Monday, January 22, 2007

Coming Soon: The American Democratic Revolution

From today's New York Times:
Illinois Is Putting Lottery on Block for Quick Payoff
The state of Illinois yesterday took the first steps in selling its state lottery system, hoping to attract as much as $10 billion from investors who, in return, would own a monopoly that could turn out to be the biggest jackpot yet.
The first thing that sprang to my mind was the pre-Revolutionary practice in France of the Fermiers. According to this convenient website, "The fermiƩrs paid a fixed sum of money every year to the King. It was then their responsibility to collect the taxes for their region - taxes on the tobacco, the salt, the materials that come and go from each city."

Needless to say, if you've paid a fixed sum for something from which you can derive variable income, your motivation is to squeeze every last nickel from your franchise.

Needless to say, this can be hard on the populace, when your authority is backed up by the state.

And pointedly, fermiers were among the significant causes of the revolt that became the French Revolution, and many of them ended up under the guillotine.

Lotteries are demonstrably a disproportionate tax on the less-well-educated, less-well-off members of society. That they are voluntary is no excuse. State involvement in gambling has always been papered over with false moral rebates like "it will be used for education" or other nonsense.

Now, Illinois is skipping past all the fake morality, and simply grabbing cash to pay its operating deficit while casually mortgaging its residents' future expenses.

It terrifies me that every possible measure of indebtedness in this country is rising, while every possible future income is being packaged and peddled. After we're done mortgaging our last remaining free cash flows and fully selling our souls to the false twin gods of excess consumption and no new taxes, maybe it will be time, again, for the American Democratic Revolution.

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