Modern-Day Puritans Want to Ban Things That Make Us Happy

The government bans fun, not danger.

People say America is a free country. But what if you want to drink, have a cigarette or make a bet? Government often says "no" to protect us from ourselves.

It's as if the government is still run by the Puritans who settled this land four centuries ago. They said pleasure and luxury are sinful.

Today's government has a better argument when it seeks to restrict activities that might harm others, but I notice that even then, it often focuses more on things that upset modern-day Puritans.

Drinking and driving can be fatal. But government data show that sleeplessness and driving are just as deadly. Having kids in the back seat, looking at GPS map instructions, fiddling with the radio and eating while driving are often deadly, too.

But sleeplessness doesn't seem as decadent and irresponsible as drinking. Nor is there an easy way for police to test for such discretions -- no breathalyzer test for excessive radio tuning.

Why is the DUI test all about alcohol level, rather than behavior? Government keeps lowering legal blood-alcohol levels -- recently from .10 to .08 -- and now they want to lower it to .05. But some people are good drivers even after a drink or two. It would be better to punish people for "reckless" driving.

Alcohol-related driving deaths are down. Groups like MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) credit tougher DUI laws, but it's not clear that they are right.

Maybe people are simply more aware of the dangers, thanks to publicity from groups like MADD. Safer car designs helped, too. Non-alcohol-related driving deaths are also down.

Stats that some cite to claim alcohol is the cause of a third of highway accidents are misleading. That just means that a third of the people had alcohol in their systems; it doesn't necessarily mean alcohol caused the accident.

I don't suggest that drinking and driving is safe or smart. But the puritanical obsession with drinking distracts us from other ways we could make driving safer.

At least DUI laws seek to protect people from others. But government puritans go well beyond that, banning activities that harm only the individual engaged in them -- like gambling.

Polls show 70 percent of you support the current ban on Internet gambling.

Why? It's true, for some people, gambling becomes addictive. Some wreck their lives. But for most people, gambling is entertainment, practice in using strategy and an excuse to socialize. A little risk is fun. And the laws don't stop the activity. They drive it underground, where it's run by criminals.

If we banned every activity that had the potential to become addictive, we'd have to ban fatty foods, sex, alcohol and investing in the stock market. Life means risk.

Sometimes puritans want to ban things without any evidence that the activity is harmful. After every mass shooting, someone wants to tax, or ban, violent video games.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • UnCivilServant||

    Day trading is more harmful to others than drug use. Can we ban wall street gambling and end drug prohibition?

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    Kidding right?

  • UnCivilServant||

    Not really, no. But I never claimed to be libertarian. I think a 10 year minimum holding period for stocks and other financial implements would discourage damaging short term thinking in investment.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    That's about the dumbest thing I've ever read.

  • UnCivilServant||

    Then you haven't read much.

  • IceTrey||

    You don't post much.

  • Libertarius||

    But seriously, you're really dumb.

  • Rufus J. Firefly||

    10 year ban? How did you arrive at that? I was a stock broker for five years and all I can say whatever it is you're reading stop smoking it.

    Just about the most ridiculously and disturbing thing I've read in 2013.

    You do realize stocks trade DAILY in a free market, right?

    So, if someone buys Stock A and its stock begins to slip because of a CEO change, or dipping earnings, or because of a government regulation you suggest a person can't move on it for ten fucking years and take a loss?

    And define short-term thinking anyway? What's wrong with it? Businesses and people plan for various time periods. It's not illegal nor is it faulty.

    Jesus me.

    Wtf?

  • plusafdotcom||

    +1000.
    Uncivil understands NOTHING about economics, the stock market and financial reality.

    Un-fucking-believable, and he won't even man up that he had to be kidding or stupid to post it.

  • Metazoan||

    TEN YEAR?!! So nobody could exit a position in any reasonable amount of time?!

    Is this a troll?

  • UnCivilServant||

    If you invest in a company, you should be in for the long haul. Certainly not the forty minutes for the price to blip so you can flip it again.

