Friday, February 4, 2005

Viva Las Vegas

I'm going to Las Vegas next week. Rachel and I will be heading over with my mother and brother. We're staying five days. It's strange that the last two "vacations" I've had have been to Vegas. My parents have a thing for it and they invite us along . . . who am I to turn down a free trip?

It's weird how Vegas is like a synthesis of bad and good. It's fun, there is no denying it. I love the thrill of gambling, even if I rarely have the spare cash to do it. I certainly don't think there is anything inherently wrong with gambling. It's like drugs or prostitution: as long as you're not hurting anyone else (like blowing your family's grocery money) then do what you want. I'm a modernist, not a romantic, and I think the idea that Vegas represents some erosion of values is a little absurd. It's Disneyworld for adults, pure and simple.

At the same time, it shares with Disney that certain unrestrained capitalist sensibility that gives me pause. I have these swings of economic values; sometimes I am essentially American "liberal," sometimes I am Chomsky-style anarcho-socialist, but mostly I hover right around where the European social democrats stand: strongly regulated capitalism for day-to-day life with a generous safety net for the hard times and public ownership of certain common goods. So I don't necessarily think that corporations -- such as those that own casinos -- by virtue of being successful are in and of themselves evil, I just think when they are unchecked they can be.

Which is kind of silly to think about constantly. There is a point of obsession that some people reach, as if buying anything ever touched by a corporation is equivalent to killing children. Responsible corporations (which does almost sound like an oxymoron) can be positive forces with the right leadership. Encourage such leadership through support of government regulation. Make sweatshops illegal, because as long as it's cheap they're gonna keep doing it no matter how much you boycott. Support green taxes, because as long as it's cheap they're gonna keep polluting no matter how much you boycott. Relax.

Which is a long and not-at-all-relevant way of saying that Vegas doesn't really bother me.

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