Dear Rick Santorum: Get your hands off my slot machine

Posted by: Phineas on February 17, 2012 at 1:01 pm

**Posted by Phineas

Sigh. There are just no limited-government conservatives left in this race, are there? We all know about Mitt Romney and the indefensible individual mandate in RomneyCare. So, fine, we’ll just vote for the true conservative in the race, the man who savagely and effectively attacked Romney’s legacy, Rick Santorum, right? Right?

Ehh… Not so fast.

From an interview with Nevada journalist Jon Ralston, per Jim Geraghty:

I’m someone who takes the opinion that gaming is not something that is beneficial, particularly having that access on the Internet. Just as we’ve seen from a lot of other things that are vices on the Internet, they end to grow exponentially as a result of that. It’s one thing to come to Las Vegas and do gaming and participate in the shows and that kind of thing as entertainment, it’s another thing to sit in your home and have access to that it. I think it would be dangerous to our country to have that type of access to gaming on the Internet.

Freedom’s not absolute. What rights in the Constitution are absolute? There is no right to absolute freedom. There are limitations. You might want to say the same thing about a whole variety of other things that are on the Internet — “let everybody have it, let everybody do it.” No. There are certain things that actually do cost people a lot of money, cost them their lives, cost them their fortunes that we shouldn’t have and make available, to make it that easy to do. That’s why we regulate gambling. You have a big commission here that regulates gambling, for a reason.

I opposed gaming in Pennsylvania . . . A lot of people obviously don’t responsibly gamble and lose a lot and end up in not so great economic straits as a result of that. I believe there should be limitations.

Now, in one sense, Nanny Senator Santorum is right: freedom isn’t absolute. We have freedom of speech, but we cannot yell “fire!” in a crowded theater. We have freedom of religious practice, but no one advocates allowing human sacrifice as part of the service. (I hope.) Individual liberty generally meets its bounds where it endangers public safety or impinges on the rights of another. (1)

There are indeed limits.

But that’s not what Santorum is talking about here. He’s speaking in terms of a more moderate social cost (e.g., the damage done to a family by a gambling addiction) or simply the harm it might do to the individual person. And there’s the problem. As Allahpundit puts it:

You could swap in “drinking” for “gambling” there and have a rough argument for banning alcohol consumption in homes. (If you’re free to indulge in private, who’ll stop you from going overboard?) If you nominate Santorum, you’re getting a guy who’s more willing to try to save people from themselves than the average “personal responsibility” conservative, which means you’d better prepare for occasional moral tutelage from the presidential podium and maybe some new morals regulations if he can cobble together a congressional majority for it.

And for gambling or drinking, one could substitute all sorts private activities. Like to smoke? Want to order pipe tobacco or cigars from that great shop across the country? Hey, that stuff’s bad for you, bud! Want to watch an “adult” movie on late-night cable? President Santorum doesn’t think that’s “beneficial,” so he’s going to push Congress to regulate it.

Or what about credit card debt? Yes, there’s a real problem with people who wreck their finances abusing credit, but is it the government’s responsibility to protect us from ourselves? Would a President Santorum seek to limit us all to certain debt-to-income ratios? Do we get a “conservative” version of Dodd-Frank?

I’ll confess, it’s getting harder and harder to see much of an effective difference between the progressive liberal, Obama, and Rick Santorum, the self-proclaimed progressive conservative. Nannying is nannying, and statism is statism.

So, what does this mean for the election and how I’ll vote? I’ve said before that I’ll vote for any of the three serious potential Republican nominees over Obama, because I think any of them would be better than a second Obama term. But Santorum is making it much harder for me to be comfortable voting for him. If it is none of government’s business what health insurance I carry, neither is it their business if I choose to play some online poker — or a lot of online poker.

I’ve said before that I’ve decided to concentrate more on electing as conservative a Congress as possible (2) to rein in the big-government urges of whichever person is elected president. But this latest from Santorum has me thinking Romney would be the best choice for limited government conservatives.

Wait! I can explain! Put down the baseball bat!

Look at it this way: I’m convinced Mitt Romney has few set-in-stone principles and is more of a pragmatic problem-solver,willing to do what it takes to get the job done. In electoral races, that means he… “adjusts” his positions to fit what his target audience wants. In office, it means he works with whatever faction dominates the legislature to produce an accomplishment. In the end, this is a guy whose overriding urge is to be seen as successful. he is a tree that bends whichever way the prevailing wind blows.

Thus I’ve come to think that a President Romney would be open to the goals of limited government conservatism if he were faced with a Congress dominated by strong limited government, Tea Party factions in both chambers pressuring him from the Right. And he would be open to this influence in a way that a strongly principled social nanny-stater like Rick Santorum would never be.

Yep. It’s a “lesser of two evils” choice. Fun, eh?

Footnotes:
(1) Another illustration of why I’ll never be a “Big L” libertarian; the ones I’ve met tend to take annoyingly absolutist positions.
(2) Want to help California “right” it’s ship of state? Check out Elizabeth Emken, who’s running for the nomination to face Senator Feinstein in November.

PS: When you think about it, Rick Santorum has something in common with Melinda Henneberger.

RELATED: More from Bruce McQuain at The Conservatory. A rebuttal at Protein Wisdom.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

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14 Responses to “Dear Rick Santorum: Get your hands off my slot machine”

Comments

  1. Xrlq says:

    The state individual mandate is very defensible. What’s not defensible is having any other mandates without it. The only reason to single out the *federal* individual mandate is purely strategic. It’s not the worst part of ObamaCare, just the most constitutionally vulnerable.

