End gambling prohibition, foster respect for the law

Who did you bet on in the Superbowl? Steelers? Seahawks? In either case, you bet against the law. Gambling is illegal throughout the US — with exceptions carved out for riverboats, Native American reservations, Nevada and Oregon’s monopolistic government-run lottery, to name a few. Exceptions aside, we should get rid of the remaining laws that prohibit gambling.
Countless law-abiding people ignore such laws any given Sunday, let alone when they sit down to Texas Hold “˜Em . This law-breaking behavior is harmful to the social fabric. As Einstein remarked in regard to Prohibition: “For nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be enforced.”

Some might oppose gambling on moral grounds. Lysander Spooner, a 19th-century legal theorist, abolitionist, and entrepreneur, writing in his seminal essay Vices Are Not Crimes, argued: “Vices are those acts by which a man harms himself or his property. Crimes are those acts by which one man harms the person or property of another.”

Wendy McElroy, a contemporary author, prefers “a different wording. A vice is the bad or immoral exercise of a right…. A crime is an act you have no right to commit at all””for example, theft, murder, rape.”

No matter how you define a vice, gambling takes place across this country, every day, all the time (did we mention off-shore gambling websites?). And, whether you use the definition put forth by Spooner or McElroy, gambling should be considered a vice — at worst. As such, we should leave any personal ills associated with gambling to the family, the church and other mediating social institutions to resolve.

When it comes to gambling, government should relegate its role to the enforcement of contracts and thus free up resources to go after real criminals — murderers, rapists and thieves. Enough with creating a state and country of peaceful, honest “criminals”.

Kurt Weber
Libertarian Party of Multnomah County
[email protected]