Big Government Goes on a Banning Spree

Politicians want to limit the choices of consenting adults.

I like to bet on sports. Having a stake in the game, even if it’s just five bucks, makes it more exciting. I also like playing poker. “Unacceptable!” say politicians in much of America. “Gambling sometimes leads to ‘addiction,’ destitute families!”

Well, it can.

So politicians ban it. It’s why we no longer see a poker game in the back of bars. Half the states even ban poker between friends—though they rarely enforce that.

After banning things, politicians’ second favorite activity is granting special privileges to a few people who do those same things—so big casinos flourish, and most states run their own lotteries. Running lotteries is one of the more horrible things our governments do. The poor buy the most tickets, and states offer them terrible odds. The government entered the lottery business promising to end the “criminal numbers racket.” Now states do what the “criminals” did but offer much worse odds. Adding insult to their scam, politicians also spend our tax money promoting lotteries with disgusting commercials that trash hard work, implying that happiness comes from hedonism.

Hypocrisy.

Politicians also ban some medical innovations that might enhance athletes’ performances. Teams buy high-tech equipment to get better results. Doctors prescribe all sorts of special medications if an athlete is injured. Competitors try dubious vitamins and “natural” food supplements.

But they better not use steroids.

The public supports this ban, but they rarely think it through. Why are steroids bad but eye surgery OK? (Tiger Woods did that to improve his vision.) Athletes will constantly try new ways to maximize their strength and endurance. Why is government even involved? 

Don’t get me wrong. If players promise not to use steroids but then use, that’s wrong. Lance Armstrong is despicable not because he injected drugs like testosterone or did blood-doping, but because he proclaimed that he didn’t, then did, then lied and bullied people, and threatened to sue them, to wreck their lives, for telling the truth. That’s evil. Steroids themselves are just another form of eye surgery or better shoes.

If the NFL or Tour de France or the Big Ten wants a no-steroid rule, fine. But in America, if an athlete uses steroids, it’s not just a violation of a private organization’s rules, it’s a federal issue. Congress has held nine—that’s right, nine—hearings on the “problem” of steroids in sports. The pols know that yelling at baseball stars will get the pols face time on TV. There they are, bravely solving America’s problems! But clumsy federal law doesn’t even stop the cheating.

Politicians blithely ban this and that—at the expense of their own constituents. Billions of dollars in banned Internet poker profits move offshore—to countries with sensible rules.

A final stupid sports ban: Connecticut and New York will not allow MMA, mixed martial arts competitions. This booming sport is called “mixed” martial arts because it’s more than just wrestling or judo or boxing, it’s ... fighting. To win, one must excel at all martial arts. Yes, it’s violent, but so are boxing and football. Mixed martial arts is actually safer than boxing, because the athletes don’t spend 12 rounds getting hit on the head.

I can go to Madison Square Garden to watch boxers smash each other in the face. I can take little kids there to watch fake wrestling, which looks even more violent.

But Sen. John McCain called mixed martial arts “human cockfighting” and demanded it be banned. When he couldn’t pass a national ban, he sent letters to governors of all 50 U.S. states asking them to ban MMA events in each state.

Fortunately, governors ignored him, and now in most of America, a new sport that brings in millions of dollars in business, opportunity, and tax revenues blossoms. But not in New York or Connecticut. There, politicians wait for the lobbyists to kiss their rings. If they contribute enough to their campaigns, maybe they’ll relent.

Gambling, steroid use, and violent sports ought to be choices that consenting adults are free to make.

Politicians should butt out of sports.

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  • entropy||

    John Stossel, why do you want the al quaeda terrorists to win the superbowl? Don't you love America?

  • Almanian.||

    Gives new meaning to throwing bombs and blowing up plays

  • phandaal||

    Sometimes, it seems like the Reason comments section is 4chan for liberty.

  • Matrix||

    implying that happiness comes from hedonism.

    You mean it doesn't?! Oh man, I've been wasting my life... *sigh*

  • Dr. Frankenstein||

    Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life son.

  • Brandon||

    What if I'm not fat or stupid? Is that ok?

  • SKR||

    well if you are very very smart in a world of normals, inebriation of some form is absolutely necessary.

  • some guy||

    House had an episode about this.

  • Mensan||

    Not absolutely necessary. I get a similar effect through sleep deprivation.

  • derpules||

    Also, pot!

  • Ice Nine||

    Tap out of sports, John, tap out.