    Between this, the bridge to nowhere, Newt’s flip-flopping at a pace that would make Romney blush and his absolute disdain for the separation of powers and Paul’s all-round insanity, I’m reluctantly coming to think that Romney isn’t just the only candidate who has a chance of beating Obama, but the only one that would actually be an improvement if he did.

  2. Wayne says:

    “There are just no limited-government conservatives left in this race, are there?” Except Ron Paul, the consistently limited-government candidate for the last 20 years or so.. Yeah… that “crazy” Uncle Ron, champion of freedom. Thanks for once again confirming that this little blog is as bias against Dr. Paul as the rest of MSM.

  3. EBL says:

    Rick Santorum needs to make friends with libertarians and small government folks. This is not good, not good at all…

  4. Neo says:

    The major reason for Prohibition wasn’t merely the alcohol, it was sold as a solution to men blowing the Friday paychecks on drink and gambling, leaving their families destitute for the rest of the week.

    When there is a breakdown in personal responsibility, the door opens for idiotic solutions from both the Left and the Right.

  5. Carlos says:

    One of Rick’s warts. Fortunately, that’s why there’s a trilateral government with (supposedly) equal balance, to keep individuals (whether the name is FDR, Obama, Carter or Santorum) from jamming personal preferences on an uncomfortable public.

    I hardly think the majority of the 535 legislator agree with this, and I know it would have tremendous opposition from the courts.

    So, in the final analysis, it’s really a non-issue.

  6. Phineas says:

    Wayne,

    I don’t speak for this blog as a whole, just me. ST has her own opinions of candidates. But, as for being biased against Congressman Paul, you’re right; I am. After years of seeing him in he media, watching him run for president, hearing him in debates, I’m convinced he’s a fruitcake with extra nuts that’s only right at times in the way a broken clock is. His foreign policy is leftist-isolationist, his blame America first attitudes are nauseating, he’s utterly ignorant regarding the nature of the jihad against us, and his obsession with the gold standard is nonsensical. And then there’s the whole newsletter fiasco, which showed either a) he’s a conspiracy-mongering racist who really believed the garbage he published; b) he’s a cynical manipulator who exploited racist conspiracy-mongers in his audience for subscription fees; or c) he really didn’t know what was being published in a small-business newsletter, which means he’s mindbogglingly incompetent. Take your choice, they all mean he’s unworthy of the presidency.

    So, yeah, I don’t regard him as a serious candidate.

  7. Carlos says:

    @Wayne: Yeah, generally this blog is biased against Paul, and for the reasons stated by Phineas.

    There is a reason his followers are called “Ronulans,” and I can assure you it has no relationship to his credibility.

    Libertarianism is like socialism. As long as one does not consider reality or human nature they both sound wonderful in theory. Unfortunately, reality has a way of making both really ugly, especially for those of us who want to not only take responsibility for our own actions but demand others do, too.

  8. To add to Neo’s take, Prohibition was also passed to preserve the world’s supply of graing to alleviate hunger elsewhere; it also gave us the Mafia. So much for government solutions.

  9. Carlos says:

    Naw, the Mafia has been around pretty much from the first Italian immigrants, Drew. That’s because they specialize in alleviating perceived pain through means not allowed by whatever government(s) is/are in charge – with drugs, booze, prostitution, numbers, even the protection racket.

    And not just the Mafia. Most cultures have a similar social phenomenon. It’s human nature. (And one of the things liberals can’t understand – there really are bad people in the world.)

  10. Neo says:

    Also, keep in mind that Rick Santorum was referring to gaming in Pennsylvania. Except for some slots in private clubs, all legal gaming in Pennsylvania is either run by the state (i.e. lottery) or regulated to death by the state. Bottom line, legal gaming as constructed in Pennsylvania is for the purpose of raising revenue.
    Pennsylvania now has casinos in old steel mills and along the river fronts of multiple cities. Frankly, it’s too much. Atlantic City is now hurting, and I really don’t see all of these casinos surviving.

  11. Carlos says:

    Heck, Nevada has traditionally been the mecca for gambling, but here in Oregon ya can’t go into a grocery store without gambling of some form or another staring ya in the face. Getting to be the same with restaurants, too, except fast food, but I trust the state will see the wisdom in showing kids how to become addicts and move in on them, too.

  12. Kate says:

    I agree Neo…this whole gambling in PA to make revenue is very shortsighted with states competing with each other the a slice of the action. In a bad economy as this, it plays on the weak who think they can get rich quick by gambling their precious resources at the tablets/slots. ‘

    Millions of dollars are spent to advertise the state’s own lottery leaving precious few dollars going in the direction of the senior citizens they claim to support in the way of PACE (prescriptions) transportation and real estate tax subsidies. I have even received COUPONS for lottery tickets in the mail. I have never bought any of those scratch and win/lose tickets. Waste of money!!!

    All in all, Ron Paul has more issues than some care to admit. He should remain where he is where his effect can be felt. As a presidential candidate running against Obama – I can just imagine some of the cheap shots unloaded in his direction.

    Rick Santorum is being torn to pieces by his own….shudder! What’s this world coming to?

    Newt Gingrich – smart fellow that he is – cant’ get around the fact that he had to make deals in DC with the Clinton administration (which is the way laws are passed in Congress).

    So Romney is the “last man standing”??? I am sorry…the Mormon thing is just too big a hurdle for me, as I have had some very negative personal experience with members of that order.

    So what’s a Republican to do? Any ideas…I had to hold my nose and vote for McCain last time…not again?