Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Subsidizing Social Pathology: Gambling as a Tool for Economic Development

I had barely recovered from last week's meeting concerning the Sheridan/Hollywood TIF, and was about to write about it, when I read a comment by blogger Ryne on The Broken Heart this morning that triggered my gag reflex and sent me on a search for the source of his information. Many thanks to Ryne for alerting us to yet another misallocation of public money that is beyond senseless and irrational. This is the thing you would think of when someone asks " What's next?", in the belief that nobody could conceive of anything more irrational than what was proposed, but then they thought of it.

State-subsidized gambling.

Excuse me, I mean gaming, a term that attempts to make dropping your kid's food money on a felt-topped table in repeated attempts to get something for nothing, appear respectable. We live in the Age of NewSpeak, where all you have to do to alter the nature of something is to reframe it; a politically correct euphemism completely alters the nature of the beast.

It seems like a short time since the idea of legalized casino gambling was still controversial.
I supported the legalization of this form of amusement because I support the right of an individual to engage in any behavior that harms no one but himself, provided he wants to accept responsibility for it, but that doesn't mean the behavior is "good" , or that I endorse it or that it ought to be promoted by the state.

However, in the twisted, irrational "morality" that prevails among both "liberals" and "conservatives" (however those terms are defined), anything you have a right to do is something that ought to be subsidized by the state, especially if it enriches the corporate rich and the politically connected, and most of all can in any manner be justified as "economic development".

After reading Ryne's post, I went searching and immediately fell over the Chicago Tribune article linked in the title. While the most noxious provision, which would have compensated investors in the failed Rosemont casino, was scuttled (for now), Senate President Emil Jones Jr. and the Governor have, according to the Tribune article, "embraced a package that would include casines in Chicago and three suburbs as well as subsidies for horse racing tracks, Internet betting between boats, and bookie-style betting over the phone."

Nobody has ever given me a satisfactory answer as to why it is a good idea to subsidize for-profit businesses to begin with. The only justification I ever saw for this was because the enterprise or industry in question provided an essential service , such as public transportation or some other essential utility, that it would be extremely disruptive were it to be unavailable. In such a case, you will usually discover that the reason the service is unprofitable is because the playing field has been tilted by government support of its competition, as is the case with public transportation, and railroads.

Gambling, however, is a little different than even Walmart or Target or any of the other corporate behemeths that have benefitted greatly from tax-funded bounty provided by desperate politicians scrambling for development and jobs for their constituents. For while there is no ethical or economic justification for subsidizing large corporate ventures on the backs of their small, local competition, who are thus forced to fund both their own destruction and that of their local economies, at least Target and Walmart are legitimate enterprises that arguably provide plausible employment and legitimate and desirable products and services.

We've sunk to a new low in morality and senselessness when the state not only promotes, but subsidizes an enterprise that is, to put it in the very best light possible, parasitical and unproductive. Let's face it, there is no gain to gambling, except to the casino operators. It is another addictive, compulsive behavior that wrecks destruction on the lives of almost everyone who participates in it, and on the lives of the people around them. It produces nothing but bankruptcy, breakdown, divorce, needy children, murder, and ruined people. It is a pathology, and we might as well subsidize the consumption of tobacco, alcohol, and street drugs.

So don't ask "What's next?" because before you know it, the state legislature just might be working up a bill to subsidize the sale of street drugs under the rubrick of "economic development".


Ryne said...

North Coast, yes it is scary what the "leader" who are voted into office to represent us "the people" but when you look at the actions our leaders take are for big business, special interest groups, big money people!

Can you really comprehend the millions & millons of dollars the Olympic games will cost (us) the tax payers, while the private business that are behind bringing the games to Chicago, paint the benefits to the city which are untrue but will only line their pockets. Look at past cities that have hosted the games, it has taken them years, and years to dig themselves out of debt.

The North Coast said...

Ryne, did you know that over half the work force works for a federal, state, or local government agency of some sort?

Who pays for it all? How much more productive could we be if we didn't have to crawl through some bloated bureaucracy for everything?

And if we weren't subsidizing everything else.

People need to start asking who the gainers are in a system that shovels hundreds of millions of dollars into enterprises that don't give one fifth back in taxes but whose ownership and management walk away with ungodly sums of money in gains, dividends, and bonuses, made possible by our subsidies.

Anonymous said...

I don't see anything wrong with online gambling as long as their are safeguards in place to protect problem gamblers. When you play
online, you can play at your own pace, with no noise, no smoking, and lower stakes.