THE LIBERTARIAN POINT OF VIEW - CONT'D
Ethics, Morality, Religiousness and Righteousness for everybody!
But surely Libertarianism must forbid betting on the basis of their own Ethical or Moral or Religious principles, right? Well NO.
Libertarianism is not about imposing ethics or morality or religion on anybody. Libertarianism is all for allowing people to make those decisions for themselves and thus Libertarianism won't impose any limitations on those basis… yet… the way Libertarianism operates, it provides equivalent or better mechanisms to reach the same outcome on a voluntary basis.
Consider this. If you absolutely know that you are absolutely responsible for the contractual terms you make wouldn't you become cautious? Now days most people believe that as betting is illegal in many places, betting loses are not legally enforceable and this is correct. However, in a Libertarian system this is not the case. Any voluntary betting loses are fully owed. There is no escape. In those conditions, wouldn't you be cautious? Of course you would!
If you know that any damages to other people in the process of your betting makes you fully liable, wouldn't you take precautions? Of course you would.
All these realities would make people naturally cautious when it comes to betting. Of course, it would not curtail betting and betting may even rise (initially at least) but it would make people far more cautious. Less people and less animals would get hurt.
Addiction and prevention
But surely Libertarianism would forbid betting on the grounds of being "for the greater good"? Well, NO.
When we talk about the "greater good" there are two points of view. The first one has to do with damages and preventative measures. The general so-called rational goes more or less like this. Gambling should be forbidden because it is a vice, immoral, un-ehtical [you name it] and produces damages such as [insert damage list here]. Therefore it is all for "the greater good". Prevention must prevail.
To this so-called rational we must point out that damages are simply risks that we are willing to take in exchange for something else that we like. These damages are our personal, private and unique decision that only we, one by one, can take. What is seen as damage by some people is viewed as an acceptable price for others. Let's take a person that becomes addicted to gambling and loses the house. Well, this person made a personal decision and as such "society" is not responsible for it. Therefore society has no obligation to prevent anything. Actually, if anything, society has the obligation not to interfere with this person's decision because the decision only concerns this person's property and nothing else. No "societal" property is at stake. Basically, there is no damage to other people in "society". The notion that "society" as an entity can be somehow damaged is absurd. Specific people get damaged. Specific people's properties get damaged but saying that all peoples in society and all properties of all peoples in society get damaged is absurd. Only a socialist can think in those terms. The notion that the "good of society" supersedes the "good of a person" is nonsense (see Spock Got It All Wrong) however attractive it may seem at first glance.
Basically by preventing "damages", society (i.e. politicians and bureaucrats) is interfering in the private contractual negotiations between private parties. Only the parties involved can determine what is or isn't an acceptable price.
And how would Libertarianism prevent such massive occurrences? Because again, Libertarianism is all about personal responsibility. When faced with the inescapable truth that people are fully responsible for all their actions, people have the tendency to become cautious and this drives damages down. It operates on self-interest, not useless prohibitions and laws.
The second rationale from the advocates of "the greater good" is addiction, or more precisely, the prevention of gambling addiction. As such it would be justified to prohibit gambling.
Let's begin by stating that for a small percentage of people, gambling is indeed an addiction. Yet, this percentage is rather small being in the order of 1% to 3% of total gamblers. And so "the greater good" argument states that for a 1 to 3 percent of people being forced out of their addiction, 97 to 99% of people must never gamble. Does this make any sense to you? Of course not.
But let's go a step further. An addicted gambler always has the chance to seek professional help. They voluntarily choose not to do so. Let's be clear. A gambling addict may never be cured but the decision to try is always theirs. They choose not to try. Prohibitionists claim that by making gambling illegal or very hard, this would deter gamblers from becoming addicts. This is, of course, nonsense. A person who wishes to gamble will always find a way. This was absolutely clearly demonstrated during the idiotic "prohibition" that the US government unleashed on their citizens so many decades ago and with the current "drug" prohibition unleashed on everybody everywhere. Prohibitions prevent exactly nothing!
But let's go a step further. Let's assume that somehow prohibition works and there is no gambling. A gambler cannot gamble on anything through a…magic… process that prevents this person from doing so. There. Problem solved. No more addicted gamblers. Yeah… that may be true but there is a small problem, a problem which strangely enough was captured very succinctly in the original US constitution which reads: Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Gamblers, all gamblers gamble because they are seeking happiness. A small percentage needs this happiness all the time. Forcefully denying them this happiness is denying them their very reason to live for if we cannot be happy, what is our life worth living for?
But isn't it true that being good citizens we should watch for each other and prevent other people from hurting themselves and the ones they love and their extended families and the neighbourhood and… and… and…?
Ugh… here we go again. Yes, there is a tiny percentage of addicted gamblers that will damage other people through their addiction. And so what?
No, we are not being cynical. We are being absolutely realistic. So what? Realistically speaking is impossible to help everybody. Realistically speaking is impossible to save everybody. Realistically speaking is impossible to prevent every single injustice in the world, country, province, region, municipality, neighbourhood or house. Hell! Realistically speaking you can't even prevent every injustice in your own house! That is a fact. Trying to do so invariably leads to widespread and blanket prohibitions and ridiculous penalties "for the greater good". And what's worse, it fails every time. Take for example the idiotic law about transporting fighting dogs (250 K USD and 5 years in jail). Do you honestly believe that it will stop dog fights? Of course not. Do you believe that waves of militarized police forces storming private properties will stop dog fighting? Of course not. Don't be silly.
If these kinds of militarized forces are used for these purposes, why not use them to prevent the widespread abuse of ice cream? Don't you know how many calories ice creams have? Don't you know that ice creams lead to obesity creating food addicts? We are all for regulating the consumption of ice creams with a heavy subsidy for "healthy" (i.e. low sugar) ones. Or how about perfumes? There are addicts to perfumes. Or sun bathers. Or pet collectors. Or... or… or… where do we draw the line? We will tell you exactly where. Nowhere! It is not up to anybody to draw any line for others to be contained behind it.
Yes, by not prohibiting gambling a small percentage of people will self-destruct and will hurt other people. It is unavoidable. Deal with it.
The alternative is what we have today. There is no middle ground. Choose; freedom or…this...
Gambling is nothing more than the free and voluntary interaction between people disposing of their properties as they see fit. That's it. Gambling is not evil nor destructive nor immoral or un-ethical. Gambling is a human activity and as such can be good, bad or in between. What we do and how far we choose to take it is up to us and only us, one person at the time. Neither "society" nor "laws" nor "governments" have any right whatsoever to determine gambling restrictions, modalities or anything else for that matter. They do not have the right to interfere. If anything by making gambling illegal governments ensure that bookies with "enforcers" and dodgy "gambling dens" continue to exist and thrive. Do you honestly believe that if gambling would be legal people would prefer dodgy and dangerous outfits to clean and respectable ones? Of course not. This is valid for any product in any free market. What distorts the product and its conditions is government action.
This, just like any other thing, is your choice. You decide. Choose freedom or choose servitude. Making these kinds of decisions where your "moral code" is clear is easy. Making those decisions where the choices are difficult is what separates freedom from tyranny… or democracy as it is called these days. Now place your bet!
Note: please see the Glossary if you are unfamiliar with certain words.