Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Drive To Ban Online Poker

On Monday, as reported by the Associated Press, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York has moved to freeze funds of about 20,000 poker players (or as many as 27,000 according to other sources.)

With all the problems we are dealing with, you'd think that deterring online poker would be at the lowest rung of the problems ladder. Not for some, among whom is Spencer Bachus, Republican representative from Alabama.

In an opinion piece he wrote for US News and World Report, Rep. Bachus said that internet gambling can lead to "addiction, bankruptcy, and crime." Yeah? So can working for Goldman Sachs and sniffing glue, but no one has yet considered shutting down investment banking houses or banning the sale of glue for the negative effects they can have.

It's the old religious conservative sham: only bad people gamble and they should be prevented from exercising their right as an adult.

Barney Frank, D-MA, put it best in his own op-ed: "There are people who believe that it is appropriate to use the law to impose on others personal, religious, or moral tenets, whether or not they deal with behavior that impinges on others [...] But personal behavior that harms no one ought to be within the sphere of personal autonomy."

Congressman Frank hits the nail on the head when he says: "The vast majority of human activities should be neither encouraged nor outlawed by the government but rather be left entirely to the choice of free individuals."

The Massachusetts Democrat, on a roll, continues:
If we were to prohibit from the Internet anything that people under a certain age should not do and could abuse, the Internet would be a very boring place. If we were to ban every activity that is suitable only for adults because of the possibility that some underage people might access these activities, we would have substantially diminished our freedom as adults.

Finally, Congressman Frank dismantles the position held by those who would ban online poker because of the risk of addiction:
There is also the argument that adults can become addicts. The principle here is the same as with regard to young people: To ban an activity in which the great majority of adults are able to engage responsibly because a small percentage will abuse it is to diminish freedom. Those who are addicted are the ones most likely to engage in the activity whether or not it is illegal, so the legal prohibition generally prevents more legitimate use of any activity than the abuse of it.

Not to mention the fact that, absent outlets of online gambling, all an addict has to do is go to the closest Indian casino, of which many states are full. By the same logic, we should close all liquor stores because of the effect they may have on alcoholics and all adult (read porn) web sites on the Internet because of the effect they have on sex addicts. Give me a break!

The Republican party used to be the party of limited government and of no government intervention in the sphere of the personal, right? It has turned into the party of false moralists, true religious nutcases and big business interests. Its implosion cannot come too soon.

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