  • Hyperion||

    So, if a bunch of folks invest in a business, and it starts failing... what happens then? I can't get out, so big crony government steps in a bails it out, to protect me the investor, with my money, of course.

    Sounds like a plan, dude! My friend makes $600 an hour on the intertoobs, only working 1 minute a week!

  • UnCivilServant||

    No. Government should not bail out failing businesses. When you buy part of the company, you risk losing that investment if it goes sour. That's the implicit understanding of how it's supposed to work.

  • Hyperion||

    Nope. I am actually loaning the other person my money, not giving it to them. I expect it back and then some. If I see they are not holding up their part of the deal, I should be able to cut my losses, before I lose it all.

  • UnCivilServant||

    Where do you get that idea that buying stocks is a loan. A loan is a loan, and is an entirely different implement through which financial transactions are conducted, If you were making a loan, you'd be able to collect something from the bankruptsy proceedings, shareholders do not because they are owners, not creditors.

  • Brandon||

    Buying stock is a loan. It is just an equity loan instead of an interest-bearing loan. You don't get to make decisions about the company, except those decisions specifically outlined for shareholders in the shareholders' agreement. You don't get a guaranteed return like you do with bonds, but you get the possibility of much larger returns by selling your stock after its value has increased. Your suggestion would destroy our financial system for no good reason.

  • hotsy totsy||

    Where did you get the idea it's a GIFT? Just keep asserting whatever you want to be true because nobody will ever counter it? What are you, a high school teacher?

  • Juice||

    No, you're giving it to them. In exchange they give you a share in the company. You can sell that share for whatever it's worth to someone else, but it's not a loan.

  • Libertymike||

    Is all you can do is conjure up a totalitarian measure to remedy what you perceive to be a "problem"?

  • Libertymike||

    My question is for UncivilServant.

  • UnCivilServant||

    And I'm not sure what you're actually asking. Care to elaborate?

  • Brandon||

    Why not just stop bailing out failing businesses and let people invest as they see fit?

  • UnCivilServant||

    I'd accept that as a reasonable middle ground.

  • Libertymike||

    Good, no bailouts and no 10 year minimum holding periods as what I choose to do with my investments is not within your purview to control.

  • grey||

    +1

    "Simple, clear purpose and principles give rise to complex, intelligent behavior. Complex rules and regulations give rise to simple and stupid behavior." Dee, Hock

  • Rufus J. Firefly||

    YOU say it's for the long haul. Business has become much more complex and how people choose to invest their money vis-a-vis risk return is none of your business.

    Only a fool would think like this. There are no guarantees in life and there's ZERO guarantee compelling people to hold something for 10 years would be beneficial. Zero.

    Besides, investment would dry up. Any rational person would conclude it's ludicrous unless they get some sort of guaranteed income or capital appreciation.

    Oh, look...bonds!

  • hotsy totsy||

    "If you invest in a company, you should be in for the long haul."

    WHY? Seriously, why?

    Really really stupid.

  • JWatts||

    So you should only be paid every 10 years right? Because you should be working for the long haul, not just till next Friday.

  • ||

    This must be sarcasm.

  • wwhorton||

    Something tells me that you've got a personal interest in ending drug prohibition based on that comment...

  • ||

    My money. Fuck you.

  • Metazoan||

    This.

  • Jordan||

    DERP LEVELS CRITICAL!

  • umh||

    For every problem there is an obvious and terrible answer. I know someone else said it better.

  • Jimbo BTR||

    While I agree with the general sentiment of this article, I don't agree with this:

    "activities that harm only the individual engaged in them -- like gambling".

    Try telling that to the spouse and children of a gambler who's just flushed away the maoney they need to pay for food and bills. Try telling that to the people a gambler rips off to get more money for their habit.

    Gambling affects more people than just the gambler and, unlike drugs, legalizing it doesn't make it cheaper; it just makes it easier to do.

    (Having worked in a casino, I can say for a fact that gambling is for suckers but, as a libertarian, I also don't think there's any way to stop suckers from throwing away their money.)

