Advertising, Children & Commercial Free Speech

by on January 19, 2012 · 1 comment

I thought Todd Zywicki, a senior scholar with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, did a nice job on Judge Napolitano’s “Freedom Watch” show addressing the contentious question of whether government should be regulating food advertising in order to somehow make American kids healthier. Todd pointed out how the advertising guidelines currently being developed are anything but “voluntary” and noted that there are many causes of childhood obesity. Watch the clip here:

Importantly, Todd also notes that there are First Amendment issues in play here. Commercial free speech is not completely without constitutional protection, as I noted in my recent Charleston Law Review article on “Advertising, Commercial Speech & First Amendment Parity.”

Finally, as we always note here about regulation generally — especially restrictions on advertising — there is no free lunch (excuse the pun in this case!). Advertising has traditionally been the great subsidizer of media and information in America. It has also kept competitors on their toes and kept prices in check.  These benefits are lost when we regulate advertising. So, while some nanny state-ers would like to convince us that they simply have the best interests of our kids in mind, the reality is that the regulations they favor will likely drive up costs for families and limit their choices of both products and media platforms, both of which are subsidized by advertising.

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