Society is addicted to pornography, a global multi-trillion-dollar business. It is estimated that 40 million Americans visit porn websites every day, more than $3,000 is spent each second on adult content, and roughly a quarter-million people are classified as “porn addicts.” The prevalence of porn may seem like a benign subject, but researchers are beginning to understand just how terrible it is for your mental and physical health. Plus, with porn readily available with a few clicks, there is a legitimate concern that children are stumbling upon some of the vilest and most depraved acts that can permanently damage a child’s well-being.
Matt Walsh, a columnist for The Daily Wire, recently penned a few op-eds that began agreeing with four Republicans who penned a letter to Attorney General William Barr, urging him to “declare the prosecution of obscene pornography a criminal justice priority.” His stance on the issue generated quite the buzz among conservative and libertarian circles, initiating a discourse on porn bans, the difference between porn and speech, and if the state has the right to employ laws for the “common good.”
Walsh supports a ban. But many right-leaning folks agree that the state should not be in the business of regulating porn, no matter how sick and twisted much of the content can be. While they are indeed correct, this discussion can delve into a greater but more general question: Should the government ever be in the business of legislating morality?
The role of the U.S. government is to guarantee the Bill of Rights, making certain that your freedom of speech or right to bear arms is never infringed upon by anybody. A government of, for, and by the people is erected to ensure you have the right to your life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. How you define happiness is subjective, but it can be anything if you are not imposing your will on others or violating others’ rights.
Put simply, no matter how much we may find a certain act to be morally repugnant, it is not the role of the state to dictate to people how to live their lives. If someone is willing to eat 50 Big Macs a day for an entire year, then that is their choice. If someone chooses to snort cocaine and inject heroin into their bodies, then that is a route they have decided to travel down. If people are participating in pornography to fill labor demand or viewing the content to satisfy erotic desires, then that is their option.
These may not be the wisest life decisions, but we are adults, and we carve our own paths.
Let’s say that the government thinks it has a moral duty to intervene in any issue that is deemed troublesome by a busybody on the Internet or your street corner. This intervention unleashes a tsunami of paternalistic big government programs, agencies, and laws that are designed to dictate how you live your life. What’s worse is that these efforts will eventually become politicized, used as footballs by bureaucrats with differing ideologies. A conservative may want to use the power of the state to eradicate porn from society. However, once power is swapped, a leftist may take advantage of that same power and eliminate soda pop from every street corner.
And here lies the problem: Conservatives are mirroring progressives by encouraging the government to encroach on the public’s freedoms. They differ on what transgressions are tearing away at the fabric of the country, but they still believe in executing this supreme weapon to rectify the wrongs. These benevolent creatures within the corridors of power will resolve these matters all in the name of the common good. However, what is good for the collective is subjective.
Remember, the worst type of politician is not the odious and crooked one taking bribes and receiving kickbacks. It is the politician who believes he is a crusader of justice and shall do what he thinks is right.
Research has discovered that porn consumers tend to possess a lower quality of life, suffer from depression, maintain lower self-esteem, and endure erectile dysfunction. Since these are the effects of consuming too much porn, proponents typically cite these facts as supporting evidence to restrict the content. If you incorporate this argument into your overall defense of porn prohibition, then it is imperative to be consistent on all other matters.
In the last couple of years, as the Netflix and Chill mantra has blanketed households, scientists have discovered the severe threats to your physical health of binge-watching. Cardiovascular risks, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and cognitive decline are just some of the ramifications to your health from watching too much television. Is it time to extend a ban on television watching?
Gorging on fast food is one of the worst things you can do to your body. Do we need a Big Mac ban? Working at a desk for eight hours a day can cause heart disease and contribute to weight gain. Is a workstation law next? Gambling – casinos or state lotteries – can send you down a destructive path. Should we outlaw gambling, too?
The science is still out on whether CNN is harmful to your health or not.
The point still stands: Why not extend restrictions to everything that negatively affects your life?
Seminal economist Milton Friedman wrote, “The government solution to a problem is usually as bad as the problem.”
Anytime the government has banned, taxed, or regulated a good or service for the common good, these legislative blitzkriegs have only worsened the problem. Everything from sending it underground to jacking up the cost, politicians’ track records on centrally planning their constituents’ lives are putrid. Proponents of a porn ban may have the best intentions, but the efficacy of public policy should be determined by results, not wishes. Considering how immense and lucrative the porn industry is, the government would need to encroach on personal freedoms to ensure your neighbors are not consuming images of midgets in scuba diving equipment to satisfy their needs. Knowing the consequences of liberty concessions, it might not be worth the battle.
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