U.S. House of Representatives
July 11, 2006
Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. Mr. Speaker, I strongly disagree with the gentleman from Iowa with whom I often agree. I don't disagree with him entirely. I will stipulate that there is nothing in the Bhagavad Gita about gambling. But other than that, I don't think he got much right.
He says that gambling on the Internet does not add to the GDP or make America competitive. Has it become the role of this Congress to prohibit any activity that an adult wants to engage in voluntarily if it doesn't add to the GDP or make us more competitive?
What kind of socio-, cultural authoritarianism are we advocating here?
Now, I agree there is a practice around today that causes a lot of problems, damages families, people lose their jobs, they get in debt. They do it to excess. It is called drinking. Are we going to go back to Prohibition? Prohibition didn't work for alcohol; it doesn't work for gambling.
When people abuse a particular practice, the sensible thing is to try to deal with the abuse, not outlaw it.
By the way, this bill allows certain kinds of Internet gambling to stay, so apparently the notion is that those few people who are obsessive and addicted will not take advantage of those forms which are still available to them.
But the fundamental point is this. If an adult in this country, with his or her own money, wants to engage in an activity that harms no one, how dare we prohibit it because it doesn't add to the GDP or it has no macroeconomic benefit. Are we all to take home calculators and, until we have satisfied the gentleman from Iowa that we are being socially useful, we abstain from recreational activities that we choose?
This Congress is well on the way to getting it absolutely backwards. In areas where we need to act together to protect the quality of our life, in the environment, in transportation, in public safety, we abstain; but in those areas where individuals ought to be allowed to make their own choices, we intervene. And that is what this is.
Now, people have said, well, some students abuse it. We should work to try to diminish abuse. But if we were to outlaw for adults everything that college students abuse, we would all just sit home and do nothing.
By the way, credit card abuse among students is a more serious problem, I believe, than gambling. Maybe gambling will catch up. But we have heard many, many stories about young people who have credit cards that they abuse. Do we ban credit cards for them?
But here is the fundamental issue. Shouldn't it be the principle in this government that the burden of proof is on those who want to prohibit adults from their own free choices to show that they are harming other people?
We ought to say that, if you decide with your own money to engage in an activity that harms no one else, you ought to be allowed to do it. And once you say, oh, no, but that doesn't add to the GDP, and that can lead to some problems in families, then this is hardly the only thing you will end up banning.
The fundamental principle of the autonomy of the individual is at stake today.
Now, I have to say, I understand a lot of the conservatives don't like it because there are people on the religious side who don't like it. Some of my liberal friends, I think, are being very inconsistent. We are for allowing a lot of things. I mean, many of us vote to say, You can burn the flag; I wish you wouldn't, but you can. It shouldn't be a crime.
You can look at certain things on television that maybe other people think you shouldn't. You can do other things but you can't gamble. There is a fundamental inconsistency there.
I guess people think gambling is tacky. They don't like it. Well, fine, then don't do it. But don't prohibit other individuals from engaging in it.
People have said, What is the value of gambling? Here is the value. Some human beings enjoy doing it. Shouldn't that be our principle? If individuals like doing something and they harm no one, we will allow them to do it, even if other people disapprove of what they do.
And it is, of course, likely to be ineffective. The best thing that ever happens to illegal gamblers is when you do a measure like this.
I hope the bill is defeated.
Friday, April 11, 2008
Barney Frank on Internet Gambling Ban
Well I rarely agree with Barney Frank, but I certainly do agree with him on the foolishness and just plain wrongness of the government banning Internet gambling. Here is Frank's speech before the House passed the Internet gambling ban back in 2006.