  • Almanian.||

    The first rule of Fight Club is "Organizations first must register with the State Game Commission and be granted a license to conduct business in the State after rendering payment of the Application Fee."

  • entropy||

    The 1,023rd rule of Fight Club is no hitting. We play with flags velcroed to your belt, and each one you pull off counts as a landed blow for purposes of scoring.

  • An0nB0t||

    You're bringing the funny today, gentlemen.

  • Dr. Frankenstein||

    "Fake wrestling"? Aren't you kind of asking for another beating Stossel?

  • Fatty Bolger||

    Maybe he could use another half a million bucks.

  • Doctor Whom||

    "After banning things, politicians’ second favorite activity is granting special privileges to a few people who do those same things—so big casinos flourish, and most states run their own lotteries. Running lotteries is one of the more horrible things our governments do."

    Here is my blatant ripoff of Isaac Asimov, the Three Laws of Government:

    1. Government shall glorify itself.

    2. Government shall grant special privileges to the aristocracy of pull, unless doing so would conflict with the First Law (e.g., cause a scandal that would look bad in the papers).

    3. Government shall maintain tight control, unless doing so would conflict with the First Law or the Second Law (e.g., make the aristocracy of pull obey the same laws that it wants for everyone else).

  • Doctor Whom||

    The squirrels wouldn't let me use blockquote tags this time.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Your mistake was thinking that they operate under any laws at all.

  • Brandon||

    I disagree that lotteries are among the most horrible things our governments do. I actually think that considering all the murder, imprisonment, harassment, theft and fraud our various governments engage in, running lotteries is actually among the least objectionable things they do. In fact, I would prefer it if lotteries were the exclusive funding source for governments. You like what government is doing, hey, go buy some tickets, you might even get something out of it! You don't like what the government is doing, don't buy their tickets. Cast a vote that they will actually listen to.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Governments should operate like anything else. Sell me services, sell me equity in their operations, borrow money from me (with repayment terms).

    I'm not sure I really believe that, but I liked typing it.

  • Loki||

    I actually think that considering all the murder, imprisonment, harassment, theft and fraud our various governments organized crime enterprises engage in, running lotteries is actually among the least objectionable things they do.

    So that's why they hate racketeering and organized crime: they don't want the competition.

  • Otisjay||

    Zing!

  • $park¥||

    Mixed martial arts is actually safer than boxing, because the athletes don’t spend 12 rounds getting hit on the head.

    Sweep the leg, Johnny.

  • ||

    "We're gonna need a body bag!"

  • Almanian.||

    "I must break you...."

    /Drago

  • ||

    Dr. PG says that very thing to me whenever we play chess (and I have yet to beat her either, dammit). She thinks Rocky IV is one of the USA's best comedies.-)

  • Rasilio||

    Isn't that like an iron clad rule or something, never play chess with a Russian (and for these purposes Ukranian is close enough)

  • BakedPenguin||

    NEVER get in a drinking contest with a Russian or Ukrainian. You will lose.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    No I won't. Ethnically, I'm half Russian, half Irish. Genetically engineered to drink. The perfect drinking machine.

  • An0nB0t||

    Forget Genie, you are the forbidden experiment.

  • some guy||

    No I won't. Ethnically, I'm half Russian, half Irish. Genetically engineered to drink. The perfect drinking machine.

    With your immunity to both hard liquor and beer I assume you can only get drunk off wine and wine coolers, right?

  • ||

    NEVER get in a drinking contest with a Russian or Ukrainian. You will lose.

    This has also been discovered the hard way. Good and hard, I might add.

  • ||

    Yep, pretty much. And she is a very sweet, slightly sarcastic, sore winner, and takes great delight in reminding me I have yet to win a match.-))

  • some guy||

    How good is she on an objective scale? If she hasn't studied it much you might try throwing the Blackburne Gambit at her. There's always a chance she won't see it coming, and if you always lose anyway you have nothing more to... lose.

  • $park¥||

    whenever we play chess

    Is that what kids in Ukrania call it?

  • ||

    Now my rook wink wink is going to jump your pawn wink wink

  • Tim||

    If it's something poor people like, then ban it.

  • $park¥||

    I just wish they would ban being poor.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    Two Saturdays ago, I was in a swanky bar in Newport Beach, and the UFC on Fox was on the monitors in the bar. There were alot of rich, white people (both men and women) riveted to the action. People were cheering, and everyone was surprisingly well versed in the fighters, techniques, etc. It was kind of surreal.

