Monday, May 05, 2003

Here's Michael Kinsley from Slate taking a large piece out of Bill Bennett, a well-known very moral "paleocon"--a conservative who is more devoted to traditional social ways than to the free market, national defense, and civil liberties, and who is definitely not a libertarian, as we are here. Bennett is best known for being Dan Quayle's intellectual advisor and for writing several books on virtue; I believe he was drug czar for a while but I'm not sure.

Well, it seems that Mr. Bennett is a problem gambler and has gone through millions of dollars. The guy is clearly a ludopath, which is just another psychological addiction--it's not physical, like alcohol or nicotine or opiates or caffeine. It's more among the lines of, say, porno addiction; there are people who rent six pornos a day and spend ten straight hours...well, you get the picture. If you don't believe me, check out True Porn Clerk Stories (absolutely hilarious; unfortunately Ali, the writer, is out of the porn business now and there will be no further entries. The link is down near the bottom of the blogroll on the left). Well, Bill Bennett is the moral equivalent of that guy in the dirty raincoat with the sticky hands. His addiction doesn't make him a bad person, but it does make him unfit to cast moral aspersions on anyone else who has any kind of addiction, or who commits any other sort of pleasurable sin.

I don't expect people to be perfect. I sure am not. But I do expect people who advise other people on morality to be, well, moral, unlike Bill Bennett, whose gambling problem would long since have destroyed his family and his life if he were a regular working-class Joe.

Here's a comparison with what I would consider reasonable betting for a rich guy. Michael Jordan is well-known as an excellent golfer, and he likes to play for money. He'll apparently bet his opponents on not only the complete 18 holes, but on every single hole, even every stroke. He'll bet as much as fifty thousand bucks on a golf game.

Well, first, as far as I know, Mr. Jordan doesn't do a lot of betting on anything else but golf. Second, Mr. Jordan is betting on his own ability and skill at golf (and his exceptional physical coordination, and his famous intelligence) rather than on the roll of the dice or the draw of the cards. He probably wins half the time anyway, so he more or less breaks even. You don't more or less break even betting at the casino. Third, even if Mr. Jordan loses every single golf game he plays, and if he plays for big money once a week 50 weeks out of the year, that's a maximum of $2.5 million a year he can lose. At that rate he'll be broke in a hundred and forty years or so.

By the way, does anybody else out there think Michael Kinsley is a snide little weasel most of the time?

UPDATE: Here's a Jonathan Last column from the Weekly Standard saying that Bennett's gambling is no big deal. Yeah, it is, since ol' Bill spent so much time telling us mortals how to act. Last says that Michael Jordan does bet big money in casinos, so he very well may really be a ludopath, too, contradicting what I wrote above.

This, by the way, is one of the many clues that the Iraq war story is over. If there were anything the public were greatly interested in about Iraq anymore, we'd be hearing about it. Instead Bill Bennett's gambling addiction becomes the subject of the day. So I'm linking to another Weekly Standard story by a reporter embedded with the Third Infantry in Baghdad on how things are going over there; this article says they're going very well and that a lot of the negative news coverage is biased reporting. I bet our diet of Iraq stories gets reduced to just a couple a week starting about now, barring some unforeseeable disaster.

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