It is my view that Government must sometimes legislate morality. But understanding why this is the case and how it should be limited is no easy matter.
A government for the people must protect the society that it serves. In other words, government must create laws that preserve the society for which it exists.
But how do we differentiate the morally based laws that legitimately serve a society and those that overstep the domain of government?
Let’s look at marriage and child-rearing for example. I consider myself a social liberal. But there is a very good case to be made that quantified over large portions of a population, over sufficient time, that social liberals do not reproduce at a rate that’s sufficient to replace a society’s population. This is bad for a society. If a civilization cannot replace itself, then the civilization crumbles.
So, should government put the infrastructure in place, via legislation, to ensure that a society never fully embraces liberal principles? That’s a good question, and one that social liberals such as myself really should not ignore.
But the reason I bring these questions up in the first place is to address the current fiasco over online poker and gambling. Under what circumstances should a government start legislating against such things? In my view, government should only legislate against something if there is clear evidence that pervasive short or long term material damage will occur to the society that the government is designed to protect.
But what evidence is there that any such damage, quantified over the US population, will occur because of online poker and gambling? Well, I guess one could say that we’re sending large portions of our country’s wealth to Britain. But what if worker productivity depends to a significant degree on the availability of enjoyable leisure activities such as recreational gambling? What if gambling actually contributes to American productivity by keeping workers happy…giving workers something stimulating to look forward to. But even that’s not necessary to show that wholesale legislating against gambling is beyond the scope of government. All one needs to show is that gambling is not harmful to a society over the long or short term. Or rather, you don’t even need to show that. The burden of proof is on the government to show us why gambling, quanitified over an entire population, is harmful to its society. And I don’t think that the government has ever been able to show us that this is the case.