    Then I remembered I was in Orange County.

  • ||

    Damn, I like Stossel.

  • Tim||

    Marijuana decriminalization/legalization owes more to the fact that large numbers of upperclass NPR listening whites have developed a taste for it than any scientific or legal arguments.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Are you suggesting that marijuana is not the ultimate gateway drug? That it does not corrupt the youth and lead them to a life of degradation and crime? That it does not cause white women to leave their husbands and run off with negro jazz musicians?

  • Tim||

    I'm suggesting it's possible.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    Way back in the mid 1970's, when I first began paying attention to politics, I conceived the idea of having a yearly hunting season on elected officials and bureaucrats, with a substantial fee for a license (but no bag limit). The older I get, the better this idea looks, frankly.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Well, it can.

    So politicians ban it. It’s why we no longer see a poker game in the back of bars. Half the states even ban poker between friends—though they rarely enforce that.

    Exhibit A

    The only thing worse than government creating bad law is selective enforcement of bad law. It allows people the illusion that they don't leave under a tyrannical government.

    The public supports this ban, but they rarely think it through. Why are steroids bad but eye surgery OK? (Tiger Woods did that to improve his vision.) Athletes will constantly try new ways to maximize their strength and endurance. Why is government even involved?

    Exhibit B

    Some childruns might see that their sports hero takes the EVIL drugs and take them too! We must protect the childruns by banning things adults choose to do!

    FOR TEH CHILLUNS!

    But Sen. John McCain called mixed martial arts “human cockfighting” and demanded it be banned. When he couldn’t pass a national ban, he sent letters to governors of all 50 U.S. states asking them to ban MMA events in each state.

    Exhibit C

    John McCain is a hypocritical douche. McCain opposed MMA until UFC signed an sponsorship deal with Budweiser (of which his wife owns the Arizona distributorship). Then MMA became hunky-dory in his book.

    Not only are politicians stupid, they are easily bought.

  • Jordan||

    But Sen. John McCain called mixed martial arts “human cockfighting” and demanded it be banned. When he couldn’t pass a national ban, he sent letters to governors of all 50 U.S. states asking them to ban MMA events in each state.

    He really is the gift that keeps on giving. Remember when we were supposed to vote for this guy?

  • Capt Ace Rimmer||

    Human "cock" fighting sounds awesome!!!!!

  • Capt Ace Rimmer||

    He's going limp... and we have a winner.

  • NeonCat||

    Will your cornerman double as a fluffer or do you need to add someone to the team?

  • buybuydandavis||

    "Politicians should butt out of sports."

    Politicians should butt out.

  • sam the man||

    It is impossible for Stossel's articles to be read without hearing his voice in your head.

  • John Galt||

    no

  • TK421||

    On a more serious note. Did anyone read this article in Stossel's voice? Haha but I think he's spot on with the issue of morality on his show's interview with Gillespie and how politicians shouldn't be the ones defining what's right and wrong.

  • snapshot||

    +1 for Stossel. He's my favorite contributor on here, and yes I agree that it's often difficult to read his articles without hearing his voice. Though I do think this has more to do with his writing style. No complaints.

  • Mitch52||

    "Mixed martial arts is actually safer than boxing, because the athletes don’t spend 12 rounds getting hit on the head."

    Yes this is much safer

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?f.....j3xL9zoY1M

  • Perry5||

    until I saw the paycheck that said $7318, I didnt believe that my friends brother realey bringing in money parttime on their apple labtop.. there mums best friend has done this for under 11 months and resently cleared the mortgage on there home and got a gorgeous Acura. I went here, http://www.FLY38.COM

  • شات عراقنا||

    Nicest chat and chat Iraqi entertaining Adject all over the world
    http://www.iraaqna.com

  • Carston||

    FedGov is trying to ban MMA? I'm not a fan, but just because they are trying to ban it, I will become one.

  • jtelliott77||

    100% agree with this, 10/10 article.

  • Peyton32||

    upto I saw the receipt which was of $4884, I did not believe ...that...my mother in law woz actualie making money part-time on their apple labtop.. there moms best frend has been doing this 4 less than twenty two months and just cleard the loans on there apartment and bourt a great new GMC. we looked here, http://www.FLY38.COM

  • دردشة عراقنا||

    Nicest chat and chat Iraqi entertaining Adject all over the world

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