing goods only when non-random solutions are unsatisfactory, it seems that solutions for dividing the benefits from licenses such as increasing the number of licenses should be explored before resorting to the lot.


  2. Great story find Peter! Strictly speaking Gataker was only addressing christian sensibilities, although the logic shouds apply to jewish and moslem faiths, too.

    Yoram, you are right. But it is sadly true in the UK that ‘producer-capture’ has led to taxi-cab licences being rationed (and changing hands among cab drivers for 10s of £1000s). This is an old story; see my 1972 Slough taxi licences case at

    Just as with old drilling licenses a lottery is NOT the answer for commercially valuable public goods. Instead they should be auctioned off, with proceeds to the taxpayers.


  3. A little bit of delving produces this info on Muslims and lotteries:

    “Muslims believe that nothing happens in the universe without the will of Allah. His knowledge covers everything: He knows the past, the present and the future. Therefore, He knows who will win all national lotteries and He knows when you and I will die” (from ).

    However the use of random mechanisms does not in itself seem ‘haram’. Witness the easy acceptance of the Quran verse randomiser

    Unlike the jewish and christian holy texts (Bible OT and NT for some of us) eg the lot which decided to throw Jonah overboard (OT) or the lot to replace Judas (NT), the Quran contains no example of decisions being made ‘by lot’. Am I wrong about this?


  4. Using ‘religious grounds’ to counter reason has proven very effective since New Labour came to power. But it normally only works for religions that carry a lot of votes. The head of the Jedi church, not one of the major religions in the UK, was recently ejected from a shopping centre for wearing a hood over his head despite claiming a religious imperative to do so.

    Maybe they should keep the original number of licenses, allocate the lesser amount the council proposes by lot to those not offended on religious grounds and allocate the remainder on the basis of signs from God.

    It is perverse to suggest that allocating resources by lottery is the same as gambling. This man clearly wishes to protect his interests. Maybe God will strike him down for taking his word in vain.


  5. […] We have seen previously a case where the use of a lottery to share out goods has been rejected on religious grounds by Muslims: Lotteries for Cab Licenses. […]


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