The success of any move to add Casinos to New Hampshire will hinge on the Libertarian Republicans currently crowding the House and their ability to override a likely Lynch veto. While I am on their side in almost every other case, when it comes to casinos we part ways, and not for the reasons you might think.
This is not an issue of social conservatism for me, not exactly, not the way it is a social issue for some Democrats like Governor John Lynch or the left wing social justice cabal at the New Hampshire Council of Communist Churches (NHCcC). I see this as a matter of personal restraint, not because I object to people gambling, but because I am willing to pay a personal price, and forgo the risk of casino revenue, to ensure the liberty and freedom that I am convinced a casino culture in the halls of the State House would inevitably destroy.
Before I proceed, let me give credit where it is due. Yesterday the Union Leader, in a staff editorial, asked an important question. Why would Republicans embrace the need for Casino revenue when they just demonstrated exemplary fiscal prudence with what can only be called a historic New Hampshire budget? The answer to that question is quite simple. The Republican influence toward casinos is motivated by RINO’s whose progressive tendencies seek new revenue with which to grow the influence of government, and the Libertarian Republicans who typically object to the RINO premise but seem willing to discard their good judgement about the dangers of money and politics in an obsessive pursuit of things they insist are personal freedoms.
But the danger has nothing to do with personal freedom and everything to do with human nature. While we could debate the potential risk of someone smoking pot and then wandering out of their house in pursuit of Twinkies, a Big Gulp, pork chops, Raisin Bran, an Egg McMuffin, Doritos, Donuts (say it like Homer Simpson), or anything even remotely edible that is not nailed down, the casino question is entirely different. While there is some measure of risk of Jonesy making a public nuisance of his or herself in a motor vehicle, it is less than the long accepted risk of alcohol. These are personal choices we accept because we have enacted laws whose purpose is to limit irresponsible behavior and punish those who refuse to learn self control. The most serious problem with gambling has little to do with the recreational right to gamble, what it might do to people or neighborhoods, or the laws designed to limit its social side effects (all still relevant objections), and everything to do with the long term risk of irresponsible behavior from elected officials legislating under the influence of casino revenue.
At no point in the relationship between citizens and their desire for a limited government, if you are serious about keeping that government small, locally controlled, and suitably cowed by the people whose interests it is meant to represent, should you embrace significant amounts of revenue that by-pass the people on their way to central planners. This invites all kinds of liberty killing practices that Libertarians should run from screaming and yet, for some reason, human nature as it relates to government abusing power is no longer a concern…as long as people can go to Casino’s in New Hampshire. How short a vision is that?
Are we next to hear a promise (the lie) of property tax relief? That would be a sure sign that someone had turned to the dark side.
Pro-liberty legislators, if anyone, should know what happens when you funnel that kind of cake directly into the maw of the state capitol. It filters vast sums past the gore of the voters palette allowing politicians to expand government based on outside interests and influences. Direct Casino revenue would empower central planners and bureaucrats in Concord in contradiction to the libertarian idea of small government and local control. It would encourage the proliferation of more lobbyists and influence peddlers capable of further superseding the interests of voters on all state matters. And it would grow government in excess of any preconceived fiscal advantages. It always does. That is why the left always wants more revenue and I used to think that was why Liberty Republicans objected to it.
Any Republican or Libertarian should be suspicious of ideas with this kind of potential danger to long term liberty, simply because you cannot trust human nature in the context of government.
We must accept that the influence peddling will not stop once we let Casinos in the door. We must believe that the Gambling lobby will continue to use their deep pockets to affect the make up of the legislature, its policy priorities, contrary to the benefit of the traditional goals of a citizen legislature, and in direct opposition to Libertarian political orthodoxy.
Years of Casino ‘revenue’ in Concord would inevitably create the opportunity for entrenched incumbency and make every race about money, and who can spend it. The special interest money would favor those who support Casino interests and central planners, reducing the citizen legislature to a farce that would inevitably retool itself into a smaller professional body of politicians that is easier to manipulate and buy off. Something the Democrat party In New Hampshire has been after for years.
Libertarians, by their very nature, abhor this unjust relationship, so why would they ignore vice for the sake of vice, unless their desire to tilt at gambling windmills has blinded them to the inevitable outcome? Is it possible they have simply failed to see the future? In their quest for one “token freedom” have they forgotten that a government run by men and women will inevitably fall prey to professional brigands seeking to rob the taxpayers of their power? That the Casino industry and gambling lobby, once in the Granite State, will be a relentless influence on all future policy decisions? It is much to risk for that which we can obtain just a short drive away.
It is ultimately a matter of character and thought. Enduring freedoms require sacrifice so I will repeat what I said earlier: I see this as a matter of personal restraint, not because I object to people gambling, but because I am willing to pay a personal price, and forgo the risk of casino revenue, to ensure the liberty and freedom that I am convinced a casino culture in the halls of the State House would inevitably destroy.
This is a basic conservative principle of the relationship between a citizen and its government. The sacrifice of small freedoms in defense of much larger ones. But some people cannot see past the small freedoms. So what happens when the legislative pursuit of those small freedoms could put every other personal freedom and liberty at risk? Casino’s could change everything about how state government works.
We are left to wonder if the libertarian Republicans who support gambling can look far enough down the road to see that danger; that this “personal freedom,” while providing a fleeting and transient victory, could burden millions of future lives with an intractable and uncontrollable State government like those everywhere else in New England.