Robert Frank Argues for Paternalism

A 2004 study of legalized casino gambling in Ontario estimated that about one-third of casino revenue came from patrons with significant gambling problems. Libertarians contend that if gambling addicts freely choose to waste their own money, that is none of society’s business. But addiction also harms the innocent, making marriages more fragile and bankruptcies more likely. Properly accounting for these spillovers exposes casino expansion as not only an inhumane policy, but one that could actually reduce state revenue.

As parents tell their children, the best way to get ahead is to get more education, work hard and save for the future. For many years, however, New York has encouraged its citizens to rely instead on luck, to dream about what they’d do if they won the state lottery. “I’d buy the company and fire my boss,” intoned one artfully produced, state-funded television spot. (More)

Comments (12)

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  1. Lucy says:

    This is the same reasoning that has people wanting some sort of legislative fix for junk food, etc. Because if I eat too much, I might get fat, and that could impose costs on me as well as my family and others…

  2. Ken says:

    Whose life is it anyway?

    • Rutledge says:

      Exactly, Ken. Let people make their own decisions. Sure this situation might enable those with true “issues,” but that should be handled in another way. Simply saying no one can take part in this activity because a few of us can’t control themselves is an “all or nothing” strategy that I do not support.

  3. Crawford says:

    The tax revenue gained from casinos is impressive to say the least. Those who don’t favor the idea of gambling expansion shouldn’t complain about high taxes or unemployment. Both could be helped by more casinos.

    • George says:

      Taxes could even be lowered if the tax revenue from casinos was large enough. That should be music to many resident’s ears.

  4. Mark says:

    Someone with limited self-control shouldn’t hinder those who have a stronger will.

    • Hank says:

      To play devils advocate, your enjoyment gained by gambling is much less in volume than the struggles a family faces due to gambling addiction.

  5. Layne says:

    “New York does need more revenue. And though no one relishes higher taxes in the abstract, there are many things we should be taxing but aren’t. When we buy heavier vehicles, for example, we put others at more risk. If vehicles were taxed by weight, we’d have an incentive to consider that risk when buying.” (Frank)

    Casinos are easy to point a finger at, but there are countless other items or activities that should cause just as much of a concern, if not more.

  6. Perry says:

    Well we all know how the Vostead Act worked.

  7. Floccina says:

    Illegal gambling is very common in NY.

  8. Tim McGhee says:

    How is state funding and promoting of a product considered paternalism?