‘No valid public purpose’

Advocates of limited government received encouraging news last month when Rep. Barney Frank, the Massachusetts Democrat who chairs the House Financial Services Committee, floated the idea of repealing a bogus Internet gambling ban passed by Congress last year.

The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act prohibits Americans from using personal checks, credit cards or electronic funds transfers to pay for wagers placed with Web-based casinos and sports books. The law effectively cut off the American market from offshore betting operations, but created exemptions for Internet wagers on horse racing and state lotteries while also allowing state-licensed casinos to offer games of chance on their Web sites.

The law was political pandering at its worst, created by Republicans who only wanted to fool conservative voters into believing their neighbors would no longer be able to play online poker from the comfort of their homes. In fact, its primary purpose was to prevent billions of American dollars from flowing overseas, thereby providing a measure of protection to the U.S. gaming industry.

No wonder Rep. Frank labeled the legislation “preposterous” and one of the “stupidest” ever passed.

“It has no valid public purpose in my judgment,” Rep. Frank said Wednesday. “It intrudes on people’s lives.

“One argument for it … was this activity adds nothing to the GDP. That’s a chilling principle; that if something doesn’t add to the gross domestic product, we can ban it. … I believe that people should be allowed to read and gamble and ride motorcycles and do a lot of things that other people might not want to let them do.”

Be still our beating hearts. A member of Congress who doesn’t want to play nanny? Someone who believes in giving Americans the freedom to make their own life choices? And a Democrat, no less?

Three cheers for Rep. Frank. Now, if only 300 more members of Congress shared his line of thinking on this issue …

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