Porn may be an immoral and addictive behavior, but do politicians have such noble motives for banning it?
Over the past few weeks, a great debate has broken out regarding whether government should take action to ban pornography. The debate has primarily been between small government conservatives and libertarians.
The conservatives are arguing that pornography is both a moral evil and an addictive, unhealthy life choice. This leaves us no option but to use the power of government to ban it for the good of society. The libertarians are arguing that pornography, even if a moral evil and an unhealthy life choice, is a victimless crime and therefore none of the government’s business.
No matter who you are, you probably have strong feelings about this issue, but even if not, this debate has far reaching ramifications that the issue of porn doesn’t even crack the surface of.
For purposes of argument, I’m going to assume that every talking point that conservatives have put forward is true. Pornography is both a moral evil as well as an unhealthy and addictive behavior that will cause negative effects in the life and relationships of its users. To be sure, there are those who would dispute these points, but for purposes of argument, I’m going to assume that they are 100% true.
That being said, what follows? What should be done about the crisis of pornography consumption?
Government’s Role as Arbiter
The moment you accept that it is the government’s job to regulate negative behaviors for the overall good of society, you fall down a rabbit hole from which there is no escape.
As we speak, there exist politicians who have expressed their belief that traditional religious education is harmful to children and to society as a whole. The boldest of their ranks believe that government should be able to shut down churches and abduct children from homes where their parents seek to teach them from a traditional religious standpoint. If it is government’s job to curtail negative behaviors, and religious practice is a negative behavior, this makes perfect sense.
These political leftists are often even more fervent and extreme in their belief that religion is harmful than conservatives are in their positions against porn. If it is legitimate for government to prevent citizens from engaging in voluntary behaviors because those behaviors are in some sense “collectively harmful” to society, what prevents leftist politicians from banning traditional religious practices once they are voted into power?
Social conservatives will, of course, say that religion is not harmful to society, but that’s exactly what their opponents are saying about pornography. If you can justly invade someone else’s property and stop them from consuming pornography in the privacy of their own home, how can you consistently argue that they are unjustified in breaking down your door and burning your Bible?
You may genuinely believe that you know what’s better for everyone else than they do, but then again, they probably think so too.
The Sword Cuts Both Ways
The same government that can give you everything you want is a government that can take everything that you have. In this case, conservatives would be wise to consider that the same government that can ban pornography is the same government that can rip your children from your arms and then force them to watch pornography in state mandated sex education classes. Once you set the precedent that it is government’s job to protect you from negative behaviors, you also make government the arbiter of what behaviors are and are not negative.
Is this really what you want?
However, the broader point about whether it is the proper function of government to decide for individuals if their voluntary actions are positive or negative isn’t really what concerns me the most in this discussion. What I wish more people would think about is exactly what mechanisms would need to be put into place in order to enforce a government mandated ban on pornography.
The Tools for Enforcing a Pornography Ban
I don’t think anyone disputes that the advent of the internet made pornography far more accessible to the rank and file. However, whether you think this is good or bad, a government ban on pornography would entail a mechanism by which government could determine whether pornography was being manufactured and distributed through the internet, and whether offenders were watching it in the privacy of their homes. After all, if there isn’t even in principle a way to enforce a law, the law becomes pointless.
The government could shut down porn sites that are based inside the U.S. However, it wouldn’t have the capacity to do so to sites based outside the U.S. With the advent of virtual private networks (VPNs) and other such constantly evolving technology, governments worldwide have already discovered that attempting to ban materials on the internet regionally is a futile endeavor.
What then would it take to enforce the ban on porn?
Expansion of Government Monitoring Online
It seems to me that the only meaningful action government could take to enforce a ban on porn would be to go the route that countries like Kazakhstan have recently tried. Government would have to require computers to be constructed with hardware and/or software already built in that gives state actors the ability to monitor user activity, bypassing encryption and other security features.
Pornography can be distributed through Facebook, and other not explicitly pornographic sites. As such, government would need to be able to monitor all a person’s web traffic and know who is sitting behind the computer. Otherwise, enforcement of the porn ban would be impossible.
Is no one seriously concerned about government utilizing such capabilities for purposes other than observing their citizens’ porn habits?
Banning Porn Privately inside the Home
If you believe that pornography is immoral and harmful, don’t consume it.
If you’re a parent, you should already be actively monitoring what you’re children do on the internet. Set up a family computer and specify what times of day your children are allowed to be on the internet and what sites they are allowed to visit. Purchase accountability software that allows you to monitor your children’s internet enabled devices.
The tools you need to protect your kids on the internet are already within your grasp, so why would you need government to protect your children? Unless of course you believe that it is they who are responsible for your children and not you. This doesn’t strike me as a very conservative position.
Regardless of your feelings about pornography, the dangers of making government responsible for banning it far outweigh whatever short term benefits may be achieved in a porn free society. Everything from cigarettes to donuts can be classified as an unhealthy, and harmful behavior. Should government be deciding what’s best for you, or should you be?
And that is My 2 cents take it for what it’s worth.
This article is available in video format here:
Knorr, C. (2019, January 7). 5 Ways to Block Porn on Your Kid’s Devices. Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/5-ways-to-block-porn-on-your-kids-devices.
Lindsey, N. (2019, July 30). Kazakhstan Internet Surveillance Plan Involves Intercepting Citizens’ Web Traffic. Retrieved from https://www.cpomagazine.com/cyber-security/kazakhstan-internet-surveillance-plan-involves-intercepting-citizens-web-traffic/.
Shapiro, B. (2017, June 6). FASCISM: Canadian Province Wants Children Removed From Homes If Parents Won’t Let Their Little Boys Identify As Little Girls. Retrieved from https://www.dailywire.com/news/fascism-canadian-province-wants-children-removed-ben-shapiro.
The Social Costs of Pornography. (2010). Retrieved from https://www.socialcostsofpornography.com/.
Towle, A. (2015, June 10). Dan Savage: Prosecute Transgender Teen Leelah Alcorn’s Parents for Abuse. Retrieved from https://www.towleroad.com/2014/12/savagealcorn/.
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