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Is it moral to run a gambling house?

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I buy lottery tickets from time to time. I know its not likely that I'll win, but I do like the little thrill of thinking, "what if?".

I love blackjack, though I don't play very often or well, I usually break even or better.

I hate games of pure random chance.

But I don't see why operating a game of chance where the odds are against you would be immoral so long as you didn't misrepresent the odds. People like the 'what if'.

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But I don't see why operating a game of chance where the odds are against you would be immoral so long as you didn't misrepresent the odds.
How about selling cocaine or heroine (assuming you're up-front about what you are selling and it's clean product)? We presumably agree that drug addiction is immoral, even though you are not harming others (thus morality is not just "involuntarily harming others"). Is there an ethical principle whereby helping others to self-destruct is a virtue? If so, I don't know what that principle is. I'm suggesting that we ought to raise the ante on this question -- what makes it be a virtue to depend on the voluntary irrationality of others, as your means of survival?
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what makes it be a virtue to depend on the voluntary irrationality of others, as your means of survival?

If there were an ethical principle along these lines, it would mean that if I own a McDonald's and I have a customer who eats breakfast, lunch, and dinner there every day, then I should reject his orders, because he is being volutarily irrational.

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If there were an ethical principle along these lines, it would mean that if I own a McDonald's and I have a customer who eats breakfast, lunch, and dinner there every day, then I should reject his orders, because he is being volutarily irrational.

In general, yes. If someone is stupid enough to kill himself with a diet consisting only of greasy hamburgers, then catering to that persons irrational urges is not a particularly ethical way to make a living. Just like in the case of a liqour store owner, that sells booze to an alcoholic.

Edited by JJJJ
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If there were an ethical principle along these lines, it would mean that if I own a McDonald's and I have a customer who eats breakfast, lunch, and dinner there every day, then I should reject his orders, because he is being volutarily irrational.
That's no help, since you have an ethical principle, and surely you don't want to devolve to ethical nihilism. What is the virtue to be pursued in selling heroin and cocaine? Surely you have to say that there is one, so I'm asking what it is.
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That's no help, since you have an ethical principle, and surely you don't want to devolve to ethical nihilism. What is the virtue to be pursued in selling heroin and cocaine? Surely you have to say that there is one, so I'm asking what it is.

You said, "Is there an ethical principle whereby helping others to self-destruct is a virtue?" My supposition is that the answer to this question is no, and that, as in all ethical matters, the moral action is contextual. A blanket principle against helping others to self-destruct would encompass virtually the entire field of voluntary business transactions, as illustrated by the McDonald's example, and can be illustrated with countless other examples. I would not pursue a life of drug dealing. I would, on the other hand, open a McDonald's and sell as much food to as many people as I can without thinking twice; I would sell 100 shares of stock that I own to an individual who thinks it is worth twice what it actually is worth. In the latter cases, the transactions are self-destructive to the opposite party but are ethically sound.

My thoughts on this are not entirely concrete, but I submit that there is a difference between the latter cases and drug dealing. Moreover, that there is not an ethical principle stating one cannot help others to self-destruct. I am on the fence as to where running a gambling house sits between drug-dealing and operating a McDonalds. That is about as much as I can contribute to the discussion at this particular time.

Edited by adrock3215
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My thoughts on this are not entirely concrete, but I submit that there is a difference between the latter cases and drug dealing.

Yes, an emotional difference. Nothing else. However, eating hamburgers every now and then is in no way immoral, just like drinking the odd alcoholic beverage. Pot would possibly also fall under this category. However, i find it hard to fathom a situation where cocaine or heroin can be consumed in a moral fashion.

So, owning a McDonalds is all fine, as there is nothing immoral about eating the odd hamburger and fries every now and then. But there is a difference, when your whole diet consists of hamburgers and fries. Therefore, if you own a McD, you shouldnt actively be trying to campaign your products to overweight people with low self-esteem and low strength of will. That is not a rational way to make a living. Of course its not worth it to you to start spying on your customers to get to know whether they are acting morally or immorally, so obviously you are bound to sell loads of hamburgers to immoral people, but in general the principle holds, that it is not rational, nor moral, to make a living based on the irrational urges of your anti-life customers.

Just like a religious preacher is acting immorally when he is preaching falsehoods to "willing" customers.

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I've sold weed from time to time (though I rarely smoke it). I've never thought of it as immoral, maybe just a little shady because of the chances of running afoul of the law. What's the general consensus here on the morality of that? I think of it little differently then bootleggers selling booze during prohibition.

