Reducing Families to Economics

I was just browsing the position papers at the National Youth Rights Association, where, under the topic of entertainment, they write:

While we understand the need to warn viewers about the content of a show, movie or game, we feel that age-based ratings systems not only fail to do so properly, but deprive young people of the ability to choose their own entertainment with their own money based on the whims of secret ratings boards, accountable to no one.

The National Youth Rights Association supports efforts by young people to use our economic strength to bring about an end to age-based ratings systems. We call for strict enforcement of antitrust and fair business practice laws to prohibit any group from strong-arming any business into following an age-based ratings system.

I see several objections here. First, the language is intellectually dishonest and falsely characterizing. The ratings aren’t based on ‘whims’ nor is the board ‘secret,’ nor is there any ‘strong-arming.’

Secondly, besides the fact that the movie theater can’t be asked to determine who earned what money, those under-18 teens who may actually be paying with money they earned probably don’t realize that if someone else weren’t paying for their food, housing, utilities, health insurance, car payments (most of the time), car insurance (most of the time), etc. that they wouldn’t be able to pay for that movie.

No one has true “economic strength” who is dependent upon others for most of his or her real income, measured in those things received but not paid for.

Finally, “age-based ratings systems” are sub-sets of a general philosophical position that one can only assume they take as axiomatic based on their desire to also lower drinking, driving and voting ages; that is, that there is no sound basis for “age-based” anything. They give a wink and a nod to the idea that there is a justified “need to warn viewers,” but they don’t really expound upon that, nor do they bother to support their conclusion that “age-based ratings systems… fail to do [that] properly.”

Maybe I haven’t seen it yet, but at some point they’re going to have to address the general questions of if and when the state has a legitimate basis for passing laws based on age. They seem to be avoiding that general philosophical line drawing. Either there is to be no line drawn ever or a line is justified. If it’s justified, they have to argue why, say, 16 is better than 18.

But it’s in those kinds of specific, concrete arguments that they’d need something besides high-minded Obamaesque rhetoric.

If a 16 year old–with or without–a job wants to go see an R-rated movie all she needs to do is take her mom with her. Philosophically, they’re trying to reduce family and citizen relationships to ones of mere economics, hoping to cut parents out of the loop. However, if that’s the case, they undermine their very objective, because those who pay for all those others silly things like medical insurance (i.e. ‘parents’) will always have the upper hand economically.

They need some other grounding for the position. If “it’s my money” is the best they have then they have nothing.

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