I have an editorial appearing on CNet News today about “New Mexico’s video game nanny tax.” Quick background: The New Mexico legislature has introduced a new tax measure that would force consumers to pay a 1 percent excise tax on purchases of video games, gaming consoles, and TVs. The revenue generated from the game and TV tax would be used to fund a new state educational effort aimed at getting kids out of the house more. True to the aim of the measure, they have even given the bill the creative title, “The Leave No Child Inside Act.” In my editorial, I argue that:
legislators shouldn’t be using the tax code to play the role of nanny for our kids. It is the responsibility and right of parents to determine how their kids are raised. Many of us would agree that more outdoor time is a laudable goal. But should the government be using the tax code to accomplish that objective?
I point out that the proposal raises serious fairness questions that makes a constitutional challenge likely since older court cases dealing with other media have also made it clear that public-policy makers are forbidden from using the power to tax in an effort to discriminate against speech or expression that they disfavor. Moreover, on the fairness point:
Why just blame video games for kids not getting enough time outdoors? How about a tax on social-networking Web sites or instant messaging? Many kids are spending almost as much time online right now as they do playing video games. And what about other types of non-digital games that might keep kids indoors? My daughter spends a lot of time playing Sudoku puzzles, for example. Perhaps we should tax Sudoku books, chess boards, and even arts and crafts! After all, the goal here is to do whatever it takes to get kids outside, right? Or is it really just to get kids to stop playing video games?
Read the entire piece here if you are interested.