I know I’m a little late responding to this, but former Senatorial candidate Cherilyn Eagar published an editorial in the Standard-Examiner last month in which she suggests that Utah ban the sale of violent video games to children. It’s a shame, really, because although her article is well written, concise and understandable, it completely misses the point.
Every time I hear those dreaded five words — “There should be a law!” — I cringe, mostly because the person proclaiming them has no idea what they are advocating. A state law is nothing if it cannot be enforced. You can fine someone, but what if they don’t pay the fine? Well, you order them to appear in court. What if they don’t show up? Well, you issue a warrant for their arrest. What if they don’t want to be arrested? Well, then you tase them or beat them or shoot them. You eventually either kill them or put them in jail.
“I realize that when I give my consent to the adoption of a law, I specifically instruct the police – the government – to take either the life, liberty, or property of anyone who disobeys that law. Furthermore, I tell them that if anyone resists the enforcement of the law, they are to use any means necessary – yes, even putting the lawbreaker to death or putting him in jail – to overcome such resistance.”
Do you see where I’m going with this? The state is violence. That’s all there is to it. Any time someone says, “There should be a law,” they are in effect saying, “We ought to physically harm anyone who does x.” Now, violence isn’t always unjustified. For example, when one uses violence to protect himself or his family from violence, that violence is morally justified. It is self-defense. When someone steals your property and you attempt to reclaim it, any resistance may be justifiably met with violence.
So let me ask you this: can you come up with a moral justification for physically assaulting someone who sells a video game to a kid? Perhaps you would be fine with this, but you would not be morally justified in doing so. Why? Because the person did not physically harm the kid or his property.
“But these people have a responsibility to protect our children,” one may object. Do they? Rights and responsibilities go hand-in-hand. It follows that the party that possesses the right to control what media the children consume is also the party that has the responsibility to do so. That right and that responsibility fall squarely on the parents. Where are the parents while the kids are buying these games? Where are the parents while the kids are playing these games? You can’t pass your parental responsibilities on to the state without simultaneously passing on your parental rights.
“But they’re old enough to have jobs and have the money to buy the games themselves, and they play them at their friends’ houses.” Yeah? Well maybe they’re old enough to handle it then. I’m sorry, but the ability to economically support oneself and go galavanting around without supervision are hallmarks of adulthood.
I’ve included below some excerpts from Eagar’s editorial, along with my responses to the sheer idiocy apparent in them:
“But this is not about speech. It’s about images.” Sorry lady, but free speech falls under freedom of expression along with freedom of assembly and freedom of the press. It’s not about spoken or written words, it’s about conveying ideas.
“Over the past 30 years more than 3,000 peer-reviewed scientific studies have been conducted, each conclusively documenting the negative effects of violence on screen and in video games.” This, of course, misses the point, because the act of selling a game to a child does not physically harm the child, nor does playing a violent video game control the child or force the child to commit violent acts. You can cite all the research you want, but until the games include some actual mind-control technology, you can’t make the case for causation. It can contribute, sure, but so can the little spats you have with your husband in front of the kids. Should we outlaw that, too?
“Utah is now, sadly, one of only 10 states on record favoring the sale of harmful materials to minors.” This is a classic logical fallacy employed by statists on a regular basis. The idea is that you must favor something if you do not think it should be illegal. This is ridiculous, of course. I don’t think using cosmetics should be illegal, but that doesn’t automatically mean that I advocate the use of cosmetics.
“The Founders’ original intent correctly asserted that the people must promote public virtue if a nation is to remain free and safe.” Yes, we must promote public virtue, not force it at the point of a gun. Forced virtue is not virtue at all, for the very nature of virtue requires that it be freely chosen.
“Children do not have a constitutional right to play pornographic and violent video games.” Oh dear. She sure ended her little rant on a peach of a straw man, didn’t she?
I believe we Americans should use extreme care before lending our support to any proposed government program. We should fully recognize that government is no plaything. As George Washington warned, “Government is not reason, it is not eloquence – it is force! Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master!” (The Red Carpet, p.142) It is an instrument of force and unless our conscience is clear that we would not hesitate to put a man to death, put him in jail or forcibly deprive him of his property for failing to obey a given law, we should oppose it.
– Ezra Taft Benson
- Wikipedia article on Schwarzenegger v. Entertainment Merchants Association, a Supreme Court case wherein the constitutionality of California’s ban is being challenged; oral arguments begin on November 2, 2010
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