  • Jimbo BTR||

    * "money" not maoney

  • Metazoan||

    Of course, virtually every action not carried out by a hermit will affect others. I think what the article is getting at is that only actions which per se harm others should be under consideration for banning. Gambling can certainly harm a family if done improperly, but the very act of betting money does not hurt anyone. On the contrary, the very act of killing people does, in fact, hurt the victim.

  • Hyperion||

    On the contrary, the very act of killing people does, in fact, hurt the victim

    Unless they are murder droned by the king, then there's no victims, because it gets the bad guys and protects our freedom, and for the children.

  • DenverJay||

  • ||

    The fact that a gambler might steal from his family or others (what I assume you mean by rip off) does not mean that gambling harms others. It means that stealing harms others.

  • UnCivilServant||

    Actually, it's the 'sorry chilluns, no dinner tonight sice I burned my check at the craps table' which was implied above. This would not be 'stealing' in the manner recognized, but still negligence of duties.

  • ||

    I consider that under the realm of theft. Regardless, it is not the gambling that is the harmful act.

  • Locke||

    I would consider that negligence, which is still illegal

  • Floridian||

    They could also spend the family's money on cars, TVs, a house they can't afford. Just because people don't spend their money wisely doesn't mean we all lose the right to control our finances.

  • Brandon||

    Try telling that to the people a gambler rips off to get more money for their habit.

    Last I checked, theft would still be a crime if gambling was completely legal.

  • IceTrey||

    C'mon man you know when Stossel talks about harm he means physical harm brought about by the initiatory use of force.

  • hotsy totsy||

    "Try telling that to the spouse and children of a gambler who's just flushed away the maoney they need to pay for food and bills. Try telling that to the people a gambler rips off to get more money for their habit"

    Ok. Mrs. Gambler, divorce him and take whatever he has so your kids get fed and clothed.

    People who got ripped off: Garnish his wages and don't extend any more credit.

  • ||

    Try telling that to the spouse and children of a gambler who's just flushed away the maoney they need to pay for food and bills.

    One of the best protections one can have from stupid people, is not marrying them.

  • umh||

    You are right, but that is still funny. I'm speaking as a person with practice.

  • ||

    Try telling that to the spouse and children of a gambler who's just flushed away the maoney they need to pay for food and bills. Try telling that to the people a gambler rips off to get more money for their habit.

    Try telling it to the spouse and children of a junkie who's just shot up the month's rent. Try telling it to the people the junkie rips off to get more money for his habit.

    Try telling it to the spouse and children of a sports fan who's just blown the family's food money on ringside tickets to the Mayweather fight in Vegas.

    Try telling it to the spouse and children of a compulsive overeater who can't send his kids to college because all of his savings went to treating his diabetes and heart disease.

    Try telling it to the spouse and children of a chronic masturbator who spent last month's health insurance premium on internet porn so poor little Johnny can't see the doctor.

    I'd tell them all the same thing: your father's a degenerate prick who can't control himself and you're taking it in the shorts for it. It's his problem, and his fault. Life dealt you a bad hand.

    Literally any behavior could be outlawed using that same bullshit rationalization. Fuck you and your selective moralism. Individual liberty entails individual responsibility. If somebody fucks up his family because he can't control his compulsions, that's his problem, regardless of what the compulsion is.

  • Hyperion||

    Everything is a sin and should be outright banned. Except for being gay and having an abortion. Those 2 things should be protected rights at all cost, but everything else should be banned immediately and considered a hate crime.

    /proglodyte

  • JWatts||

    Everything is a sin and should be outright banned. Except for being gay and having an abortion.

    No, no, you miss the point. A governmental panel of Top Men should create two lists. One list has everything that is Mandatory. The other list would be the Banned list. It wouldn't actually be a list, but would just contain a note saying:

    "Anything not on the Mandatory list is considered Banned, without $pecific governmental approval."

    Then the country would be a perfect place.