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I've sold weed from time to time (though I rarely smoke it). I've never thought of it as immoral, maybe just a little shady because of the chances of running afoul of the law. What's the general consensus here on the morality of that?

I would submit that it is immoral because due to its current illegal status the only way to enforce contracts and disputes is by a gun.

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You said, "Is there an ethical principle whereby helping others to self-destruct is a virtue?" My supposition is that the answer to this question is no, and that, as in all ethical matters, the moral action is contextual.
Objectivism is not opposed to principles, in case that is what you were thinking. Thus Objectivism does not oppose acting morally, just because what is moral versus immoral is determined with reference to some context. In asking you whether you think that there is an ethical principle whereby helping others to self-destruct is a virtue, I am asking whether you think there is some context which is describable in objective conceptual terms, that would lead you to say "helping a person self-destruct is a virtue when this is a fact of reality". This is not an issue that I have definitively resolved, myself, but I am strongly inclined to say that it is not ever a virtue to help a person self-destruct. (I'm excluding from the discussion people who assist with suicide, where the choice to not exist has been made). Since in fact all actions are virtuous or vicious, then I could take your position as agreeing with me, that it is not ever virtuous to enable self-destruction, which means that it is immoral. But perhaps that wasn't your intention. Thus I seek clarification.
I would not pursue a life of drug dealing. I would, on the other hand, open a McDonald's and sell as much food to as many people as I can without thinking twice
I accept that as a statement of your feelings; the question is, did you come to that conclusion by reason, or was that choice based purely on emotion?
My thoughts on this are not entirely concrete, but I submit that there is a difference between the latter cases and drug dealing. Moreover, that there is not an ethical principle stating one cannot help others to self-destruct. I am on the fence as to where running a gambling house sits between drug-dealing and operating a McDonalds.
I understand that. I'm urging fence-dismounting. I also urge you to resist the allure of legality: assume that there are no laws prohibiting drug dealing or hamburger-dealing. Invoking improper laws easily leads to accepting the libertarian atrocity of equating morality and initiation of force. If you don't have moral principles, you're stuck never being able to rationally decide whether selling drugs is evil or virtuous. On what basis can you decide that it's virtuous to sell pepperoni pizza?? AKA heart-attack pie (omg I gotta get me one now!).

I think JJJJJJJJJ's answer goes in the right direction. A constant Macdiet is probably not rational for most people, but it is almost surely harmless on an occasional basis for virtually everyone. Therefore, on the assumption that people will act rationally and that eating at the golden arches is not an inherent and undeniable sign of irrationality, running a burger joint can be a trade of rational values. Heroin, by its nature, is radically different, meaning that necessarily, a heroin-dealer has no rational customers, and the pusher is not engaged in trade of rational values. As for the lotto dealer, it seems to me that the matter comes down to the question of whether buying a lottery ticket is a rational way to gain value. With a game of skill, the answer is clear. With lotteries, I think the answer is also clear, the other direction. The financial reward is not a recognition of "ability" (compare that to a salary or winning a bet based on knowledge); it's like Russian Roulette with one cylinder having a pot of money rather than a bullet. Of course it would be pleasant to have 10 million dollars, but in deciding to throw away $5 that I actually earned on the arbitrary and negligible "possibility" that I might get a megabuck back, I'm acting irrationally. Even one $5 ticket -- we don't need to look into the addictive ticket-buying problem where people actually do serious and immediate self-harm by spending all of their money on "a chance".

I conclude that since there are no rational lottery ticker buyers, selling lottery tickets is this week's Root of All Evil. OTOH, perhaps I'm being too harsh on heroin and lottery-ticker purchasers, and maybe there is some rational value that they are pursuing which I am just not aware of.

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I don't know about heroin, but lottery tickets do pay-off every once in a while--I had a great-aunt and uncle(now deceased) who won about ten million about ten years ago or so. There was definitely value in that investment of a few bucks. Don't take this to mean I buy regularly buy lottery tickets, I don't because I know it's such a "long-shot", but every once in the while I give a scratch-off ticket or two knowing it is at least possible to win.

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Objectivism is not opposed to principles, in case that is what you were thinking. Thus Objectivism does not oppose acting morally, just because what is moral versus immoral is determined with reference to some context. In asking you whether you think that there is an ethical principle whereby helping others to self-destruct is a virtue, I am asking whether you think there is some context which is describable in objective conceptual terms, that would lead you to say "helping a person self-destruct is a virtue when this is a fact of reality".

