Can Slot Machines Uplift a Nation?
When the subject of Native Americans or Indian reservations is brought up most people bring casino gambling to mind. Approximately five hundred and sixty tribes are recognized by the federal government, and only about one third conduct casino style gambling. (Light and Rand 9) Reservations are sovereign nations, meaning tribes are "Dependent on and subordinate to, only the federal government, not the states." (Light and Rand 36) This has been the tribes "Ace in the hole" that has allowed many reservations to prosper through the operation of casinos. Politics, crime, addiction, even suicide can all be tied to casinos on Indian reservations, as can better living conditions, basic health care, higher educational achievements, and even a way out of poverty. By looking at Indian casinos in a utilitarian view we will see how gambling has affected the tribes, and, is morally justified. Utilitarianism is a philosophical view that states the end justifies the means, and creates the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest number of people. Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill are two of the most well known philosophers of utilitarianism. Bentham's motto was, "Morality and law were made for man, not man for morality and law." (Pojman 111) Bentham wanted to improve on what he considered outdated deontological views of "an eye for an eye", which also kept the poor from enjoying a better life. Bentham's view was simple, to maximize pleasure and minimize suffering. Pain and pleasure were what Bentham thought should guide our actions. (Pojman 112) Mill thought it important to distinguish happiness from just the pain and pleasure of Bentham's utilitarianism. Mill derived the idea of two types of pleasure: the lower pleasures (sexuality, eating, and drinking) and the higher pleasures (spirituality, creativity, and scientific knowledge) Mill argued that these higher pleasures gave a more lasting happiness. (Pojman 114) Thus through the ethics of utilitarianism, we can see how casino gambling on Indian reservations has helped tribes become more self sufficient, created stronger tribal government, and helped bring many tribes economic progress. Native American tribes in the United States can legally conduct casino style gambling on their reservations because they have sovereign nation status. As sovereign nations, Indian tribes are recognized as preexisting entities that were here before the white man ever came to America. Many people simply don't understand the concept of Indian Reservations, or the Native Americans that live on them. Most Americans think Indian gaming is, at best, an evenly negotiated understanding between federal, state, and tribal governments, and, at worst, cause an unfair advantage for tribes that results in unbalanced state economies and social the well-being of the tribes. (Light and Rand 3) Sovereignty gives tribes the right to casinos on reservations, but it has come at a price. In order to get a class III casino gaming license (which involves slot machines, the biggest money maker for casinos) tribes must make a tribal-state agreement. This very act of making a tribal-state compact compromises the sovereignty of the Indian nation. The very idea of having a sovereign nation is for it to be self-governed. "Sovereignty is the most important attribute we have, and that the purpose of tribal government programs and enterprise is to enhance our sovereign right to self-governance." (Pico) The federal government has final say over what tribes can and can not do. So it is this compromise of federal and state interaction with tribal government that Indian tribes must give, this sacrifice of their lawful rights, in order to get to the end product. This is utilitarianism. The end product of being able to have casinos justifies the means of getting there. A good example of Act Utilitarianism: "An act is right, if and only if, it results in as much good as any...
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Light, Steven A., and Kathryn R. Rand. Indian Gaming and Tribal Sovereignty the Indian Compromise. Kansas: University P of Kansas, 2005.
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Pico, Anthony R. "Lessons Learned At the Thanksgiving Table of Sovereignty." INDIAN COUNTRY TODAY 3 Nov. 2004, sec. A3.
Pojman, Louis P. How Should We Live? CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning, 2005.
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"Tribal Government in 2010 - Tribal Gaming." American Indian Policy Center. 1 Nov. 2005. 14 Nov. 2006 .
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