Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Lottery vs. The Golden Rule

Lt. Governor Bill Halter: Gambling that a lottery will increase his standing.

It has often been said that a lottery is a tax on stupidity and you decide how much you should pay. But a lottery is not like a regular economic transaction. In a way, it is less moral than prostitution and a host of other things that legislators would never vote to "put on the ballot and give the people a choice". I will explain why shortly.

The people have voted down lots of gambling amendments before. It seems our leaders are determined to have them choose again and again until they make the "correct" choice. The money we are "losing from the state" could also be said about the state's refusal to operate brothels or peddle child-porn. People are spending money on that activity, if we don't legalize it those tax dollars will just be lost, right? Abject greed will thus lead us straight down into the moral cesspool of state sanctioning and hawking any and every moral failing known to man.

(continued- click THURSDAY below and scroll down, or if sent striaght here just scroll down)


Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

Here is why the lottery is in a way less moral (though not less destrictive) than prostitution:

In a regular economic transaction, all parties win. That is, if I buy a hamburger from Backyard Burgers, I would rather have the Burger than my $6 and they would rather have the money than their burger. Who wins, we BOTH do!

Even in prostitution, even though I think history and reason show us that actually both sides lose in the long run, at the time both sides exchange something that each wants less than what they are getting. Both "win".

But now consider what happens in any gambling, including the lottery. In gambling, for me to win, you have to lose. Thus, gambling is not an ordinary economic activity. Nor is it in compliance with the Golden Rule of Christ "However you want others to treat you, so treat them".

In fact, a lottery winner has no interest at all in the continued well-being of the other participants- unlike Backyard Burger who would wish me well as their customer.

Logic and reason therefore bring us to the conclusion that a lottery is not a regular, healthy, economic transaction, that it is a violation of both the Golden Rule and the Law of Love (Love God with all your heart, and love others as yourself).

Legislators, the offering of amendments goes through you for a reason. You duty is to take a critical look at them in more depth than the average voter could, and block from the ballot ideas that sound good superficially but have hooks in them. I would urge the legislators of this state to spare the people another temptation to do evil, and just as they would refuse to offer up an amendment opening state brothels, refuse to offer this amendment to put the state in the vice business of a lottery.

8:37 AM, February 01, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For a guy that argues that people should be free to do with their money what they want, you're hell-bent on telling us that we can't have this as an option. Why the change of heart?

1:37 PM, February 01, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you're getting constitutionalists confused with anarchists or libertarians. Like the founders, we've always been against gambling. No "change of heart" here.

1:43 PM, February 01, 2007  
Blogger Jared said...

Regardless of the fake name attached (Constitutionalist), Mark Moore has argued countless times on this blog that the people should have the right to do with their money what they wish. This logic has been used to oppose certain tax hikes, and when making suggestions on what to do with our hefty state surplus. If the people should be free to spend the money they make with their own work as they wish, it follows that they should be able to spend it on a lottery.

2:44 PM, February 01, 2007  
Anonymous Mark Moore said...


Thanks for your question, and for posting under what I assume is your own name. The anon poster just after you got it right. A constitutionalist will argue for liberty not license. There is a difference in that the former recognizes that humans have a God-given right to freedom of action to do good both for themselves and for others.

Consider a a libertarian- often what the want is license which is freedom to do anything base or noble. they mis-appropriated the word "liberty" with their policy positions that deny the existence of any transcendent moral standards outside the "initiation of force".

What this philosophy does is actually deliver LESS freedom than concentric conservatism, otherwise known as a Constitutionalist philosophy. This is because by asserting each individual has an absolute right to do whatever they want (so long as they don't use force) they force the community to accept behaviors that they regard as despicible and destructive.

In other words, under "libertarianism" individuals lose the critical right to assemble themselves into societies ordered as they see fit. They lose the essential freedom to set standards for behavior in their own commuinities. Thus, cocentrism delivers more actual freedom than libertarianism, where all are forced to endure the public displays and behaviors of the basest.

