For Frank, the free exercise of individual choice is legitimate, and should be made legal, as long as those decisions don't harm the broader population. "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."
That freedom ends when individual liberty imperils the global economic structure, he said. "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."
Frank's formulation echos the libertarian credo that one person's freedom to swing a fist ends where another's nose begins.
Frank raised the issue of online gambling, he told CNS, because his Republican counterpart on the Financial Services Committee, Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), is a fierce opponent of online gambling while being okay with loose regulation on Wall Street.
CNSNews.com had 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 legislation. "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. If it were purely individual responsibility, OK, that's why I disagree with the ranking member."
Ryan Grim is the author of the forthcoming book This Is Your Country On Drugs: The Secret History of Getting High in America