Friday, July 30, 2010

The Price Elasticity of Demand for Public Morals, Redux

. Friday, July 30, 2010

A while ago I wrote a series of posts discussing what I called "the price elasticity of demand for public morals". The upshot of those posts was that society has different moral preferences at high levels of development (or when economic times are good) than at lower levels of development (or when economic times are bad). Here's another data point:

On Wednesday, the House Financial Services Committee approved a bill that would effectively legalize online poker and other nonsports betting, overturning a 2006 federal ban that critics say merely drove Web-based casinos offshore.

The bill would direct the Treasury Department to license and regulate Internet gambling operations, while a companion measure, pending before another committee, would allow the Internal Revenue Service to tax such businesses. Winnings by individuals would also be taxed, as regular gambling winnings are now. The taxes could yield as much as $42 billion for the government over 10 years, supporters said.


The implication from my previous posts was that we should be more careful when making "moral" arguments about public policy, since they usually have no true grounding in morality, and more explicitly examine costs, benefits, and tradeoffs in a pragmatic way. That may involve asking some uncomfortable questions, but it could allow us to frame policy disagreements in the appropriate way.

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The Price Elasticity of Demand for Public Morals, Redux
 
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