A constitutionalist philosophy reconizes that there is an absolute moral order to the universe, and that it is our duty to find it- while at the same time understanding that we are fallible people and liable to get it wrong. That is why I am not for a federal amendment to ban lotteries. If people in other states make that decision then it is their business. Do you see how a concentric view actually produces more freedom? Those who want to gamble can live in places where people think that is OK, and those who don't can ban it for their immediate area.

I have already said why gambling is not an ordinary economic activity where everyone wins, so even if I am for freedom in ordinary economic activity I can still be for a gambling ban. Also, I feel like it is reasonable for me to require my neighbor to maintian their reason so that I don't have to negociate with a drugged-out loon in my daily life.

Jared, let's get the crux of the matter. Is there an absoulte moral order to the universe or is it "anything goes"? I sense that you say there is not. I maintain there is. Perhaps I should focus in persuading you on that question first.

3:41 PM, February 01, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not being disrespectful, But could you give verse and chapter from the King James Version of the bible where I'm going to roast like an Oscar Myer winner for buying a lottery ticket?

3:57 PM, February 01, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Doh! I think I'll trash some Christians! That's always fun!

5:49 PM, February 01, 2007  
Anonymous Mark Moore said...

No, I can't do that, because people don't burn in Hell for sinning so much as they do for having no faith (trust, belief in, desire for and reliance on) God. The distinction between those going to heaven and those going to hell is their attitude toward God and by extension others, not how righteous they are.

Of course, there is a dynamic relationship where one's faith changes their habits, but it is the faith that saves one- the change in habits are only a result of or by-product of that salvation that the faith in God wrought. The theif on the cross did not have time to change his habits, but his faith in Christ saved his soul.

Now someone asked Jesus what the MOST IMPORTANT commandment was. Jesus answered 1) Love God with everything you have and 2) Love your neighbor as yourself. That summed up ALL the laws, and the prophets.

See Mark 12:33, Luke 10:27, Romans 13:8 and 9, Galatians 5:14, James 2:8.

Consider now what gambling is, before the game each player agrees to risk losing his possession in exchange for the opportunity to take the possessions of others, depending on the outcome of the game.

If you are talking about low stakes poker among friends, then I suppose the real reason for the gathering is the fellowship, and no ones losses are hurtful, then I suppose their is nothing at all wrong with it. The lottery is not like that. You don't even interact with the other players. You just want to win even though it means they lose. It is therefore a violation of the most fundemental summation of the law. Is God going to send you to hell for that? No, he will only send you there because you have no faith in God. Gambling would be a symptom of that, but not proof.

6:00 PM, February 01, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like the fellowship of hanging out in the gas station and scratching off the tickets while sitting in the booth with my friends. The clerk is always nice, too.

What's the difference?

7:48 AM, February 02, 2007  
Blogger Jared said...

I can see your point. In fact, I have often joked about the Libertarian Party being an oxymoron. I will agree with you, which may surprise you, that there is a universal moral order. In that sense, I can see that labeling the lottery as immoral is convenient for arguing against its initiation. But as we both know, everyone does not follow every facet of the order that we are accustomed to (speaking of course of the Judeo-Christian order). There is a kind of moral understanding that is in essence a hybrid of the Ten Commandments, Sermon on the Mount, and some secular values. There are some areas such as murder and rape that can be considered immoral in every instance because of the harm to the unwilling victim. But in this case (lottery), it seems that there are no unwilling victims. Those who choose to buy a ticket and happen to win, win the money of those who chose to play and happened to lose. Now if the lottery were paid for with tax dollars, and I paid a 15% tax on my income so that some lucky guy/girl could win it, I would vehemently oppose it. (Bill Halter: if you're reading this-THIS IS NOT A VALID IDEA)Ha! In this sense, this apparent immorality in the Judeo-Christian sense is not harmful to the unwilling, so it should be up to the person to decide where their money goes. As to the debate over conservatism and liberalism and whatnot, that needs another thread.

