Over at “The Economist” website, two articulate and well-qualified opponents are debating the wisdom of state sanctioned gambling. The debate will be “settled” by a vote of the site’s readers.
The two advocates cover the topic thoroughly and well, and I will link to the debate rather than attempt to supplement it in detail, except to say this:
The argument by pro-gambling Libertarian Radley Balko that a government has no business telling it citizens what is right and wrong ignores the vital role of leadership and government in building healthy and virtuous cultural norms. And his contention that so-called “consensual crimes” only harm willing participants is deluded when applied to gambling. In a mutually dependent society where our fates are inextricably linked and where success depends on mutual responsibility and consideration, individual bad choices have significant impact on others. We are called on to help pay for other people’s health problems, their unemployment, their collapsed businesses, the care of the children they cannot support, and many other results of irresponsible individual conduct. This Libertarian argument only works in a Libertarian government where there is no welfare, few taxes, and people have to clean up their own messes. That’s a fantasy, which makes Balko’s argument a fantasy.
Finally, the position that the best solution to persistent crimes the government cannot prevent is to make the crimes legal is a capitulation to “Everybody does it,” and ethically offensive. It is one of the ten worst popular arguments of all time.