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December 21, 2005

Declaring Hyperviolent/Ultrasexual Video Games "Obscene" For Children

I support Hillary!, and I'm against Instapundit.

Instapundit thinks this is dumb, and 7 Sins raises to "criminally stupid."

I'm not sure I understand why.

It is counterproductive and freedom-limiting to clamp down on books, movies, and games sold to adults (unless they feature genuine illegality with a victim, like child porn does).

But we're talking about children here. Are the libertarians actually saying that, as regards children, it's Thunderdome, and the state has no interest in or power to restrict the sale to pornography to minors?

Some might say videogames aren't porn... well, some are on the edge already, and it's stuff kids shouldn't be sold. There are, after all, Japanese videogames about picking up bikini girls on the beach and then having sex with them.

And the videogame industry does seem to be attempting to outdo itself as far as shock-content every year. I don't think it will be long before there's a fully-pornographic game, with well-rendered models and realistic (sorta) hardcore sex. Should such a game -- hypothetical at the moment, but likely coming down the pipeline -- be sold to a kid without the vendor being punished?

If so, why are we bothering to fine 7-11s for selling cigarettes to kids?

I think libertarianism is an important part of conservativism -- it's an intellectual undergirding of the small goverment/leave me the hell alone strain of conservative politics -- but I'm always surprised by the libertarian absolutists who apparently want no restrictions on almost any behavior at all, even when it comes to kids.

Libertarians will point out that this is a bunch of symbolic politics, and the "For the children" mantra is always a dangerous one. Well, sometimes, but not always. I don't want people to take away my choices, made as competent adult, "for the children." On the other hand, taking away some of children's opportunities to buy drugs, fireworks, cigarettes, and porn "for the children" seems pretty reasonable.

I think part of the unexpressed reservation about measures like this is that kids buy a lot of this stuff, making it commercially viable, meaning that adults who might want a very violent or hypersexual game can buy it too. Without teenagers buying some of this stuff, there's just not enough of a market for it to make it a decent seller, and thus it won't be made at all, and therefore yes, indirectly, keeping it out of the hands of kids also may keep it out of the hands of adults. Adults, to some extent, are free riders on the market for inappropriate entertainment sold to children and teenagers.

But if that's what's going on -- if these products can't be economically viable if sold only to the people they're claimed to be intended for, actual adults -- then the games probably shouldn't be made in the first place.

Am I crazy? Am I too statist here? The only thing I've ever agreed with Bill Maher on is his observation that, for many liberals and libertarians, children are just "little adults," and should be treated as such when it comes to sex and the like.

Well, no. They're children. There are some things that should not be sold to them, and if that's the case, I don't really see why a toothless "voluntary" rating system is to be preferred over a mandatory one with actual penalties.

Yes, yes, yes-- the slipperly slope. If we try to regulate the sale of patently-inappropriate products to children, suddenly the government will take all R or X rated materials from adults and we'll all be forced to watch Barney the Dinosaur for the rest of our lives.

I don't buy the slippery slope, especially here. American adults are not giving up their porn or their racy/violent/profane TV series on HBO or the like. It's just not going to happen.


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posted by Ace at 12:25 PM

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