8:46 AM, February 02, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love the way Mark has a direct line to God and knows EXACTLY why we will go to hell.

8:58 AM, February 02, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who says there are no "victims"? Those of us who don't want anything to do with it are the victims!

Lotteries exacerbate poverty- that's FACT. Poverty brings with it all sorts of problems, not the least of which are government demands to fund the alleviation of the associated increase in crime, addictions, divorces, etc. One may idealistically argue that voters can refuse to fund socialistic attempts to address the dark side of gambling, but that's been a losing battle in every state. Therefore, I advocate that we don't even go down that road to begin with.

For you liberals that like to talk about economic equality, there are few things that help put distance between the "rich" and the "poor" more than gambling and lotteries. Once again, you showcase your hypocrisy.

11:56 AM, February 02, 2007  
Blogger Jared said...

If you can consider yourself a victim because there are things in the world that you don't like, then I guess we are all victims. Maybe we should start a support group. "Victims of Living." Look, attributing poverty, addiction, divorces, and crime in general to buying a lottery ticket is a stretch. We're not talking about a high-stakes Texas hold-em game where you put up your home and first-born and can lose it with one bad river card. What is being proposed is a game that offers people the chance to spend their own money. Sure its a risk. So is the nature of life. It is not my right to tell people that they can't take risks that don't harm me or others. I am not a victim of the lottery, nor I am a victim of many other things that I don't like in the world. If you want to throw the "liberal" term out there to cover for bad logic, go ahead. I am not a liberal, nor does the term matter to me.

1:24 PM, February 02, 2007  
Anonymous F-G said...

You know, for some religion is their "opiate." Religions get tax breaks and right now, they get money for social programs via the Bush administration (faith based). I don't agree with that. Does that make me a "victim" because allowing some religions to use government money to help and preach to people offends my moral code?d

I want my "opiate" to be $5 worth of powerball tickets every week. I just don't understand how that is different from poker in my living room MORALLY speaking. I understand the difference SOCIALLY. If you (Mark) had come out and said all gambling is wrong, maybe I could see your point (my mamaw believes all games of chance are a sin--she's consistent), but to say some gambling is fine and some is not just confuses me. Is it because you (Mark) can refuse to allow someone entry into the living room game if you deem them unfit or too poor to play? Is it because you can control who plays and you can't if the liquor store is selling tickets? Is this about being a parent state and trying to protect the poor because they are too stupid or too impulsive to decide for themselves if they can afford a lotto ticket? Is it because you think poor people are so impulsive they will take their entire paycheck and buy lotto tickets? There are many ways to blow a paycheck. Should we "patrol" the check out lines at Best Buy and Wal-Mart to make sure the poor people aren't spending all of their money?

I'm still undecided on whether a lottery will be good for Arkansas (especially with Texas looking to sell theirs), but the moral argument isn't going to fly with me.

2:24 PM, February 02, 2007  
Anonymous Mark Moore said...

Assuming 7:48 was being facitious or deliberately trying not to see, I will start with Jared's 8:46.

We could start another thread on liberal, conseratvative and libertarian. It has a chance to be as good a thread as we make it.

If you will examine the key phrase in your post it is "there are no unwilling victims", and in your mind, that settles the argument.

But don't you see that this thinking would legalize prostitution and subtance abuse? These are activities that not only Divine revelation, but also reason and history teach us are destructive to the society which is overly permissive toward them. Thus banning or regulating these activities are a sort of collective-self defense, not simply a matter of personal taste.

It goes right back to the key question of an absolute moral order- you seem to be in the majority, riding the fence on that one. You want one handy to condemn the things you really don't like but want to avoid committment to any outside standard that could step on your own toes. That may have come our harsher than I mean- I say "you" as in "many people" and because I am getting signals that you are in that crowd, not because I know for sure.

A conservative believes that a major part of freedom is the freedom to organize in societies of like-minded individuals so that we can set standards for behavior as we see fit. If we over-regulate truly harmless behaviors, folks can move to communities where the rules are more reasonable, and that town will prosper more than mine.

