Bryan Caplan  

Levitt Libertarians?

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Steve Levitt assures us:

In general I am not much of a libertarian...

But then he holds government policies up to a standard many can't meet:
...but our government’s policy towards gambling is completely idiotic and rife with internal contradictions. (Case in point: A state run lottery that pays out fifty cents on the dollar is okay, but U.S. casinos are prohibited from being involved in internet gambling sites).

My question: If everyone favored the abolition of all policies that are "completely idiotic" and "rife with internal contradictions," what would be left? Think about trade policy, prohibition of marijuana, or our massive transfers to the non-poor elderly. Levitt may think he's not much of a libertarian, but a world of "Levitt libertarians" who eschew idiocy and contradiction would be a huge step in a libertarian direction.


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COMMENTS (5 to date)
Robert Book writes:

"Completely idiotic" and "rife with internal contradictions" are not the same thing. For example, subsidizing art created for the purpose of being offensive to certain religious groups is idiotic, but not contradictory. And taxing everyone to support national defense, and using that money to defend the freedom of speech pacifists and supporters of "the other side" is contradictory, but in my opinion not idiotic.

Having said that, the example of gambling law is spot-on. To put it even more starkly, private gambling is illegal ostensibly because it's immoral, but state-run gambling is OK because it raises money. Clearly, to resolve the contradiction we have to either allow all private gambling (at published odds, etc.), or ban state lotteries. The current system makes sense only as a tax on people who are bad at math. ;-)

Fabio Rojas writes:

I wouldn't put a whole lot of stock in that comment. Levitt intentionally avoids ideological debates as a matter of course. It's part of his persona - he likes to be the "I'm just relating the facts" kind of guy.

Tyler Cowen writes:

Danke, mein Freund! Du sollst das gleiche ueber mich schreiben.

SheetWise writes:

The laws on gaming, just as the laws on gifting, are extensions of progressivity in the tax code. If they weren't forbidden or heavily taxed -- an average person could distribute their gains and losses to favor their tax liability. Currently, only above average people can employ such strategies.

The unintended consequences of envy, as it's reflected in tax code and law is really quite extensive and remarkable.

Floccina writes:

He is not much of a libertarian but he has studied economic behavior.

Politicians seem to despise economics and economists.

Nuff said

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