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Don’t Look Back



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A reader scolds:


Did you call Mitch Daniels director of OMD? I thought they were an early-eighties synth-pop band from the U.K., most well-known for their song “If You Leave” from the Pretty In Pink soundtrack. I think you meant OMB…..

Lotteries, Ctd.



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It seems fairly obvious that competition among private-sector lotteries would tend to increase the payout-to-price ratio. That seems like a fairly clear consumer harm from a state monopoly. As for the government’s getting the money from another source: That’s not the way conservatives usually look at the creation of new revenue streams. When a state without an income tax proposes to create one, we don’t say, Oh well, if we don’t go along with this they’ll just raise property taxes. And we’re right not to view it this way. Revenue should be raised in a way that forces governmental restraint. Having a bunch of little revenue streams, rather than one large tax, makes it easier for government to grow. That’s especially true when a revenue stream is not felt as an exaction by the payer.

To put it another way: I like taxes that generate tax revolts from time to time. That’s why I’d prefer state governments rely on property taxes rather than sales taxes. And it’s why state lotteries seem like an especially bad idea.

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Great Question



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from a reader:

Jonah,

drudgereport.com has a link to a Washington Post article about a Teresa Heinz interview in which she repeatedly proclaims “You’ve got to have a prenup”. This raises an obvious (to me at least) question, which nobody seems to be asking:

Why the hell didn’t JOHN Heinz have a prenup?

Web Briefing: January 28, 2015

Correction



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In my airline CEO column, said AirTran is losing money. Actually, it has posted profts in four consecutive quarters. I regret the error.

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Lotteries



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Ramesh, while it is possible to raise the usual theoretical objections to almost any form of state monopoly, I think that it’s going too far to describe state lottery monopolies as ‘unfair’. Any damage to consumers from the lack of competition is likely to be negligible. The only people who seem to suffer are would-be lottery entrepreneurs. Again, theoretically, that may be an outrageous assault on the free market, but I doubt that it’s one that, practically speaking, matters too much. On the money-raising point, I suspect that government would just go ahead and find the cash from some other source. It always seems to – just ask Nurse Bloomberg. To the extent that state-sponsored lotteries reduce the need for additional state-sponsored taxes, that’s fine with me.

Galloway



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Rp & Jg



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In a Ramesh Ponnuru autocracy, Jonah Goldberg would not be allowed to make animal noises on his computer.

Property in Iraq



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A friend e-mails regarding my interview with Hernando de Soto: “I would offer one caveat: Japanese peasantry could be titled with small holdings, as it was rainfall-based, rather like British agriculture. I don’t know what percent of Iraqi land is tenable on these terms, but the classical granaries of the Tigris-Euphrates are not. They are hydro-control systems that require extensive state control–the classic formula for all the great totalitarian states of antiquity centered there, as on the Nile,
Hindus, Yellow, etc.”

I’m pretty sure my friend is channeling Karl Wittfogel here.

Lotteries



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Well, Andrew, I’m not that keen on sin taxes either. I have several objections to state lotteries. Here are two: It raises money for the government which, in general, I’d rather it didn’t have; and it’s unfair, since private companies can’t start their own lotteries. I believe the studies on the economic impact of gambling have been inconclusive.

Cluck, Cluck, Bwok, Bwok



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Those are chicken sounds if you weren’t sure. They are aimed at our friend Josh Marshall who once again dodges making an argument by saying that the protests of conservatives make the argument for him. Maybe Josh doesn’t realize this, but this is precisely the sort of substance-less debate that makes people think liberals are condescending and cowardly. I don’t think Josh is either of those things, but as I pointed out before simply saying “see the conservatives are angry about X or Y and therefor X or Y must be true” is one of the lowest and cheapest forms of argumentation around. If Marshall thinks conservative arguments are outlandish on their face, he should link to them and let his readers decide. Even better, explain why they’re outlandish. It must be easy, right? Or ignore them entirely (you wouldn’t believe how many insults and cheap shots I ignore everyday). But offering opinions without arguments is precisely the sort of thing which has ruined liberalism’s image for millions of Americans over the last few decades. And, anyone can simply spout opinions. It’s backing them up that makes ones writing worth reading.

Roll The Dice



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Ramesh, Jonah: I can’t see much of a problem with state-sponsored lotteries. Yes, it means that government is profiting from a pastime that some consider sinful (personally, I just think gambling is dull), but that’s also what happens with a liquor or a cigarette tax. One difference, of course, is that in the case of state lotteries, government is actively promoting a supposedly wicked form of entertainment. However, as most people are quite sophisticated enough to decide for themselves whether to play the lottery or not, that shouldn’t be a great concern. As for casinos, properly regulated, what’s wrong with them? Come to think of it, a couple in NYC might help the economy along, and we could do with that.

No Comment



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Mike’s Place



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Mike’s place, the bar in Tel Aviv attacked last week, is holding a memorial service now, with streaming video available on the bar’s website (a memorial page, and donation solicitation is there, too), I’m told.

Re Conservatives and Gambling



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Ramesh – I completely agree. My position has always been that Vegas and Atlantic City should be the only places in the country where casino gambling should be legal. That would keep it available enough that a blackmarket wouldn’t sprout up while at the same time discouraging folks from doing it every day. As for lotteries, I think the public exhortation to gamble by state agencies is outrageous. It also highlights the hypocrisy of Bennett-bashing liberals who are addicted to gambling revenues for public education.

Economic-Team News



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Random



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I just had a flash about life under a Ramesh Ponnuru autocracy. Not bad. Too bad autocracies are wasted on autocrats.

Conservatives and Gambling



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One thing that makes me uneasy about large-scale gambling is the way it parodies, and subverts the virtues underlying, capitalism. I especially object to the ads for state-run lotteries in which the government tells people that the way to “strike it rich” is to play the numbers rather than to work and save. This isn’t an argument for considering gambling immoral, still less for banning it (although I would end state lotteries, for this and other reasons). Just something to think about.

I Like This



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From a reader in Iowa City:


Because your occasional observations regarding hyocrisy are quite apt, I bequeathe to you the following observations. The word for a person utterly free of the vice of hypocrisy is “psychopath.” “Let he who is without sins cast the first stone” is advice society cannot afford to follow.

Yeah Phil, I Do



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Phil Lawler, over at the Catholic World News
blog, muses:
“Last week the Massachusetts legislature held hearings on a bill that would
define marriage as a bond between a man and a woman– an effort to stop the
movement toward recognition of same-sex ‘marriages.’ Four Catholic priests
testified at the hearings. All four opposed the bill, arguing in effect that
same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. No word from the Archdiocese of
Boston. No word from the dioceses of Worcester, Fall River, and Springfield.
Roughly half of the voters in Massachusets are Catholic. But this bill
probably will never even come up for a vote. Do you wonder why?

New Atlantis



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I concur with Stanley and K Lo that the New Atlantis looks both smart and cool. The name is odd, though. Yes, yes, I’m aware that it invokes Francis Bacon’s fable. (The editors explain the name here.) But I wonder if most people will think it’s some kind of New Age thing, with articles on crystal power and consumer reviews of incense brands.

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