On the other hand, if no one is permitted to regulate behaviors where there is "no unwilling victim" then we have lost much of our freedom to self-organize into communities with standards as we see fit. A key to maintaining freedom is to give each state leeway in how tight they set the standards.

In addition, I don't believe you have addressed my main point as to why, as an economic transaction, gambling is different and inferior because in legitimate economic activity both sides gain from the exchange.

5:16 PM, February 02, 2007  
Anonymous Mark Moore said...

ps- I would hate to have to teach children whose parents lost the rent money to gambling- happens everywhere the state pushes it. Those are your unwilling victims.

5:18 PM, February 02, 2007  
Anonymous Mark Moore said...


You have the same "direct line to God" that I have- these are not my ideas, they are in the Holy Bible. There is likely one in your home, if not, it is available on line.

It is not a matter of who has a "direct line to God", the difference between Heaven and Hell is a matter of who chooses to listen to what is being said on that line.

5:21 PM, February 02, 2007  
Anonymous Mark Moore said...

Jared your 1:24 still fails to address the issue of the TYPE of economic activity gambling is- zero sum. Risking your savings on lottery tickets is not the same as risking it on starting a business or getting an education. Those latter two activities are a conduit to serve people better- that is put yourself in stronger "win-win" situations.

5:24 PM, February 02, 2007  
Blogger Jared said...

I suppose indirectly both sides would benefit in that the person who pays the money to play the lottery gathers some enjoyment from it. In addition, perhaps the revenues brought to the state by the taxation on the lottery could be used to fund the lottery-partaker's child's education. And the benefit for the winner is obvious. Could these benefits not be counted? Simply an idea here. I am not unreasonable. I simply want to exchange ideas without having my moral order or personal character called into question either directly or by implication.

5:26 PM, February 02, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I buy a lotto ticket, I gain from the exchange. Maybe not financially (unless I win), but I think it's fun to play. Fun to wait for the number to be announced and to daydream about how I would spend the money. Often my friends and I play the game where you ask what you would do with the money. Fun to think about.

just because it's not a financial gain, doesn't mean it's not a gain.

And I would like you to explain the difference between playing the lotto and gambling in a home. Morally, I mean. I know it's different because the government is involved, but morally isn't it the same thing, just on a larger scale?

5:29 PM, February 02, 2007  
Anonymous Mark Moore said...


Maybe I am not making myself clear enough, since you and Jared don't seem to be getting my point about why gambling is inherently less moral than legitimate economic activity. In legitimate activity people serve one anothers needs and wants in a win-win transaction. In gambling, for me to win, you have to lose. Thus it violates the Law of Love, half the cornerstone of the Law and the Prophets.

In Penny-ante poker among friends the game is just the excuse. It is really about the fellowship. The "win-win" transaction is a non-monetary one. I get the enjoyment of an evening with good friends and it cost me $7.54. The gambling is just the excuse for the socializing. Not so with lotteries. Disclaimer- I don't do either.

So no we should no patrol the check out lines, those are legitimate win-win transactions.

To some extent we are our brothers keepers, but to keep us from being their tyrants, the "keeping" function should not belong to a central authority. Let each community, or state, have wide freedom to set their own standards.

PS- I am more opposed to "Faith Based Initiatives" than I am the lottery, but as Jared remarks I already have this thread going two ways, I don't need to spread it in a third.

5:34 PM, February 02, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with Jared. You are assuming that I only play the lotto for financial gain. I know I'm not going to win, but it's worth it to me to try. It's almost like a spectator sport to me. I like to be involved. I like to follow the coverage of the winner on tv. Like last week, when the 84 year old WWII vet won the 240 million jackpot. It was more fun to watch because I personally was vested in the outcome. Maybe not everyone has the same attitude as I do, but most of the lotto players I know do it for the fun and the thrill of it. Is that sinful?

