Morality and Professional Gamblers
An excellent cross-blog discussion about the morality and economics of professional gambling was launched by Greg Mankiw explaining at length why he is saddened by gambling. He is especially troubled by professional gamblers, who use their talents in a way he considers a drain on society.
Jacqueline Passey notes that good professional gamblers can make more money gambling than anything else and it’s just the market at work. Further, “gambling is distributive justice, moving money from stupid people to smart people (all voluntarily, too!).” Mankiw argues that professional gamblers are unjust on utilitarian and moralist grounds and is willing to ignore his libertarian impulses to so state. Unstated in his criticism is that Passey is misusing the philosophical term of art “distributive justice,” meaning the two are talking past one another.
Passey retorts that Mankiw’s utilitarian, moralist, and libertarian impulses seem to be crowding out the economist who understands markets.
Half Sigma agrees with Passey, laments that more money isn’t being tossed at super-smart folks, and proceeds to spend the weekend playing penny ante poker online, netting a whopping $19.88 for his efforts.
Tyler Cowen thinks it all depends on how much stupid people enjoy losing.
Comments on all the posts are worth a look, too.