Poverty Breeds Immorality

...in government, that is. At the Freakonomics blog, Stephen Dubner observes that cash-strapped governments tend to loosen their morals once they realize the lucre in legalized vice.

I'd add one more bullet point. Many states are also turning to treatment-based drug courts and doing away with mandatory minimum drug sentences in response to the growing costs of mass incarceration for consensual drug crimes.

Dubner is obviously a bit tongue-in-cheek, here. But these trends do show how quickly politicians' assessment of vice can soften from an existential threat to our way of life to something at least approximating reality once they see a revenue opportunity in said vices. Budget constraints force governments to prioritize. And that prioritization has shown that contrary to what some politicians would have us believe, the vigorous enforcement of the drug laws or the prohibition on Internet gambling aren't the delicate threads keeping our social fabric from splitting at the seams.

Of course, it would be nice if the government were moving toward a policy of letting people live their lives as they please out of a renewed respect for individual liberty rather than as an opportunity to fund more government.

But I suppose we'll have to take what we can get.

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  • ||

    how about ending the guv'mint given monopoly on casinos that the Indians have. Is there a federal law that prevents any states from doing this, or are they just afraid they'd have all their highway funds confiscated?

  • The Gobbler||

    "how about ending the guv'mint given monopoly on casinos that the Indians have."

    I'm all for it. Right after the federal government returns all of their land.

  • Law Student||

    There is no federal law prohibiting the casinos there is just a federal exemption from state laws (if they exist) for Indians.

  • Law Student||

    Note the exemption comes from the Indian sovereignty in tribal lands.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Indeed. People don't always get that.

    Casinos are not a good source of economic development within a community. They are, however, a good way to bring dollars into a relatively impoverished area from a nearby wealthier area. So they can, if properly managed, be a good mechanism for tribal governments to stimulate the local economy and raise revenue, but are typically not a good choice from non-tribal communities as they end up hurting the local economy.

  • ||

    It all depends on their proximity to other casinos. Tribal vs. non-tribal is irrelevant.

  • Neu Mejican||

    The essential ingredient is proximity of a poorer community with a casino to a richer community without.

    If all your casino customers are local, the casino is a drag on the local economy, no matter whether your community is rich or poor.

  • Apogee||

    It all depends on their proximity to other casinos.

    Tell that to Vegas.

  • Brett L||

    What government monopoly? You've never been to Louisiana or Nevada?

    Granted Louisiana lost their highway funds for years, but that was over raising their drinking age to 21, not gambling.

  • ||

    Sure, I've been to Vegas. But I'd like to be able to gamble without having to buy a plane ticket and deal with all that goes along with modern air travel.

    I guess I can see how a casino might be a drag on a local economy, though I'm more interested in it as a matter of freedom/liberty than just as a new government revenue source. I thought it might provide both.

  • ||

    "But these trends do show how quickly politicians' assessment of vice can soften from an existential threat to our way of life to something at least approximating reality once they see a revenue opportunity in said vices."

    Next up, a state tax on contract killings (now legal).

  • ||

    Legalizing something so we can tax the shit out of it: The liberaltarian's wet dream. Frankly, I think some of these doofuses would vote against the marijuana initiative if it didn't include the opportunity for massive new taxes and stifling regulations. You can see the sheer glee in their eyes at the thought of new taxes. It's not about an incremental step towards freedom, it's about the fucking taxes.

  • William||

    Are you aware of libertarian philosophy at all?? I only ask because your comment is bass ackwards.

    L's have no interest in taxes whatsoever (besides lowering them) and in fact I would vote against mj legalization if it came with a tax package. I'd rather it was illegal than legal and taxed. Same with online gaming which I've been doing for years.

  • Moralizer||

    You mean we're broke and can't afford all the laws I wrote to force you sinners to change your behavior??!!

    GODDAMNIT! What the fuck am I going to do now with my life??!! I guess I could kill myself. Would anyone miss me?

