I don’t follow sports directly; they don’t interest me much. I do follow sports indirectly though, because I follow politics. And anymore nothing is sacred. So government gets involved in that too. Everything’s been perverted by government involvement. I wrote some time ago about the prospect of a few states bucking the Feds and allowing sports gambling, among them was New Jersey, and the inevitable push-back is underway.
NBC Sports is reporting that a confederacy of professional sports leagues and the NCAA have filed suit against New Jersey, in attempt to prevent the people of the state from gambling there legally. This is a clear example of a concept that Frédéric Bastiat described in The Law, in which one group engineers the legal code for its own benefit.
They, of course, do it under the guise of protecting the sport, but their motive is irrelevant, given that their means relies on State violence to achieve their ends. It’s immoral to coerce non-violent individuals into behaving in one way or another, and coercion is at the heart of every government action.
Of course this confederacy is able to use the government because the law, in Bastiat’s words, has been “diverted from its true mission,” which is protecting property rights, and now “it may violate property instead of securing it.”
According to the report from NBC, “The federal government decided 20 years ago to slam the door on betting on pro and college sports.”
This assumes two (erroneous) assertions: The first being that the federal government ever had such authority; as I argued in the piece referenced above, they didn’t. Only a perverted interpretation of the commerce clause would suggest the Feds could tell two dudes in their living room that gambling on the outcome of a hockey game is illegal.
The second problem with the above argument is, more or less, who cares what the Feds decided 20 years ago? Gambling for many is a minor issue, so it’s often helpful to explain principles such as this one by using analogies in a more prominent area, say slavery.
Let’s pretend that it’s 1809 and we’re arguing over abolition. Some want to end slavery, others want to keep and expand it, and still others are neither here nor there on the issue. One guy says to the others, “Slavery is an evil institution that should be ended immediately.” Another says, “Yeah, but the federal government decided the issue 20 years ago.” The correct response would be: “Who cares what some guys did 20 years ago? They made the wrong choice and the sooner it’s rectified the better.”
The story’s author, Mike Florio, explains that because a sister organization of the legislature, which is approved by that same legislature, issued a decree upholding the ban on sports gambling, “this means that the issue already has been settled.”
Settled? No, far from it, at least as long as the pols in New Jersey, namely Chris Christie, hold fast on their challenge that “if someone wants to stop us, let them try to stop us.” Regardless of the official outcome of the case, Florio notes at the very end of his post that “[t]he NFL possibly will be surprised to learn that, yes, illegal gambling happens. In New Jersey (sic). And pretty much everywhere else.”
This is all to the good, for it means that individuals are done asking for permission to exercise their rights, and will do so with or without the approval of politicians and bureaucrats. The great Austrian economist, Ludwig von Mises, argued that even the best economic theories were worthless if the people rejected them, and the same is true for legal theories, as sports gambling shows us.