Attempts in recent years by politicians at both state and federal level to censor violent video games have universally failed. Some obstacle called the 1st Amendment impedes attempts at censoring media in the United States. Unlike other amendments, hopefully this one will continue to stand strong in the future. We’ll see how that goes. But I digress……
In the meantime, both do-gooder liberals, eager to socially engineer us into a society of complacent robots, and social conservatives, equally eager to destroy anything they view as an affront to their concept of morality, have formed an alliance targeting the electronic entertainment (i.e. video game) industry. Their goal, to stop the production and consumption of “violent” video games. Their reasoning, because games are bad for you, you’re incapable of responsibly playing them, and every violent act committed in the United States is somehow attributed to you playing Grand Theft Auto. Since politicians can’t censor games (oh boy have their tried to), they’ve begun to investigate another avenue. An avenue which is equal parts insidious and more difficult to contain legally. The sin tax.
Imagine walking into your local electronics retailer to purchase Grand Theft Auto 5, or the next Call of Duty or whatever the heck that you like to play. At the checkout stand you see the total come out to $74.98. Wait a second there, you didn’t want the collector’s edition or a strategy guide, why the high price? The sales associate reminds you that there is the new Violent Media Accountability Tax (or VMAT for short) on top of sales tax now. Remember it passed both houses of congress several months back, with little opposition? The President signed the bill into law, you know that ceremony with all the smiling school children surrounding his desk? The speech about protecting children from ticking time bombs……..of course this is all fiction right now, but please read on.
A few years back a blog like this would be viewed very skeptically. A dystopian doomsday fantasy. Well, Democratic Vice President Joe Biden recently discussed the concept with faith based representatives, citing that he believes there would be no legal hurdles to such a tax. Connecticut State Representative Debralee Hovey, a Republican whose district includes Newton (where the Sandy Hook shooting occurred) has proposed legislation seeking to add a 10% tax onto Mature rated games sold in her state (read the pdf here).
If you’ve read this far, now you hopefully see what I’m getting at. Legal battles between the game industry the State of California and Oklahoma have demonstrated that both Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives have the political will to fight the game industry in unison. Unable to censor games, they will now move to tax the product they so loathe into un-affordability.
Even that other scapegoated industry, the gun industry has refused to come to the defense of a fellow embattled industry. In fact, the NRA threw the game industry under the bus, with their president calling out gaming as a shadow industry. Very classy of him.
Its a real shame, the game industry has largely been recession proof, employing hundreds of thousands of americans in a variety of roles, from retail associates up to highly skilled artists, programmers, IT professionals, producers, and testers. Only recently, and possible more to do with the near end of life of the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 has the game industry shown fiscal weakness. Left unfettered, this market will re-emerge. A new Xbox and Playstation will soon be released for the 2013 Christmas season. Nintendo’s new Wii U system is out on store shelves and PC gaming is currently enjoying a resurgence in popularity.
However, similar to the movie industry, gaming is a hit driven business with most titles losing money. A sin tax would remove consumers from the marketplace causing losses across the board, layoffs, and game studios worldwide would shutter. Innovation would suffer as with diminished profits, studios would be less likely to take chances on new and different titles.
Reasonable people know that gaming is a hobby enjoyed by millions of people worldwide, and of all ages. The gaming industry has responded to complaints by providing a rating system for games, the ESRB. Studies of the effects of game violence on the human psyche are mixed. But so are studies on pornography, books, television, music, and movies. Should we just ban everything that could potentially influence someone to do wrong? Could you imagine such a world? Would John Lennon still be alive if Catcher in the Rye was banned or if guns were? Maybe if the Beatles’ provocative music were banned Lennon would’ve never been targeted. Politician’s promise that by taxing, censoring, and prohibiting the killings will stop. The killings won’t stop. Those people who slip between the cracks of society will simply find other vices to tantalize them into mayhem and other means to inflict harm. The politicians however, won’t be anywhere around those who are laid off from their job, lose their house, and watch their car be repossessed all in the failed attempt to create a better society. Look how well it worked with alcohol. Prohibition failed to curb alcohol related violence, as we all know the violence sky-rocketed. It also failed to provide opportunities for those who worked at breweries, bars, and restaurants to find other employment. Prohibition contributed to the Great Depression and when Prohibition was repealed, people found work again in the alcoholic beverage and restaurant industries.
The Libertarian Party opposes all forms of government censorship of media and opposes unfair sin taxes. Please consider joining us in the fight.