I suppose that the principle applicable here is that it is, in any form, unethical to evade reality. A corollary principle would be the unethical nature of helping another being with such an evasion. Since the goal of drugs inexorably has to be the evasion of objective reality on a ontological and epistemic level, then a solid conclusion would be to restrict oneself from selling drugs, i.e. selling the tools that enable another man to evade reality.

You are not directly aiding an individual in an evasion of reality by selling him a burger, or by selling him a stock which is priced too high. He has used his own judgement of the facts (as known to him at least) to come to his conclusions, and therefore such a transaction is proper and morally permissible. On the other hand, a drug dealer does not deal in the judgement of facts; by the very nature of his product he deals in the willingness to escape the necessity of all judgement of fact.

As for your "is it a virtue to help a person self-destruct" question, my inclination at this point is that it depends. "Self-destruct" is such a broad concept that one can classify almost anything underneath it. I believe you and I are probably going in the same direction on the issue in trying to define a proper and objective clarification using reason. I just think that a principle as broad as the one you have stated is misplaced; my suspicion is that it needs to be narrowed further. I think that there is an amalgamation of way too many different issues going on here, of which I myself am partially responsible for, i.e. lottery, McD's, stocks, gambling, drug-dealing, etc. There should be a distinct line such as illustrated above, seperating those who wish to deal with a man's rational judgement of reality from those who wish to deal with no judgements at all. Since the latter is merely a derivative of evasion, I suppose the morality of it may be more clear than I previously thought.

Edited by adrock3215
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There was definitely value in that investment of a few bucks.

Still, at the time she made the decision to buy the ticket, she did not act rationally if the reason she bought the ticket was to win. The fact that she got something of value by doing this act(buying the ticket) does not mean that she herself ACHIEVED a value. Just like if someone OD's from heroin, and gets taken to a hospital, where by luck the doctors happen to find a tumor in you lung, that would not have been operable if it had been caught a month later. This does not mean that the guy acted in a way consistant with discovering that he had cancer in time, when he injected himself with drugs. He did NOT achieve anything by taking heroin, despite the fact that by getting lucky it had a positive result this one time.

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You can't make a rational choice by focusing on exceptions, unless your purpose involves exceptions.

As regards gambling, most people see it as a form of amusement that costs money. Some can get a thrill, or have a good time, with little money, for others it requires more. But I'd say 95% of all people who gamble do so responsibly. that is, they spend what they can afford to spend, and thus are acting rationally.

To be sure there are those for whom gambling is an addiction. either they don't care how much they loose, and thus loose much more than they can afford, or they convince themselves that oe more bet will even things out, or lead them to the big score, etc. Such people gamble irrationally and need psychological help. They can all too easily ruin their lives and the lives of their families.

But how responsible is the casino owner for the minority of problematic gamblers?

In Vegas most casinos have "responsible gaming" pamphlets. In the Excalibur they even have one explaining odds, the house advantage, and telling people how much they can expect to loose. Is that enough? Is it a moral responsibility for the owner to provide such infomration? Should owners bar known gambling addicts? Should they perhaps not offer cash-back points and comps for playing slots and table games (because there are "free-stuff" addicts, too, who can spend a fortune to get a small discount)?

I don't see anything immoral in gambling for amusement, as long as it's done responsibly.

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As regards gambling, most people see it as a form of amusement that costs money. Some can get a thrill, or have a good time, with little money, for others it requires more....

I don't see anything immoral in gambling for amusement, as long as it's done responsibly.

My objection to that line of thought is that the house rests on a foundation of hedonism. People may well actually be amused or thrilled, just as heroin makes some people "feel good". But should it? That's an empirical question. So I wrote a program to simulate the pick-3 lottery in Ohio, and had it buy me 50,000 tickets. I ended up losing $24,000. I guess I should try harder. Okay, with a half a million tries, I ended up losing about a quarter million dollars. We are not amused. Thank god it was all computer simulation.
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My objection to that line of thought is that the house rests on a foundation of hedonism.

Pleasure, not hedonism. Hedonism is a philosophical system.

People may well actually be amused or thrilled, just as heroin makes some people "feel good". But should it?

