Today we are going to continue exploring the unusual thinking (to say the least) typically portrayed by so-called "documentaries" and "educational" TV shows and videos. The thinking portrayed by these documentaries is clearly based on arbitrary definitions of "good" and "evil" according to existing laws and socialist principles. The solutions they imply (but do not explicitly recommend nor suggest) are the old tried-and-true failures: more law and order.
Our series of articles was prompted by a neat (and short) series of videos we came across. The series is called Underworld Inc and was produced by or for the US National Geographic Channel. This series typifies all that is wrong in current popular thinking, conveniently packaged in six instalments. If you have access to them, we encourage to view the series in order to fully understand the depth of the erroneous views they portrait. The fourth episode is called:
As you can imagine, this episode deals with non-legalized gambling.
This episode begins with the statement "America loves a gamble but some forms of gamble are restricted or illegal pushing it underground". This sets the tone for the entire episode.
The first scene shows the test of a street racing car "on a busy public road". Then switches to Los Angeles where a few accidents are shown. A street racer/driver explains the preparation of his car and the style of the bet: winner takes all. Then the scene shifts to a cock fight with an off voice describing it as illegal and "state laws can make criminals of gamblers".
The scene switches again stating that "betting in all kinds of sports is legal only in Nevada" which creates a "black market" estimated in 320 billion USD anywhere else. A bookie clearly states that he is performing "a service" which operates based on "street rules". You lose you must pay but "miss a week miss a finger".
In the next scene a voice in off states that gambling laws vary significantly creating a maze of penalties and restrictions. A dice game is shown where gamblers state that these games are dangerous because of the potential violence.
A serial gambler describes how gambling is a "high" for him and that when a person loses "enforcers" come with threats and guns. Eventually this person lost so much money that he resorted to sell drugs to pay for his gambling addiction. The scene switches back to the bookie who explains that he adds 10% to any lost bet; the "vic".
The episode switches to Costa Rica where an "offshore bookie" explains that it is like Disneyland for gamblers in addition of being legal. They consider it "providing a service" but helping US citizens to place "forbidden" bets is illegal in US and can carry severe consequences. Bookies demonstrate how their betting business is unstoppable thanks to technology but more importantly thanks to the fact that so many people want to bet. The bookie asks why should betting be illegal? There is no answer. The bookie also explains that "the house always wins".
The episode continues showing trainers/breeders of dog fighters as they condition the animals. A sign states that buying, selling or transporting a fighting dog is penalized with 250.000 US and 5 years in prison. A private investigator is followed to a breeding spot in the woods where dogs are being kept in cages thus demonstrating "animal cruelty". This PI states that if there wouldn't be so much money getting into it, dog fighting would not exist. The scene the switches showing massive police undertakings with officers in full tactical gear (i.e. "swat" style) persecuting dog fights owners all over the US. Dogs are taken to a welfare shelter. The renter one such house gets an 18 months sentence.
The "classic" solution
The implied message is always the same: illegal gambling creates violence, fosters addiction and is cruel to animals. Law and order must prevail.
THE LIBERTARIAN POINT OF VIEW
Before we begin
Let's state for the record that we, personally, individually, as unique human beings believe that betting is incredibly stupid. We don't do it as a matter of personal preference. However, and this is a gigantically astronomical however, we will never try to force our point of view on you. Under any circumstance. Ever. Unless, of course, you ask us to. Then we will be operating under a voluntary agreement and we will do so.
It's your property, dammit!
Let's begin with the most basic of concepts. Your property is your property. For any intent and purpose, let's say this again, your property is your property. It is not on loan from the government, it is not government's to tax, it is not subject to "eminent domain" and "confiscatory measures", it is not subject to idiotic points of view of bureaucrats, it is not up for debate by politicians and it is most certainly not open to involuntary opinions from voters.
As your property is your property, it is your absolute right to do with it absolutely anything that you may want to do with it, up to and including complete obliteration.
The only manner in which it is permissible to interact with other people's property is through voluntary agreements. Period.
Betting as use of your property
Betting is simply yet another use of your property and as the use of your property is absolute, there is nothing in the Libertarian philosophy against it. Again, it is your property. If you wish to spend it in bets it is entirely, absolutely and unquestionably your decision. Period.
Betting as a contract
Betting is simply creating a voluntary contract between two parties where the transfer of property is conditioned to the outcome of a specific event. In other words, it is a contact where the result depends of something else. This "something else" could be a sports event, the phases of the moon, the outcome of an election, the humidity in Tanganyika on Friday the 13th or the number of black cats seeing crossing the street between 1 AM and 5 AM today.
The substance of the contract is irrelevant. What is relevant is that the contract was performed between emancipated people in a voluntary manner. As such because these people are dealing with their property such contract is fully valid.
Limits of betting contracts
But do betting contracts have limits? Are you permitted on betting on just about anything? Yes. Seriously? Yes. The reason is very simple. In a Libertarian system your contractual limitation is…well… unlimited. This is so because your rights to your property are unlimited. One such property is your body, thus you can order your body to agree to any contract you want. Therefore you can freely and voluntarily bet on anything no matter how stupid, foolish or idiotic it may be.
For example, can you bet that if you jump from a 10th floor of a building on the street below you will survive? Yes.
