The Three M’s Leave Little Room for Full-On Libertarianism

Illustration by Cierra Pedro

Illustration by Cierra Pedro

Why doesn’t Las Vegas more fully embrace its socially libertarian roots?

Because those roots aren’t the moral free-for-all some think they are. Yes, our state legalized gambling; yes, some Nevada counties have decriminalized prostitution; and yes, Las Vegas has a bawdy (though somewhat fading) reputation as “Sin City.” But this all came about during our tenure as a frontier state, starting in the 1860s when fortune-seeking miners flooded the West. It was those adventurous risk-takers who brought their desire for booze, babes and gambling to Nevada and Las Vegas (hence, our city’s original sin zone, Block 16).

But our history is more complex than that, owing to the confluence of the Three M’s: Miners, Mormons, and Mobsters. Freewheeling miners may have created Nevada’s market for goods and services, but it was the rather less freewheeling members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who built the enterprises that served that market—from early dry-goods stores to the banks that funded the casinos.

The Three M’s—representing what we might now call “moral diversity”—all exerted strong influence over the evolution of Southern Nevada. Ultimately, the groups found it was profitable to work with one another. This makes for a heritage far more nuanced than our anything-goes marketing message suggests.

Red Rock Revisited: I recently wrote about two little towns near Red Rock Canyon. Despite having visited both Calico Basin and Blue Diamond many times, I made an error when stating that the latter has a motel. Blue Diamond resident Scott L. emailed to say, “I enjoyed your write-up, but thought you might want to know that there are no motels in Blue Diamond. There is a little apartment complex across the street from the store, but the nearest motel is at Bonnie Springs.” Upon additional research, Scott is correct; the little motel with the themed rooms is indeed at Bonnie Springs Ranch. Thanks, Scott!


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