Commentary Magazine


Contentions

Santorum Isn’t Wrong on Gambling

Those who have pointed out that Rick Santorum’s reputation as the scourge of gays and his opposition to contraception will be serious liabilities in a general election are right. But his stance on gambling that Alana noted yesterday ought not to be lumped in as yet another instance of the former Pennsylvania senator acting out his role as the national scold. Santorum’s opposition to the spread of gambling, and specifically the legalization of Internet gambling,is neither overly moralistic nor hypocritical. What’s more, I highly doubt Democrats would seek to make this a campaign issue because it would cast them not so much as libertarian defenders of the right to gamble as the defenders of a dangerous social pathology.

As Alana wrote, Santorum recently reiterated his long-held belief that allowing legalized gambling to spread from its previous enclaves in Las Vegas and Atlantic City is a terrible idea for the country. But, contrary to Alana’s assertion, this doesn’t make him an advocate of a nanny state. The analogy here is not so much to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s ban on trans fats as it is the decision about whether this country will legalize marijuana or even heroin.

There are reasonable arguments to be made about ending the war on drugs, the same as there were good reasons for states to drop bans on casinos. But to argue that anyone who takes note of the plague of social pathologies the influx of casinos have brought with them wherever they have been built can’t also claim to be an advocate of limited government is off the mark.

Unlike real nanny state issues, legalized gambling is not so much a matter of private choice of a form of entertainment as much as it is one of enabling a business whereby the state profits from the exploitation of the poor and the middle class. While it can be asserted that individuals should have the right to become addicts and destroy their lives and families via gambling, the same can be said about heroin. The only difference right now is that government takes a hefty cut of the profit in gambling while the billions made from the drug trade now only go to criminals. Though legalization of drugs might be a money maker for states that face budget crunches, most Americans are rightly so horrified by the human cost of drug addiction they cannot stomach a measure that libertarians advocate.

When it comes to gambling, most of us are less squeamish. Perhaps that is because the destruction of lives and families that are caused by gambling don’t seem quite as shocking as habits that involve needles. And yet the link between gambling and crime is as strong as that of drugs.

Some also argue that the nature of drug use is such that they destroy more users than the percentage of gamblers who are dragged under by that addiction. That may be true, but society bans many things as dangerous that affect far fewer numbers of people than the vast number of Americans whose lives have been wrecked by legalized gambling. It is also true that one can make the same arguments against gambling at home on the Internet for alcohol, whose abuse probably does more damage than drugs and gambling combined. However, the difference is unlike the liquor industry, legalized gambling is something that always morphs into a quasi-government business.

Santorum speaks for many, if not most Americans, when he says encouraging the spread of legalized gambling isn’t good for the country. What’s more, it ill behooves conservatives or libertarians to be encouraging an industry whose main purpose has always been to encourage the growth of government. Far more than individual rights, it is big government that stands to gain the most from legalization. The untold billions it will gain from its share of the take in legalized Internet gambling will feed the same state leviathan conservatives and libertarians abhor.

While many may disagree with Santorum on this, Republicans needn’t fear the Obama campaign will use this against the GOP should the Pennsylvanian become the nominee. Though he may be out of step with popular culture on many issues, Santorum’s concerns about gambling are very much in the mainstream.



Join the discussion…

Are you a subscriber? Log in to comment »

Not a subscriber? Join the discussion today, subscribe to Commentary »





Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.