Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank, a consistent campaigner in Congress for legalised and regulated online gambling in the United States, appears to be warming up the media ahead of his next attack – widely believed to be imminent – on the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act.
This week the feisty chairman of the House Financial Services Committee engaged with the conservative CNS news service, in the process generating lively follow-on debate on Politico.com's blog and the Huffington Post.
Frank's approach to individual freedom was summed up by one commentator as an echo of the libertarian credo that one person's freedom to swing a fist ends where another's nose begins. In other words, freedom of personal choice should be respected as long as it does not impact the rights of other members of the community.
The Massachusetts Democrat articulated his philosophy on the re-regulation of the US financial services sector, saying he's not in favor of "total freedom" if it entails systemic financial risks.
"I would let people gamble on the Internet,” Frank said. “I would let adults smoke marijuana; I would let adults do a lot of things, if they choose.
"But allowing them total freedom to take on economic obligations that spill over into the broader society? The individual is not the only one impacted here, when bad decisions get made in the economic sphere, it causes problems.
“We’re not just talking individual responsibility. … We have a worldwide economic crisis now, because of this.
"If it were purely individual responsibility, OK – that’s why I disagree with the ranking member,” Frank said in a reference to his Republican colleague on the Financial Services Committee, Republican Representative Spencer Bachus of Alabama. Bachus has been a consistently fierce opponent of online gambling, but is apparently at peace with the concept of loose regulation of the financial sector that has wrought so much damage to world economies.
CNSNews.com asked Frank about comments Bachus had made at a committee hearing Thursday on mortgage reform. "You're substituting the government's decision for the individual's decision in whether they can afford it," Bachus had complained of the legalization. "If you can't afford it, don't buy it."
Frank pressed the difference. "We're not just talking individual responsibility," he said. "We have a world-wide economic crisis now, because of this."