Can you bet that tomorrow the sky will be green fluo? Yes.
Can you bet that tomorrow's tide will be exactly one centimeter lower than today's? Yes.
Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes and Yes.
Anything and everything goes. If you can imagine it and if you can find somebody willing to take that bet voluntarily, you can bet on it.
Yes. This is so because we must remember at all times that Libertarianism is not about limitations but about responsibility. In the same manner that you can bet on anything no matter how farfetched it may be, you are also fully and unlimitedly responsible for your bets. Libertarianism is not a free for all, far, far from it. Should you lose a bet you are fully responsible for your loses and there are no reprieves. Whatever was written in the betting contract is valid. If you agreed to pay an interest rate of 50% per minute on the owed money should you lose, then you owe an interest rate of 50% per minute on the money you owe. There are no "usury" laws, nor judges to shelter behind. Should you bet your house then your house is gone. Your car? Gone. Your wages? Gone. Should you bet your life, well, then you are out of luck unless the other party is willing to renegotiate voluntarily.
But can you breach a betting contract? Of course you can, but even assuming that there are no penalty clauses, your debt never goes away. Unless so specified in the original contract, your debt is for life and as such you can bet (pun intended) that if the amount owed is large enough they are going to find you.
Betting on animals
This episode makes a point on showing the cruellest animal betting events that exist; dog fighting and cock fighting. Libertarians are surely against such horrible, horrible things right? Well, no. Let us say this again: NO!
For the record (again), we personally, individually and as unique human beings believe that unnecessary animal cruelty is… well.,. unnecessary. As such we don't find dog or cock fights amusing in the least. However, the definition of "unnecessary" is purely personal, subjective and individual. There are people who consider that chicken farms are unnecessarily cruel to animals and that only free-range is acceptable. We do not. We are well aware of lower productivity and higher costs that free-ranges entail and fully realize that if everything would be free-range then we wouldn't have enough chickens to feed people. But again, this is our personal, private and individual opinion. Libertarianism simply says that where you draw the line is entirely up to you, but you can only apply that line to your property or under a voluntary agreement to other people's properties.
As such betting on dog fights or cock fights is not "forbidden" under Libertarianism since those are not your dogs or cocks. Having said that, Libertarianism does not forbid you from having an opinion in the matter either nor does it forbid you from expressing such opinion. If you dislike dog and cock fights, go nuts trying to convince people not to bet on them. Say anything you like because remember that in a Libertarian system nothing is forbidden from being said (unlike in the current system where Freedom Of Speech Is A Figment Of Your Imagination). You can do anything up to but excluding interacting with other people's property without their voluntary agreement.
But at least street drag racing is forbidden in a Libertarian system, right? Well NO. First off, we need to ask ourselves who is the owner of the street they are racing on. If the owner allows racing then so be it. If the owner does not allow racing then racers are interacting with somebody's property without a voluntary agreement and are therefore fully liable for all damages. So the decision whether or not street drag racing is allowed depends fully on the street owners. Libertarianism is silent about those decisions.
But what happens should an accident occur? The episode shows a few cuts where observers are being injured by racing cars. Shouldn't this be sufficient to "ban" such racing in a Libertarian system? NO.
The rationale is simple. We need to review the contractual arrangements between the spectators, the racers and the street owners. We would assume that street owners would disclaim all responsibility should an accident happens on their property. But what about the contract between spectators and racers? Well, we would assume that astute racers would do the same. In other words, if spectators wish to see the spectacle on the street, they must sign a voluntary agreement disclaiming any and all damages from accidents.
But what happens if there are no such contracts? Then either the street owner or the racer or both are fully liable for all damages. Period.
But what happens if a spectator is watching the event from a property other than the street and a card skids into him? Then it would depend of the contract between the racer and the spectator. If there is no such contract, then the racer is fully liable. If there is such contract then it would depend on the clauses of such contract and so on. The number of possible permutations grows larger as we introduce more variables however in the end is always the same outcome. Contracts dictate what happens with damages. No contract? Full liability then.
This is valid for any event in a Libertarian system. Damage risk during betting affairs is no different than damage risk in any other affair.
Again, people are fully and absolutely responsible for their own actions. Should they not take precautions or sign a full disclaimer agreement, then they are on their own.
One of the elements with which Libertarianism does not agree is the use of physical force against debtors as a means of enforcing gambling debts. The fact that bookies routinely threaten and hurt debtors who are falling behind their payments is not acceptable. The rules under which Libertarianism operates (at least in our version as described in the Master Contract) are simple. Debtors are fully liable with any and all properties to the full extent of the debt. Which means that bookies can simply seize debtor's property up to and including the debtor's work. However, as slavery is forbidden, bookies must make sure that the debtor's ultimate property (their mind and body) are not harmed in any way. That would make bookies fully liable for all damages. What this means is that in a Libertarian system bookies would simply take any property from the debtor and if this is not sufficient, they would negotiate a payment plan in instalments… which incidentally is what happens today. Yet, there would be no physical punishment, assault or damage. In the end as one of the bookies in the episode stated, he just wants the money. It is in the best interest of the bookie to maximize profits and harming debtors won't do this. We have previously explained all this in Justice in the Austro Libertarian System.
Note: please see the Glossary if you are unfamiliar with certain words.