Clicking on banner ads keeps JWR alive
Jewish World Review Jan. 10, 2003 / 7 Shevat 5763

Bill Tammeus

Bill Tammeus
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
MUGGER
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

Gambling infects with false hope

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | When much of the nation went gaga recently over a $315 million Powerball jackpot, I remembered some wise words of George Washington.

He called gambling "the child of avarice, the brother of iniquity and the father of mischief." Had he lived long enough, he might have added "the seducer of government."

Gambling doesn't create character. Rather, it reveals it. And one of the sad truths about humanity is that if you dig deeply enough, all of us are greedy. We all want something for nothing. The human heart contains a scurrilous darkness that wants what it wants.

This yearning twists our souls. Our esurient hearts are willing to risk more than we can afford in pursuit of that which may do us no good at all but, rather, may ruin us in waves of savage excess.

Except for the truly addicted, gambling is a voluntary vice, though for most of our nation's history, government has kept it illegal, recognizing its pernicious, anti-social nature.

In recent years, however, the public, not surfeited with other circuses our culture offers, has demanded legally sanctioned ways to throw money away on false hopes. Eager to please and get re-elected - and eager to find painless ways of fattening the public purse - elected officials have created all kinds of gambling opportunities. It has been public service at its worst.

For instance, the Multi-State Lottery Association, which operates Powerball, now consists of 23 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands. It's a sad dishonor roll.

Eventually, as this kind of reckless imbecility spreads, gambling becomes a significant portion of certain local economies. Voices opposed to it are accused of trying to throw people out of work and shred the economic fabric of the community. In the long term, that's a silly argument, however much shutting down a casino here and there may jeopardize good-paying jobs for people who need them.

The point is that a job based on a fool's dream contributes to fools dreaming, and that's socially, culturally and morally destructive. The fact that it's legal - as is selling tobacco and alcohol - doesn't mean it's a good thing to do.

What's even more disappointing to me as a journalist is that the purveyors of news in this country get caught up in this nonsense and become promoters. I can't tell you how many local TV news stories I've watched in which the end wasn't so much to report on the phenomenon as it was to encourage it. Reporters and anchors regularly discuss what they themselves would do with the money if they won.

If, if, if. That's the point. Buying a lottery ticket is the triumph of hope over good sense. The imagination takes flight, egged on by governments without the courage to raise this needed money in more legitimate ways. That would require a frank assessment of how the public's demands for services are overwhelming the capacity to respond as well as an accounting of how tax money is misspent now.

In short, it would require government to operate openly, honestly and without gimmicks.

When I was in grade school, we used to bring marbles to the playground in milk cartons that had a small opening on the top. We played a game in which someone would stand above the carton and try to drop a marble through the opening. If it went in, the good-aimer got not only his own marble back but also one from the kid who owned the carton. If it fell awry, the box owner got to keep it.

The game required a gamble - but it was one based on an assessment of one's own skill at dropping a marble straight. Still, even that led to hard feelings and charges of cheating. To maintain peace, school authorities eventually forbid it.

Unlike the marble-dropping game of my youth, most state-approved games of chance, including the Powerball lottery, require no skill at all. It's all randomness. The gamble is pure in that the player cannot affect the outcome through the use of any skill.

Such state-approved gambling is a cancer on society. We need to excise it and with it the avarice, iniquity and mischief Washington saw so clearly.

Enjoy this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.


JWR contributor Bill Tammeus' latest book is "A Gift of Meaning." To order it, please click on title. To comment on his column, please click here.


12/31/02: Quotable and notable in 2002
12/24/02: The faltering war on terrorism
12/11/02: Sky's the limit --- sort of
11/05/02: Thoughtful about uploading
10/29/02: We naively ignore the inevitability of death
10/24/02: Patriotism exceeds nationalism
09/18/02: Misuse of religion is timeless
08/21/02: Where church and state are one How long can Saudi Arabia's puritanical version of Islam survive?
08/13/02: LETTER FROM CAIRO: Meet the Egyptian writer who provided foundation for radical form of Islam
08/08/02: Letter from Riyadh: Moderate Muslims must reassert control over Islam
07/31/02: Journey of discovery starts at Ground Zero
06/07/02: Life rebukes death's power
05/31/02: Reasonable doubts about executions
05/10/02: Business savvy for graduates
05/02/02: Exporting our exclusivity
04/25/02: Life's stories carry messages about values
04/19/02: Our life force's search for fellow life forces
03/27/02: Can corporations behave ethically?
03/19/02: Space Family Robinsons
02/21/02: Lock, stocks and bonds
02/14/02: In space, the dark matters
02/07/02: Train doctors to have caring hands and hearts
01/31/02: A different feel to my life and to my country?
01/24/02: How green is my universe?
01/17/02: The end is near, eventually
01/08/02: Important lessons arrive out of the past
12/19/01: Lost in the cloning debate
12/10/01: It's all in the name: Unraveling the mystery of Osama's whereabouts
11/19/01: Flying with damaged trust
11/02/01: Recent, recognized research is a hard nut to crack
10/31/01: Many paradoxes in life
10/25/01: Newly found planets show the cosmos is still strange
10/19/01: Just getting caught up
10/17/01: It was a time for tea and sympathy
10/08/01: What makes an authentic patriot?
10/04/01: It's OK to twist and shout
09/17/01: One precious life among many
09/13/01: Remember who we are
09/11/01: Sometimes all children need is shelter from the storm
09/05/01: Couldn't run or throw, but a hero just the same
08/28/01: Lesson for the scientific faithful: Some theories come with strings attached
08/27/01: When waste in space is a waste of space
08/21/01: In complex world, we lack tools to carve out understanding
08/09/01: Visited while asleep by gang of magical mischief makers
08/03/01: Recognizing the limits of one's capacity
07/27/01: We are more than the sum of our work days
07/12/01: Some stars, like some people, never shine
07/11/01: Our deeply embedded need for order
07/03/01: Not-so-famous tour explores not-so-rich neighborhoods
06/28/01: Driven to tell the truth about golf and government
06/25/01: When poetry becomes destructive
06/21/01: We interrupt this broadcast to bring you a word from deep space
06/14/01: Theory of revolution explains why some things get lost
06/11/01: Shamanic gewgaws
06/06/01: Charity begins at homes with lemonade stands
05/30/01: When are wars worth dying in?
05/23/01: Cruising along that bumpy highway
05/09/01: If you're in the write mood, wish the U.S. happy birthday
05/07/01: Killing McVeigh will wound us all
05/01/01: Dubya reinforcing negative GOP stereotypes?

Up

Reprinted by permission, The Kansas City Star, Copyright 2002. All rights reserved