5:35 PM, February 02, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ok, so are football games immoral? For one team to win, the other has to lose?

For some lotto players, it's just about playing.

5:36 PM, February 02, 2007  
Anonymous Mark Moore said...

"I know I'm not going to win, but it's worth it to me to try"

I can't argue with logic like that.

Maybe there is an adrenaline rush and that is why you are playing. If so, there are morally superior ways to get that rush- like closing a sale or finishing a project under the wire or making a sad child laugh. Adrenaline rushes are meant by nature as a reward for an accomplishment (escaping with our lives?) Making the rush the goal has its own pitfalls.

Constant pursuit of frivilous amusement when our culture is falling apart is also a problem. Is it sinful? It could be. Pray and ask God if there are other things He wants you to do with your time and money, and other ways he wants you to get "thrills" and satisfaction. Then pay attention for opportunities in your life to fill that void in ways that serve people better than playing the lottery.

If such avenues appear, take them. If not, you at least had the faith to offer it up to God, and He let you keep it for this season.

6:35 PM, February 02, 2007  
Anonymous Mark Moore said...

Football games, at least for the players, is not an economic activity. It is recreation. The team that "wins" does not win the money of the other side. Players that bet on their own games are chastised and for good reason.

6:38 PM, February 02, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Talk about morally superior.

I can't hear you through all the condescension.

6:46 PM, February 02, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, I know my above post (6:46) relies on ad hominem, but, man, come on. Surely you do something frivilous sometimes. And did I say anything about constant?

6:48 PM, February 02, 2007  
Blogger Jared said...

Of course we have to consider that winning does mean money to the players. A successful running back will draw a better contract with better a better salary and perks when he/she becomes a free agent. Winning very much affects their economics. This doesn't really address the risk though.

7:57 PM, February 02, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hypo: 10 softball teams enter a tournament. Each team pays a $50 entry fee. Winning team wins a $60 trophy.

Doesn't winning team gain money/value from a losing team?

Is this morally wrong?

8:12 PM, February 02, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Games of chance-- we're talking about games of pure chance.

8:25 PM, February 02, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok, so then high stakes poker is morally ok with you, 8:25?

I don't think Mark made that distinction. He seemed to draw a moral line between football and the lotto because he claimed you did not economically take anything from your opponent in football. From my understanding, he thought it was sinful to economically benefit from another's economic loss.

I understand that some are against all pure games of chance, but that's not where Mark drew the line (or that's how it seemed to me).

8:53 PM, February 02, 2007  
Anonymous Mark Moore said...

We have at least one person here who is actually trying to follow the argument. It seems like some are commenting without bothering to read the thread.

People play softball as recreation, as a team sport, not to win money. Winnng money is not the point,it is thus more like that penny-ante poker game among friends. The purpose of that is not to gamble, it is to visit with the other people with the game as an excuse. When one's MOTIVES change to it being about the money, THAT is when it is not about faith and love. That is where the sin creeps in.

8:22 AM, February 03, 2007  
Anonymous Mark Moore said...

Talk about morally superior.

I can't hear you through all the condescension.

First these people ask me if X or Y is moral, then when I give them an answer which by necessity points to the moral high-ground they turn around and accuse me of condescenion.

What is preventing you from hearing me? My "condescension", or your own will?

8:26 AM, February 03, 2007  
Blogger Joe said...

I agree with Mark. People do not have a "right" to use their money for things that are unlawful.

5:24 AM, February 04, 2007  
Anonymous Mark M said...

...nor does the state have a right to make most economic activities unlawful. I explained why gambling is different from normal win-win economic activities.

6:32 AM, February 04, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're speaking a bit loosely, Mark. A state has the "right" to ban certain economic activities to the extent that its constitution allows them. Whether it should is another matter. However, the federal government truly has no such right except where direct interstate commerce is involved and where the states have (often foolishly) agreed to empower the federal government to regulate intra-state commerce (for example, drug trafficking).

7:23 AM, February 04, 2007  

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