People are amused or thrilled by riding rollercoasters, thrill rides, motion simulators, bungee jumping, parachute jumping, and other activities. These things make them feel good. Should they? Of course they should. Rollercoasters are fun!

The difference between most of these activities and gambling is the money. You can play for no money, that's legal in all fifty states and most countries. Of course, most people will find such play insipid.

That's an empirical question. So I wrote a program to simulate the pick-3 lottery in Ohio, and had it buy me 50,000 tickets. I ended up losing $24,000. I guess I should try harder. Okay, with a half a million tries, I ended up losing about a quarter million dollars. We are not amused. Thank god it was all computer simulation.

As gambling goes lotteries offer the absolute worst odds of any game, with the possible exception of Keno. Keno's odds are so bad, that when someone once "won" it by hacking the casino's computers there was instant suspicion. Why? Because someone actually won. The reason lotteries sometimes produce winners is that millions of people play them. Here's the breakdown:

A lotto with 50 numbers of which you have to hit 6 has the following odds:

1 in (50x49x48x47x46x45)/6!

Or 1 in 15,890,700 (that's one ticket in all the possible numerical combination under such rules)

That's a chance so small it's ridiculous to consider. Lotteries sometimes pay off the jackpot only because millions of people play. Say altogether 8 million different combinations are sold each week. That gives an approximate 50/50 chance that the eventual winning combo has been sold. The only way to win at lotto is to buy all possible combinations. If you do that, you already own millions of dollars and don't need to win the lottery, plus it's likely the payoff, after taxes, will be smaller than the investment. That's the lottery version of a house advantage.

If you know the odds and still play you're either a fool (if you expect to win) or easily amused (if watching the drawing thrills or otherwise amuses you; it never amused me). Or you favor financing the state through such means, which is what all lotteries do accomplish.

As far as I know no lottery, state or otherwise, advertises its low odds. Even winning a minor prize, like 10 times the ticket price, is a low odd event. Even so, if lotteries did post the odds for every prize, I'd say it is moral since it offers no more than it can deliver.

But every casino game offers far more favorable odds. Better yet, some games require skill, which keeps you actively engaged in the game rather than a passive spectator. I enjoyed blackjack when I tried it, even if I didn't win (I never lost much, so given the house advantage I judge I did well).

So, if you don't like gambling, then don't gamble. If you think you may become addicted to it, then for your own sake don't ever gamble. Meanwhile leave the rest of us alone to enjoy some harmless, if pricey, thrills.

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Pleasure, not hedonism. Hedonism is a philosophical system.
I was refering to the fact that when you propose that people experience pleasure from gambling (which makes it okay I guess), you're implying that hedonic pleasure is, in and of itself, a valid goal. This is distinct from the specific Greek philosophy that puts pleasure-maximization at the top of the hierarchy of goals. We could call the philosophy "weak hedonism", namely accepting "having pleasurable experiences" as a goal of rational men.
So, if you don't like gambling, then don't gamble. If you think you may become addicted to it, then for your own sake don't ever gamble. Meanwhile leave the rest of us alone to enjoy some harmless, if pricey, thrills.
Why? If you're being immoral, why should you escape evaluation? (Or, if you're being moral, why should you escape evaluation?). I understand why you might not want someone to publically condemn you as worthless slime for being an irrational evader, so I don't do that, but there is a real fundamental moral question here, namely whether mindless thrill-seeking is a virtue. If you can at least grasp the fact that playing the lottery is either a vice or it is a virtue, then it follows that it should be possible to objectively determine if someone is acting virtuously or viciously.

Also, please note that such condemnation as I've got for gambling is reserved for the pure-chance unskilled games. You yourself don't seem to be a huge fan of the mindlessness of the lotto "thrill" which requires no ability on the part of the player.

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namely accepting "having pleasurable experiences" as a goal of rational men.

Then should it be the goal of rational men not to have pleasurable experiences?

Gambling is a pleasurable experience, yes. As are movies, books, a good meal, riding a rollercoaster, etc, etc. I see no reason to avoid such diversions.

but there is a real fundamental moral question here, namely whether mindless thrill-seeking is a virtue.

What's mindless about enjoying thrills?

Rollercoasters are fun because, for all the trhills, they are very safe. If there was a chance of loosing one's life on a coaster there wouldn't be such long lines of people trying to ride them.

Likewsie gambling is safe, if you are responsible. You set a limit on how much you'll spend, which should be an amount you can afford, and you stop when the money runs out. I see nothing irrational about it.

