If Senator Bill Frist thought that the inclusion of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) into the Safe Port Act would play well to the conservative base, he may have miscalculated. Today's New York Times Opinion-Editorial page featured a lengthy piece by Charles Murray entitled, "The G.O.P.'s Bad Bet." Murray is a scholar at the conservative think tank, The American Enterprise Institute, and the author of the controversial book, The Bell Curve.
Murray points out that the UIGEA not only erodes the Republicans chances this fall, but also will damage American's respect for the rule of law. He points out that the bill catered to the few Americans that had an issue with online gaming without taking into account the millions they have now outraged; millions, he speculates, that are disproportionately Republicans and Reagan Democrats.
Murray compares the UIGEA with Prohibition and other current regulatory laws that are problematic to law abiding citizens and corporations, "not because they cut into profits, but because they are simply, stupid." He further argues that Americans are less inclined to obey stupid laws that are unenforceable and notes that in this respect, "the attempt to ban online gambling is exemplary." He notes that American's "reflexive loyalty" to the rule of law is one of our country's key assets and that it is irreparably damaged by laws like the UIGEA.
The American Institute is one of the most influential conservative think tanks, affecting a number of key public policy issues within the Bush administration. More than two dozen AEI alumni have served in a Bush administration policy posts or served on government commissions. So it is almost like harsh criticism from within when Murray summarizes the UIGEA by saying, "And so the federal government once again has acted in a way that will fail to achieve its objective while alienating large numbers of citizens who see themselves as having done nothing wrong."
The statement might be some what more surprising if Charles Murray didn't confess that he plays poker on four different internet sites. But in that respect he makes his case; he is just one more member of the conservative base who feels alienated and disillusioned by the new law.