Wednesday, April 18, 2012

As Predicted, Government Monopoly Lottery is a Mess

The Arktimes has a long and revealing report about the giant mess that is the Arkansas lottery.  In addition to other shady activities, it turns out that Ernie P. changed a key vendor contract in a way more favorable to the vendor to the tune of tens of millions of dollars just before he left.    The lottery commission did what government commissions typically do in situations like this- whatever they have to in order to avoid admitting to the public that they made a horrendous blunder.  Usually that involves sweeping whatever problems are found under the rug.

Who could have predicted that the Arkansas lottery would be such a cesspool of looting and corruption? Ahem.  Well, as it turns out I predicted it even as the proposal was on the ballot back in 2008.  But who listens to me?   I am just a right-wing extremist nutjob who makes crazy predictions - which later prove to be correct. But let's not get hung up on who later events actually proved to be right or wrong, let's focus on who the establishment media tells you is or isn't "credible."

Among other things I wrote in the above link, I noted:
Even if you are libertarian-leaning and see nothing wrong with consenting adults gambling, that is a separate issue from the idea of expanding the state by giving it a monopoly in the gambling business. That would make the state their own regulators. How often has that NOT gone bad? The government is already big enough, and there are already too few checks against its abuses. This state lottery proposal is the wrong way to legalize lotteries, even if you think that is a good idea.
That was just one aspect of why I thought the lottery proposal was poorly written and ought to be repealed. In another piece about the lottery I described how they should have done it:
 If they had really wanted to do this in a way that would minimize waste and looting they would have set down the rules for permitting private lotteries, then taxed the earnings and the winnings. That is a free market approach that will minimize waste and maximize returns, since the groups competing against one another to sell lottery tickets will have an incentive to trim their waste. Not so with a government monopoly with constitutional protections, regardless of how it is run.
Of course proponents hide behind the higher education scholarship money that this thing is supposed to bring in.   But we already had $53 million in surplus college scholarship money when the thing was started.  Higher education is over funded relative to the size of our state economy and pool of qualified students.

There is of course also a social and moral case to be made against a lottery.   In real trade we both win.  You would rather have my dollars and I would rather have your cheeseburger.   In gambling, for me to win, you have to lose.   But regardless of your views on that aspect of a lottery, putting the state in charge of it can only make the matter worse.   At least the state could be counted on to be an honest policeman and regulator of private lotteries.  When they are their own regulators, corruption is predictable.

3 Comments:

Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

I predicted all of this back in 2008. But who listens to me? I am just a right-wing extremist nutjob who makes crazy predictions - which later prove to be correct. But let's not get hung up on who later events actually proved to be right or wrong, let's focus on who the establishment media tells you is or isn't "credible."

11:28 AM, April 18, 2012  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You would probably consider me the opposite political leaning from you, and I've done things that people would consider immoral. As to the lottery, we're on the same page, but for different reasons. I voted against the lottery, and have actively gone out of my way to avoid the lottery. I consider it a tax on stupidity, where the stupid people voluntarily pay the tax. It also shows that people are willing to pay more in taxes, if there is a potential benifit to themselves in return.

7:04 AM, April 20, 2012  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

I don't claim I have moral perfection by any means, but I do claim God's forgiveness for my moral failings. But you/we are right on the lottery. At least we are not so immoral as to try and dupe poor people out of their kid's grocery money in order to feed an already bloated higher-ed establishment. At least we did not do that.

And yes, the lottery is a tax on stupidity where you decide how much you ought to pay.

9:10 PM, April 21, 2012  

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