If you can at least grasp the fact that playing the lottery is either a vice or it is a virtue,

It depends on why and for how much.

then it follows that it should be possible to objectively determine if someone is acting virtuously or viciously.

Yes, of course.

Also, please note that such condemnation as I've got for gambling is reserved for the pure-chance unskilled games.

I fail to see that any condemnation is necesary. Sure, there are those who arrange their life around games of chance. That's contemptible. But enjoying a game of chance, if you enjoy such things, is no worse than any other sort of diversion.

You yourself don't seem to be a huge fan of the mindlessness of the lotto "thrill" which requires no ability on the part of the player.

No. I dind't even look into the Keno parlors in vegas. I played mostly video poker (at 25 cents max) and blackjack. If you're interested, I played rather slowly, taking my time, and I found both games to be very relaxing, even though I did concentrate on blackjack to try to do well. I think it's much like swiming or sight-seeing. it tkaes an effort, sometimes a substantial one, but it is far enough removed from my common activities to be relaxing. And relaxation is one purpose of a vacation.

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Then should it be the goal of rational men not to have pleasurable experiences?
Not at all. It should be the goal of rational men to do productive things that actually enhance their lives, and derive happiness from that. The point is not to avoid pleasure, but to derive pleasure from the accomplishment of rational values. You haven't explained how throwing your money down the toilet is a rational goal.
It depends on why and for how much.
I think you've established your position on "why" -- just in case you get a thrill out of it. Presumably, the greater the thrill, the higher the limit. Since I get no buzz from destruction of value, I presumably shouldn't throw away very much because the destruction of value doesn't give me much of a thrill. For a person who gets a big thrill out of the destruction of value, it would seem to me that if you presume that thrill-seeking is an intrinsically good choice, you should raise the stakes to, say, 30% of your wealth. Possibly more; did you have some objective criterion in mind?
I fail to see that any condemnation is necesary
It may not be. If you cannot at least silently condemn such depravity, then you're skating on the thin ice of evasion. Whether you will publically articulate that condemnation depends on your position on honesty and the level of irrationality of the person in question, inter alios, so of course you might find yourself holding your trap for pragmatic reasons. Since I don't have such pragmatic constraints (nobody of value to me engages in such irrational destruction of value), I fewer emotional limits on recognizing reality. YMMV.
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Not at all. It should be the goal of rational men to do productive things that actually enhance their lives, and derive happiness from that. The point is not to avoid pleasure, but to derive pleasure from the accomplishment of rational values.

And that should be the only goal? You'd leave no room for a pleasant stroll along the beach, or watching a movie, or an evening of poker with friends?

You haven't explained how throwing your money down the toilet is a rational goal.

Paying for a gambling session is not throwing money away any more than paying for a movie, or for a good meal, or a trip to Hawaii.

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And that should be the only goal? You'd leave no room for a pleasant stroll along the beach, or watching a movie, or an evening of poker with friends?

Paying for a gambling session is not throwing money away any more than paying for a movie, or for a good meal, or a trip to Hawaii.

Youre missing his point. The value you get from a pleasant stroll along the beach, is real, as you get rest and relaxation, peace of mind, and calmness, that inevitably are good things as they help you use your rational mind better. The same thing goes with a trip to Hawaii. A good meal, and a GOOD movie does the same exact thing. A good movie may also do higher things than just relaxation, as if it is good, then it can motivate and inspire your own life.

And i play poker with my buddies and i get a sense of accomplishment when i know that i have played well, as i have myself put myself, rationally, in a position to succed. I achieve something REAL when i am playing poker with my buddies, despite me losing money occasionally. I keep my mind active, socialize with my friends etc.

However, i concede, that i do get, as most poker players do, the urge to "just go all in for the fun of it", but the end result of this kind of action is not happiness, but pain. I used to play online poker a couple of years a go, and once spent my one months rent money by doing stupid things and not using my mind. I kept losing and losing, but still i continued in case i would get lucky and win it all back. I didnt, and the result was a total feeling of being shellshocked, embarrassed and humiliated. Yes, there certainly was a thrill when waiting for the river card, but i did not achieve anything with that thrill.

The point at least i am making is that if your sole purpose of an action is thrill-seeking, then that is immoral, as the thrill you experience does not enhance your life in any way, but is actually against it. The feeling of thrill, can be nice and all that as a bi-product of something good, but if it is the sole or leading factor of your action, then it is not.

