State lotteries are free to corrupt

We all know that Congress wants to protect us from ourselves, even when we’re not putting ourselves in danger, but shouldn’t someone in power call Rep. Jim Leach on his defense of the online gambling bill?

Proponents of the measure heralded its passage as a victory for family values and a blow against an addictive vice. Jim Leach, the Iowa Republican who sponsored the bill, said it will prevent casinos from further extending their corruptive reach. “Religious leaders of all denominations and faiths are seeing gambling problems erode family values,” Leach said in a statement. “If Congress had not acted, gamblers would soon be able to place bets not just from home computers, but from their cell phones while they drive home from work or their BlackBerries as they wait in line at the movies.”

Two glaring holes in Rep. Leach’s reasoning jump out. First, aside from the silly, meaningless declaration that “gambling problems erode family values,” (“Sorry, son, we don’t have any family values left. Jimmy from down the street, his father has a gambling problem that eroded what we had left. The good news is I needn’t bear responsibility for your well-being. There’s a prostitute in your room, get going.”), he does not provide any data support for his claim that religious leaders are seeing gambling problems. Has he heard from one religious leader from each denomination? A hundred? A thousand? Or is it just a line of unsubstantiated crap that he can throw to his base to encourage them to give Republicans another term of control?

I suspect he has no data, but even if he does, so what? People should be free to spend their money as they see fit. If potential harm dismisses any claim to liberty, why isn’t Congress banning every other activity which could cause harm. Let’s go all the way, because we don’t want to erode family values. People drown in bath tubs. Let’s ban bath oils, which only encourage people to engage in the dangerous activity of taking baths. And showers are out, because people could slip and die. Sponge baths (no tubs or buckets – drowning risk – water faucet only) only.

Second, Rep. Leach’s examples of gambling addiction out of control are lacking. While driving? Seriously? Let localities ban cell phone use while driving if it’s a safety hazard. That’s not a federal issue. And gambling by BlackBerry while waiting in a movie line? Ummm, if the person is so addicted and out of control, how is he able to step away from the BlackBerry gambling long enough to watch a movie? Again, though, if that’s how someone wants to spend his time, so what? Clearly liberty now only extends to the minimum boundaries of what Rep. Leach likes.

Source: Wil Wheaton, blogging at Card Squad