  • ||

    Killing yourself is illegal. Maybe we should tax it instead?

  • ||

    miss you,??.........hell, didnt know you existed. "Morals" has been dead for a long while now.....sorta rendered your job obsolete, anyway.....

  • P B||

    another bullet point. trying to bully the population into agreeing to more taxation or "we might have to cut the budget for first responders, aid to children and the elderly, etc. etc."

  • ¢||

    It's not about an incremental step towards freedom

    ...because official sanction of their favored vices without the prohibition of others' lacks the frisson of nearness to power, and that's all they really want.

    The "and tax it!" shit is epiphenomenal lefty douchebaggage.

  • ||

    politicians' assessment of vice can soften from an existential threat to our way of life to something at least approximating reality once they see a revenue opportunity in said vices.

    That's exactly how Prohibition was repealed. The state governments were sucking wind big time during the Great Depression, and alcohol was just the freaking gold mine of revenue they needed.

    Legalizing something so we can tax the shit out of it: The liberaltarian's wet dream.

    I'm no liberaltarian, but if the choice is between illegal, and legal but taxed, I'll take the latter. Every time.

    Does anyone doubt that, odious as state cigarette taxes are, they are the single greatest protection against a complete cigarette ban? Because we know that's where the smoke nazis want to go, but they'll never get there.

    Yeah, it sucks, but until there is a complete sea change in the culture of this country, legal but taxed is the best we can hope for.

  • Niraj||

    If states want to save money, how about emptying the prison-industrial complex of people convicted on non-violent drug charges?

  • Joe||

    They won't because prisons employ lots of unionized prison guards.

  • ||

    They won't because prisons employ lots of unionized prison guards.

    Those broken windows aren't going to glaze themselves!

  • AlmightyJB||

    This is why they're trying to make fattening foods "immoral". Most States don't tax groceries because they say that would hurt poor people. Now they're turning around and saying they need to tax "bad" foods because it hurts poor people. They get to moralize either way but this way they get money. But it's not because they're greedy. Only capitalist are greedy. it's because it's for the children.

  • Robert||

    When I was a child, New York City did tax food sales in groceries. I think candy & soda vending machines were exempt.

  • ||

  • ||

    C-. Try harder.

  • Warty||

    D+. Stop trying, cuntface.

  • ||

    Is a D+ a passing grade? If so, I passed! But I failed!

    Are you happy and sad for me?

  • Warty||

    My friend, the only emotion I can muster for you is lust.

  • ||

    "I'm not hearing a 'no'..."

  • David E. Gallaher||

    "But I suppose we'll have to take what we can get."
    Unless our government kills us, which is always a high probability, we each will find a way to take what we can get, but not from government. From government we'll never get anything but grief and corruption. (Peaceful anarchist speaking.)

  • Apogee||

    Not to pick nits, but "peaceful anarchy" sounds oxymoronic.

  • William||

    Sounds like you're entirely unfamiliar with anarchic philosophy. WTF with these comments today?

    P.S. gambling and smoking pot are not immoral, killing and stealing are immoral - someone needs to learn the difference between morals and ethics

  • ||

    Immorality? Not quite. While we may not agree on an exact definition for the term, consensual exchange shouldn't be included in one. Let us remember that while drug use and gambling may be vicious activities to ourselves, so long as the exchanges are consensual (and informed) and not coerced they cannot, in my opinion, be considered immoral. See Lysander Spooner, and please remember the fine lines that many of our ideas about individual liberty tread.

  • Brad Warbiany||

    Interesting...

    Local regulations are making booze more readily available to be taxed in airports.

    FAA regulations on flight delays are making airlines cancel flights, stranding travelers in airports for many hours, ready to consume said booze.

    It's win-win!

  • The Angry Optimist||

    Do we really need to relive this again? 2,113 comments - still a H&R record, I believe.

  • lj220||

    ok, the fact is like your this what said FETUYUBDG

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