Andrew Norton has some interesting posts distinguishing between classical liberalism (to which he regards himself as an adherent) and libertarianism (to which he doesn’t). His explanation of the distinction – at least skimming his posts again quickly – is that libertarianism is rights based whereas classical liberalism is more intellectually eclectic. I agree and can’t support a political ideology that’s as simple as libertarianism – there are too many things to consider to encompass them in a single principle, as important as that may be.
Be that as it may the issue of gambling is a good touchstone. It’s hard to justify heavy curbs on it from either tradition, but at least IMO being more eclectic allows one to be more pragmatic. I don’t know what Andrew’s views on casino regulation are.
Though one can acknowledge the force of Mill’s test – which is that one should allow adults to make their own decisions to do things if they’re not hurting others – I’m afraid I don’t feel that strongly about the right to gamble at a casino – it’s a pretty trivial right. Who am I to judge? No-one in particular, but it’s a free world and I’m happy to put strong curbs on the kind of gambling that generates the social problems that casinos do. I was reminded of this by a tweet by Matt Cowgill referring to the diagram above. “When gambling regs are debated, remember this graph from The Economist”. To which I tweeted back – having recently visited Singapore – “@MattCowgill And in Singapore gambling is for visitors only – locals must pay $100 to get into the casino!”
I remember how amazed I was when I heard the kinds of figures in the diagram bandied about in the wake of the PC reports. If the annual figure quoted is the best part of $1,300, that’s an average figure so the average amount lost by regular gamblers is a lot more – and it’s losses not expenditure or turnover which must be at least five times more.
My last serious interaction with a poker machine was decades ago in Queanbeyan where residents of Canberra went to gamble. I had two dollars and decided to play on ten cent machines to spread out the joy of gambling. Then I started winning – my winnings went up to the huge sum of $5. But I’d already decided I’d keep pulling the lever until I lost it all or the night ended and I had a huge haul. I kept pulling that lever and as I hovered around $5 for quite a while I caught myself hoping I would lose so I could stop doing something so boring. And so I left the machines and the purple shag pile carpets on the walls and ceilings and went back to Canberra comfortable in the knowledge that I was unlikely ever to get addicted to those horrible machines.