On July 4, 1776 after approving the Declaration of Independence, Congress chose Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin to design a great seal for our new country. Benjamin Franklin proposed the phrase “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.” This sentiment ran throughout the revolutionaries fighting to shed a system of government that viewed them as “subjects” rather than free men with the right of self governance. The American government was set up to not only establish, but protect the rights of its people to self determination.
Yet, somewhere along the way America has drifted from its roots. Increasingly, the federal government seeks to control the behavior of its people rather than act as an impartial referee of free people. In modern America, much policy is aimed at mandating specific behavior. Increasingly the government is saying “Thou shall” instead of “Thou shall not.”
This can be seen daily in policies flowing from executive agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). And then, of course, there is the Congress that at any given time can be found passing a plethora of bills aimed at fixing one thing or another by requiring specific behavior. Can you say, O-B-A-M-A-C-A-R-E?
In the immediate aftermath of highly publicized tragedies it’s even worse. Congress reaches a fevered pitch with politicians and pundits clamoring for action to prevent the next such tragedy. For example, following the heinous attack in which Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) was shot by a mentally insane gunman one couldn’t turn on the TV or radio without hearing that “hate speech” was to blame, an implication that the Tea Party was to blame for the tragedy. Any number of politicians and pundits could be heard advocating for European style limitations on the freedom of expression to enforce some undefined standard of “civil discourse.” This discussion in and of itself highlighted the danger of such laws — the only speech being labelled hate speech was that of the center right.
Aside from the obvious constitutional illegitimacy of government mandating behavior, the reality is that these laws are often based on little more than public perception, myths or raw political ambition. They don’t make sense and they don’t achieve the desired result.
In the wake of the shootings in Newtown Connecticut, Democrats attempted once again to usurp Americans’ Second Amendment rights with sweeping gun control legislation. Nothing in the legislation would have prevented Newtown from occurring yet politicians fought hard to pass it. After failing to enact a new series of gun control measures, many in Congress have turned to another scapegoat — video games.
The argument goes that violent video games somehow played a role in inspiring madmen to go on violent rampages and thus, the content must be regulated. Nearly every press report covering recent violence references the use of video games by the perpetrator. There is never any real evidence that video games played a role in the calamity. With hundreds of millions of people in the US playing video games, it is statistically likely that the perpetrator of any crime plays or has played video games. It is equally likely that the perpetrator frequently eats at McDonalds or drinks Coca-Cola.
The reality is that should proponents of regulating free speech by regulating video games get their way, their so-called solution just wouldn’t work. There is no actual legitimate scientific evidence creating even a thread of a causal link between playing video games depicting violent scenarios and the instance of committing an illegal violent act.
Jospehine Anstey, professor and and chair of the Department of Media Study at Buffalo University says the relationship between cause and effect has not been established and any claim of such demonstrates the fallacy of the single cause and actually does harm:
“When dubious inferences of cause and effect are presented by law enforcement and not questioned by the press, it invites the public to jump to unwarranted conclusions. There is a complex relationship between society, individual behavior and media,” Antsey explains. “If it was simple — if, for instance children’s behavior was provoked only by video games, books and TV — we would have no problem raising them. We’d just give them moral stories about picking up their rooms and sharing with their friends and we’d be done.”
As any parent knows, it’s not that easy. Neither is living in a free society. Navigating between competing opinions while protecting liberty for all can get messy and the human instinct to regulate others’ behaviors is powerful. Which is why the Founding Fathers put into place checks and balances on governmental power. Unfortunately, led by crying moms and outraged pundits on TV too many Americans are heading down the primrose path and allowing politicians to give into that human urge. The result is an ever growing and ever powerful government increasingly controlling the lives of law-abiding Americans.
America was built into the greatest nation ever known without a Federal instruction manual. American’s don’t need government mandating their behavior. We don’t need the government saying thou shall. We certainly don’t need the government regulating free speech. The Obamacare fiasco should be evidence enough that such as solution would destroy our liberties and not solve a single problem