Friday, January 06, 2006

Most Underreported Aspect of the Abramoff Scandal

You can bet that neither the MSM nor even the conservative alternative media will cover what SWNID asserts is the most obvious and important aspect of the Abramoff scandal. What is that most obvious and important aspect, gentle readers ask? Abramoff bought off politicians to wield influence in regard to legal gambling.

The problem is not merely, as some opine, that the Republicans rewrote lobbying laws and produced the Indian Gaming Act to wield power. Neither is it merely that big government means so much control of everyday life that too much profit is to be made from government decisions.

It is that legalized gambling is a economic witch's brew : government control to keep a desired commodity artifically scarce plus greed without the harness of useful productivity.

Let's start with the second because it's simple. Gambling appeals to people because it offers monetary reward without work or thrift, without doing anything that contributes to anyone else's good. It lacks the virtue of capitalism, which directs greed toward doing things that benefit other people. In that respect it is never "victimless." It victimizes the character of the gambler. And humans being what they are, they love to be victimized.

Now the earlier part. If gambling were completely legal and unregulated, it would be ubiquitous (we want to say "more ubiquitous than it is now," which is of course illogical, but would be appropriate rhetoric). But our society believes that gambling is bad enough that it should be "regulated" so that it is available only on a limited basis. So the ordinary limits of the market are not deemed sufficient to restrain it, and we enlist the government to limit gambling. Hence, government decides who gets to open a casino or a horse track. And since the very profitable enterprise is entirely unproductive economically, creating no goods and providing no needed services, there's little basis to decide who gets to run the gambling.

So it's all about influence. And Abramoff knew how to get influence.

But if it hadn't been him, it would be someone else. Let's look at it this way: if gamblers need politicians to decide in their favor, should we expect gamblers and politicians to act honorably in the decision-making process?

If we are serious about reform after this thing is over, we'll look to shut down legalized gambling so that it no longer offers ready corruption. We could also shut down Congress, but that might be not be an entirely good idea overall.

But you can bet the house that there will be no move against the expansion of gambling. Politicos want to keep their graft. Elected officials want to keep their tax revenue. Communities with casinos and tracks want to keep their casinos and tracks. Communities without casinos and tracks want to get casinos and tracks. Gamblers want to gamble. Libertarians want to regulate less and not more.

No wonder the only ones who object to legalized gambling these days are ministers. Check out any organization opposing the building of a casino or track in a community, and you'll find an organization led by and composed mostly of pastors. Notice how well their work has been going lately.

So when people think that religion has too much influence on politics, they should take a drive to any of America's bazillion gambling outlets.


JB in CA said...

Another negative of gambling--or gaming, as the gambling industry prefers--has been noted by Brit Hume. A gambling license is, in effect, a governmental permit to print money. The mathematical probabilities guarantee that casinos will turn a profit no matter what market forces they encounter (short of losing all their customers). There's no such thing as having to offer a "gambling product" (a game of roulette, say) for lower than market value in order to compensate for poor management, consumer demand, etc. In the long term, the casino will always win, and the consumer will always lose.

Calus The Great said...

In economic terms, gambling is a series of transfer payments. When calculating the GDP, transfer payments such as Social Security are not included. The only real services that casinos supplies are already provided by hotels, restaurants and bars.