Charles Murray, who is considered one of America's most influential conservative thinkers, published a piece in the New York Times Thursday taking a critical look at the online gambling ban.
Murray points out in the Op-Ed piece that the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) could end up hurting Republicans who are up for election this November. The new law appeals to a small, ultra-conservative Republican base that they hoped to gain support from, but in return it makes an enemy of the 23 million Americans who gamble online.
"So, a month before a major election, the Republicans have allied themselves with a scattering of voters who are upset by online gambling and have outraged the millions who love it," says Murray in his article.
"Furthermore, judging from many hours of online chat with Internet poker players, I am willing to bet (if you'll pardon the expression) that the outraged millions are disproportionately electricians, insurance agents, police officers, mid-level managers, truck drivers, small-business owners - that is, disproportionately Republicans and Reagan Democrats."
However, Murray's larger concern is not with how the law will affect Republicans, but with the atmosphere it will create in the United States.
"If a free society is to work, the vast majority of citizens must reflexively obey the law not because they fear punishment, but because they accept that the rule of law makes society possible. That reflexive law-abidingness is reinforced when the laws are limited to core objectives that enjoy consensus support, even though people may disagree on means," Murray said. "Thus society is weakened every time a law is passed that large numbers of reasonable, responsible citizens think is stupid."
Because the vast majority will think the law is stupid, many will freely break it without any regret or fear that they are actually doing something wrong. Murray gives the example of how businesses treat the regulations put on them by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Most businesses will do what they can to wiggle their way around the regulations put on them by OSHA and the EEOC until they are caught and then they'll come into compliance only to appease the agency, not because it's the right thing to do.
"For millions of Americans, our day-to-day relationship with government is increasingly like paying protection to the Mafia - keeping it off our backs while we get on with our lives," wrote Murray.
He also points out that the temptation to ignore laws is increased when they are unenforceable like the UIGEA. Only one of the four sites where Murray gambles online has shut down its site to American users, but the other three are continuing with business as usual, fully confident they will be able to continue doing business with U.S. residents without any problems.
"And so the federal government once again has acted in a way that will fail to achieve its objective while alienating large numbers of citizens who see themselves as having done nothing wrong," said Murray.
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