Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Small Down-Spiral Slide?

A story this morning (New York Times, “Starved Budgets Inspire New Look at Web Gambling”) suggested a slide down the spiral of social senescence ahead. That story also illuminates the oft-repeated problem of unanticipated consequences. One consequence of faith-based tax-cutting (as one might label it) is budget collapse. But while the right hand wants tax cuts, the population shakes its left fist when states or cities curtail or stop services. In consequence “novel” or “innovative” ways of raising revenues appear as pressures build. Gambling and fees are contenders. The first is regressive—because the poor gamble more. The second is arbitrary; it taps sub-groups of the population using some facility or consuming some category of services or products in order to fund the whole.

I liked what one of our Detroit mayors said when trying to defeat a casino measure a few years back. He suggested that we should legalize prostitution too. It might turn out to be even more popular than gambling, he said. And not least with convention visitors, I might add. The mayor eventually caved, alas, but he’d made a good point.

Give us this day our daily bread…and deliver us from “innovation.”

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