Paul L. Caron

Monday, February 25, 2013

Could Taxing Violent Video Games Actually Save Lives?

The Atlantic:  Could Taxing Violent Video Games Actually Save Lives?, by Jacoba Urist:

Guns, troubled young men, and violent video games. Together, they form a tragically familiar background story to America's recent shooting massacres in Columbine, Aurora, and Newtown. But the Constitution protects guns, and mental health is expensive and complicated to treat. So some lawmakers are responding to the latest tragedy by going after the third -- and possibly least consequential -- variable in this murky equation. There is a new push to tax violent video games. ...

Adam Hoffer, an economics professor at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, is one of three co-authors of a new working paper examining the creation and growth of the "sindustry"--and why sin taxes often aren't the magic remedy lawmakers hope they'll be [Sin Taxes: Size, Growth, and Creation of the Sindustry]. "Video games [are] the vice right now, what's next down the road?" he said. "Are we going to tax violent movies? TV shows? Hey, why not an HBO tax?"...

The problem is, even in a perfect world, where placing a sin tax on certain video games reduces exposure to violent imagery and the money is used for a series of public service announcements about anti-social behavior, there's still no clear evidence that this would do anything to protect kids from gun violence or from another school shooting. Even more dangerous, lawmakers may fool us all into thinking we've solved the problem of gun violence by slapping a 10% price hike on "Grand Theft Auto," when in fact, the only problem they've solved is the hole in their own budget. In the meantime, we will have done nothing to reduce gun violence.

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