  • johnl||

    The Sprinter has signs asking passengers not to smoke, eat or drink, play a radio, or do something else. The something else is meant to be to put your feet up on the oposite chair. But it looks like something that would be even more out of place on a commuter train: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8.....309152535/

  • scoul5874||

    Are you tired of going office daily? Now you can work at home and make your own hours. This is not scam. On Saturday I got a gorgeous Ariel Atom after earning $6292 this – four weeks past. I began this six months/ago and right away began to make at least $80.. per-hour. this really is the most financialy rewarding Ive had. I work through this link, www.Bling6.com

  • Jon Lester||

    I saw one of those anti-burger signs on the SkyTrain at JFK last month. The image was a hit on Facebook.

  • ByronG||

    "After hearing about those moral panics, you might feel like relaxing with a cold beer. But don't try buying one from a convenience store in Indiana. The state requires that the beer be sold warm.

    In theory, warm beer will discourage drinking on the road."

    Actually, the cold beer law only applies to groceries, not liquor stores. You can purchase cold beer at liquor stores. Conversely, you can't buy a cold soda (or pop or coke depending on where you live) at a liquor store, but you can get one at a grocery. The laws are protectionist in nature, not prohibitionist. either way, they're pretty dumb. but, that's government for you.

  • Render Unto Caesar||

    Save me, gov'ment! Save me from mahself!

  • M.Talley||

    Wow I was gonna comment but then I read UnCivilServant's comment and was so shocked by how he believes that HE should get to choose how you and private businesses spend their money that I lost my train of thought.

  • Duncan20903||

    Is golf addictive because Tiger Woods can't go a day without following around a golf ball? $50 million for a private golf enclave in your back yard? Shucks, even his domestic violence includes a role for his golf clubs.

  • Vjklander||

    John!!!!!!!!!!!!! Please run for President!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    "The Lottery"; because if they called it "the stupid tax" you wouldn't pay.

  • JWatts||

    Actually, I bet that if they renamed it: "The Stupid Tax", that it would still collect millions.

  • Mickey Rat||

    And exactly how does graffiti fit in with the other three?.

  • mgd||

    government data show that sleeplessness and driving are just as deadly

    Seriously? I'm pretty sure that I want the other drivers on the road with me to be sleepless. It's the sleeping ones that are the problem.

    Having kids in the back seat, looking at GPS map instructions, fiddling with the radio and eating while driving are often deadly, too...Nor is there an easy way for police to test for such discretions

    These are discretions? Or maybe distractions... Did an editor look at this, at all?

  • Wind Rider||

    yeah, but the word is spelled in a correct manner found in the dictionary databasee, so it didn't produce a little red mis-spelling squiggly, so it's all good. Now shut up and color.

  • JWatts||

    Why is the DUI test all about alcohol level, rather than behavior? Government keeps lowering legal blood-alcohol levels -- recently from .10 to .08 -- and now they want to lower it to .05. But some people are good drivers even after a drink or two. It would be better to punish people for "reckless" driving

    Strossel is wrong about this. "Reckless" driving will be a subjective standard at the Cops discretion. That would be a worse situation.

  • umh||

    They can already give you a reckless driving ticket. They usually don't because it requires testimony and perhaps more important it requires time in court rather than quick quilty plea.

  • umh||

    In theory, warm beer will discourage drinking on the road. In reality it sells ice. And I can just see some bright kid discharging a fire extinguisher to chill a six pack.

  • Polo Ralph Lauren outlet||

    When making something out of it is always good and bad.
    Ray Ban 2013 http://www.2013rayban.it/
    Ray Ban España http://www.xn--rayban-espaa-khb.com/

  • ||

    The major problem with "safer cars," and with seat belt laws and air bags is that they save the wrong person. When mandatory seat belt laws first hit the scene, the statistic that nobody tells you is that deaths and injuries of innocent bystanders increased! "Oh, heck, I'm safe - what do I care about those little old ladies in the crosswalk?"

    Here's my suggestion for a safer car that will actually protect other people from your negligence:
    http://richgrise.tripod.com/images/Safe-Car.gif

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement