some thoughts on gambling...
I'm cross-posting my response to Alex Blaze on Bilerico.com about gambling...
Gambling is not a tax. Gambling is a "service"-- a form of entertainment, enjoyed by many and not by others, vilified by some and not by others.
The lottery, in particular, is a form of gambling offered by governments. As is common, the government likes to establish monopolies (e.g., schools, post office). The govt lottery has some monopoly power-- as the only lottery available. But its monopoly power is limited in that other forms of gambling are easily available.
To reiterate what Alex said: The impact of gambling is regressive. From the research I've seen, the amount spent on gambling is surprisingly stable. But as Alex points out, as a percentage of income, gambling expenditures diminish as income rises (the definition of regressive).
Certain (but not all) contexts for and some (but not all) aspects of gambling are morally questionable or even bankrupt. As I have written about in my book, defining gambling turns out to be quite difficult-- and applying the definition consistently turns out to be frequently draconian and undesirable.
"A state lottery gives people maybe three seconds of 'fun', and what overpriced fun that is." The people who engage in gambling believe that it will do something "appreciably good for" them-- whether the prospects of monetary reward or the excitement in finding out. If not, they wouldn't do it! The other possibilities are they're "irrational" (unable to weigh benefits and costs) or the subjects of fraud (e.g., the govt lies about the odds).
Anyone, and especially anyone who has reason to fear persecution by the govt, is short-sighted to advocate restrictions on such activities. If we allow the majority to define the sorts of voluntary behaviors in which we can participate, we risk the same use of force against us some day. (It doesn't do any significant harm to others, but I can't imagine how that could be fun or good, so let's outlaw it.) Moreover, why not allow people the dignity of their own decisions, even if we don't understand or agree with them?
Alex concluded: "So, there. I agree with the Religious Right on something." There might be a few things on which you should agree with them, but that's not one of them! ;-)
I'll cross-post this at SchansBlog.com.