Monday, June 12, 2006

The NY Times’ Crusade Against Internet Gambling

Tibor R. Machan

Each Sunday morning I bring in The NY Times and start reading it, eventually ending up looking through it’s magazine section, but not before checking the book reviews. Yes, it is a bit masochistic—very little in the paper pleases me. Most of it is slanted toward a Leftist agenda of more government regulation and America bashing. I can relate to some of this but not to the evident glee with which The Times shells it all out.

In this morning’s issue there was something especially disturbing. The New York Times is usually on the side of at least one element of the American founders’ political, legal philosophy, namely, freedom of speech. Alas, no more.

It looks like the editors became convinced that Internet gambling by college students is such a terrible thing—“Researchers say that Internet poker is addictive,” “Players say it’s addictive,” “The federal government says it’s illegal,” etc., and so forth they go—that it must be banned. “Administrators who would never consider letting Budweiser install taps in dorm rooms have made high-speed Internet access a standard amenity, putting every student with a credit card minutes away from 24-hour high-stakes gambling.” Such a horrible policy needs to be brought to a screeching halt.

It used to be conservatives who bellyached about how freedom of speech provisions in the U. S. Constitution made possible the degradation of society, via pornography and the like. Now it is The New York Times that peddles the idea with its sensationalism about serious gambling by college students. And they do it with a lousy analogy to boot.

The Internet isn’t like a Budweiser tap. It’s more like a telephone line. Budweiser taps would deliver one thing alone, namely beer. Of course, even that could well be something students should be trusted with—these are, after all, adults who have the civil right to vote, to drive, to travel wherever they choose. They aren’t children any longer. And if I recall correctly, it used to be a cause célèbre of modern liberals to free young college students from the traditional doctrine of in loco parentis at colleges and universities. But never mind that—never let a good scary story be ruined by principles, even if they are your very own.

What these folks at The New York Times magazine need to grasp once and for all is that a free society is risky—in contrast to, say, a concentration camp or the gulags. In a free society young men and women have the option to waste their money on gambling to invest it wisely for their old age security or purchase gifts to send to their parents, etc., etc. This is what comes with freedom.

Ah, but at this point of the discussion the modern liberal will chime in with the story about addiction. If one is addicted, well one isn’t really free to make choices.

But the addiction story is a phony. These folks like gambling, no less so than all those who flock to Vegas or Monte Carlo. Sure, some go overboard, just as some do so when it comes to mountain climbing or eating at fast food restaurants or whatever. We have that liberty, to overdo stuff, often stuff that when overdone becomes bad for us.

But the remedy isn’t to deploy coercive measures but to embark on localized assistance, including education and persuasion. Instead of recklessly writing off these students as addicts—who cannot make decisions for themselves—they need to be viewed as people with free will but unfortunately bad choices, perhaps.

This bit about all questionable conduct being a matter of addiction can backfired good and hard—will we consider voting for various political agendas a matter of addiction if we disagree with it, if we consider it bad judgment? Should voting booths be shut down because those going to them are too feeble-minded to vote right?

It looks like The Times in on board with these developments. Let’s resist as much as we can.

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