Should the government seek to save individual citizens from destroying themselves?
Though I can hardly be accused of being a Libertarian, I must admit that I am somewhat skeptical about this concept. As Mayor Michael Bloomberg has so adeptly proven, the path of dictating the lives of free citizens is a most perilous one that can quickly turn into a slippery slope down which the rights of the people disappear.
A few years ago, I happened to get a ride with a prominent attorney.
“Is the requirement to use a seatbelt really constitutional?” I asked him as I buckled up.
“While it might not be explicitly mentioned in the Constitution, the Supreme Court has ruled that the government has the right to make all kinds of regulations,” he calmly replied.
“Would you be willing to file a suit specifically challenging the seatbelt law?” I asked him.
“Pro bono,” I hastily added.
He promptly, though politely, turned me down and was nice enough not to charge me for the conversation.
When I later researched the statistics, I changed my tune. Approximately 13,000 American lives are saved each year because drivers and passengers did their requisite hishtadlus and used seatbelts.
Governmental intervention is indeed a slippery slope, but going to the opposite extreme can be dangerous and deadly. If the government wouldn’t have required them to do so, and fined individuals who didn’t obey, a significant percentage of those 13,000 individuals would not be wearing seatbelts.
Like firefighters and EMS workers, the government has an obligation to save lives. That is why the government has not only the right but also the duty to enact laws requiring drivers and passengers to wear seatbelts.
This is also one reason why New York State should not permit casinos to be operated in the Catskills under any circumstances.
Some have tried to compare gambling to alcohol. They claim that much as the ill-fated Prohibition attempt led to the rise of bootlegging and speakeasies, it is the attempt to ban an activity that actually makes it so popular. I must strongly disagree.
Alcoholic beverages have been a staple of daily living for thousands of years. When used properly and in moderation, these beverages can be very beneficial for society. Jews use them for Kiddush, Havdalah, and saying l’chaim. When imbibed in the correct amounts, alcoholic beverages can help cut the risk of heart disease.
The problem isn’t alcohol; the problem is the abuse of these drinks. When the thin line that divides moderate and excessive usage is crossed, what results is mayhem and disaster. But as long as the amounts being imbibed are within reasonable limits, there is nothing wrong with responsible adults drinking a glass of wine.
Gambling, on the other hand — like most types of illegal substances — is inherently an evil practice. There is no redeeming factor to gambling.
This most reprehensible and abhorrent pastime has devastating repercussions. It tears a Jew away from his Creator, and destroys marriages and livelihoods. Once caught in the gambling trap, most victims constantly incur new debts as they unsuccessfully seek to repay old ones.
No sane person would object to the government trying to kill a poisonous viper seconds before it is about to sink its fangs into a human being. Gambling is in many ways analogous to a deadly snake.
But the primary reason I strongly feel that government should ban gambling of all types is because of the destruction it wreaks on the lives of the innocent. Consider, for even a moment, the effects this has on a gambler’s wife and children, parents and siblings.
As the gambler comes back to them again and again, pleading for “one last loan,” promising that he will never gamble again, only to lose the borrowed money at a casino table or slot machine, his family and friends use up their savings and are forced into heavy debt themselves. His wife and children lose the roof over their heads due to foreclosure or eviction for non-payment of rent, as the gambler resorts to thievery and even violence to feed his ravenous addiction.
It doesn’t take an expert mathematician to realize that casinos are a magnet for criminals. A casino in the Catskills would have an extremely detrimental effect on the quality of life for all local residents, including the large number of Jews who make their way to this area each summer.