Should the State of Israel legalize gambling? Should it allow the proposed construction of casinos in Eilat? But the question should really be: By what right does the state prohibit gambling?
For some people, the state is the great purifier. If the state gives the order to expel a person from his home and destroy it, the act becomes ethical and one must carry out the order (for if not, “the roof will cave in on us and the state will be destroyed”). In other words, the state bestowed its seal of morality on the unethical order. This is also known as fascism.
If the state prohibits the use of cannabis, then it must surely be true that there is something very unethical about smoking it. If the state arrests and tortures minors and does not bring them to trial, then clearly those minors are sons of the devil himself. And it is a good thing that they are being tortured. And if they confessed as a result of the torture, it shows that we were right all along.
If the state organizes gambling and calls it the state lottery, then that is good gambling. But if a private individual organizes it, it’s bad gambling. If I peek into your bank account, I am a criminal. But if the state does it, that is perfectly fine.
French psychologist Jean Piaget took note of this phenomenon. During World War II, German movie theatres would show pictures from the concentration camps. The horrors plainly apparent on the screen did not convince the obedient German citizens that the state was perpetrating evil. Instead, they concluded that if the state was punishing the Jews so severely, they must certainly be monsters. That is what happens when the State becomes an ethical measuring stick, attempting to replace G-d.
Besides providing security and establishing a justice system (according to Maimonides), the role of the state is basically not to get in the way. Laws are not supposed to create culture. They are supposed to express it. It is the citizens who create culture. I believe that Jewish culture and authentic Jewish identity will only develop in Israel through absolute liberty, because liberty is one of our national values. It is in our collective “I.” Just like Michelangelo’s “David” was already in the rock. It was the liberty of the artist that revealed the iconic sculpture.
The state must not interfere in the private lives and values of its citizens – except in extreme cases when there is a clear consensus around a particular value.
There is such an “animal” that is called the values of the nation. There is a collective “I” somewhere there in the rock. A person who walks down the street with no clothing offends that “I,” who also has rights. It is fine to obligate a motorcyclist to wear a helmet (even though he endangers only himself by not wearing it) because the value of preservation of human life in our Land encompasses much more than any incidental majority that can legislate laws to balance various interests.
Even if we do not entertain the question of the influence of actions on others (let us assume that we can completely neutralize all the negative side effects of gambling), gambling is very bad from an ethical standpoint. All gambling is bad – the state lotteries are just the same as private gambling. But the question is if this is a value of the nation or my personal feeling.
If 80-85 percent of the community (in Eilat or any other place) opposes gambling, that is a critical mass that would enable them to prohibit gambling in their city. If we are not dealing with those numbers, the state does not have to allow gambling. It must simply not prohibit it.