And, in reality, most people that gamble on mindless luck-games, or play poker in a non-rational way, are doing it for the thrill, and most of them are admitting as much. Heck, even i admit that i used to, and sometimes still do, things for the thrill, but that doesnt mean that i do not recognize that as immoral and irrational. The thrill-sensation does not give you anything, but relaxation does, as it is required to keep your mind in a state where you can think and act rationally.

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You may as well ask "Am I my brother's keeper?"

The question of whether assisting someone to self-destruct constitutes a moral activity cannot be answered without first knowing the *values* involved. *Who* are you helping to self-destruct? *What* is their relation to you?

The continued existence of other people is not an unqualified value to anyone. If I were a bar owner I would refuse to serve drinks to people that were already drunk because drunks annoy the other customers and make messes, not because I give a damn either way if a total stranger drinks himself into oblivion.

I have no desire to live in a world where the seller or purveyor of a product or service is considered responsible for what the buyer does with their own lives after the fact. Let the stupid, immoral, and irresponsible people weed themselves out early if that's what they want.

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You may as well ask "Am I my brother's keeper?"

The question of whether assisting someone to self-destruct constitutes a moral activity cannot be answered without first knowing the *values* involved. *Who* are you helping to self-destruct? *What* is their relation to you?

The continued existence of other people is not an unqualified value to anyone. If I were a bar owner I would refuse to serve drinks to people that were already drunk because drunks annoy the other customers and make messes, not because I give a damn either way if a total stranger drinks himself into oblivion.

I have no desire to live in a world where the seller or purveyor of a product or service is considered responsible for what the buyer does with their own lives after the fact. Let the stupid, immoral, and irresponsible people weed themselves out early if that's what they want.

Noone is advocating that the reason you should withold from selling stuff to irrational people is that you somehow put the irrational person before yourself.

If you own a McDonalds, there is no way the owner could possibly be able to diagnose who is irrational and who isnt without measures that are counterproductive to him.

However, if you base your livelihood knowingly and willingly on the irrational acts of your customers, you are acting against your own self-interest, against your own self. I would like to remind you what Bastiat said, about things that are seen, and things that are not seen. The thing that is seen, is that you get $100 for selling crack to an irrational junkie. The thing that isnt seen, is that you would be far better off if this person was not a drug addict, and instead was a rational human being. Yes, you wouldnt get the $100 per sale from the irrational junkies, but you may get something more from the money you do have, as the formerly irrational junkies would have instead of smoking heroin, started succesful businesses or became doctors or whatever. Yes, obviously there may be separate, single cases where it isnt actually bad for you that you have irrational customers, but as a general principle, YOU are much better off if people around you are moral and rational, despite the short term gains you may get from selling crack to irrational people.

Whether it is just "less rational/less moral" than doing something else or actually immoral to sell crack, sell beer to drunks etc. is something i will have to think about, but as a general principle, you are acting against your own self-interest if you cater to irrational whims.

But as i said, it is difficult for a McD-owner or a casino owner to effectively diagnose who is the irrational and who is the rational one. So clearly it is against your own self-interest to execute costly and time consuming methods to diagnose who is rational and who isnt, if this "diagnosing" is less valuable than not doing it.

So you do not need to do this because you are anyones keeper, or because of any duty for your fellow man. It is in your self interest that others are rational too.

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DavidO, I don't understand the line you are drawing between long-term happiness derived from rational goals, and, within the context of that same purpose-driven, rational person's life, thrill-seeking joy derived from immediate things that stimulate the senses and "shallow" parts of the mind, like the roller-coasters mentioned. (Leaving gambling aside for a moment, as I understand you are also arguing against that as either of the kinds of values I just mentioned.)

I'll turn it around for a second (I hope I didn't miss your point.): roller-coasters and such are good because they create intense and pleasurable experiences in my gut. I engage in them in a limited fashion, as a supplement to a slew of longer-term values, like work, friends, or reading. I engage similarly in activities of relaxation. Why is that bad?

The thrill-sensation does not give you anything, but relaxation does, as it is required to keep your mind in a state where you can think and act rationally.
I disagree that relaxing, which is on the other end of "positive bodily states" than thrills, is the only positive state. One thing that thrills achieve is reminding one that it is great to be alive. Hell, even when I fell off of my bike last year, hard, onto my shoulder, I felt elated! I was in bad pain, but I distinctly remember thinking, "It feels great to be alive!"
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