Monday, May 5, 2014

Intellectual Pork Rinds

In a post heralding the pending Adamularity, The OG excoriates intemperance in media consumption. Just as too many mini-muffins and Funyuns can enporkulate your jiggling posterior, popular media is at once rewarding while you consume it, and destructive the more you indulge and the longer the habit persists.

And in another devious parallel (assuming Straussian intent in Adam is probably not far off the mark), both gorging your corpse and your mind suffer from pretty dreadful pecuniary externalities. To wit, if the taxpayer is obliged to pick up the bill for Corpulent Sam's Eternal Snacking, and if this obligation is exogenous, then there is a public interest in imposing dietary restraint on the less temperate among us. Symmetrically, if constituents suffer political risk from Mad Mike's Media Malingering, then there is a public interest in, say, arresting climate change deniers.

Free speech ain't so free. Or, if you prefer, yikes!

The crux is whether or not the policy is exogenous. If the taxpayer isn't on the hook for my snackological protocols, I'm more generally at liberty to stuff my craw as I see fit (nb, this cuts against farm subsidies [particularly mega agribusiness] a lot harder than against SNAP restrictions). Ditto a free press. A state that restricts its operations to enforcing the natural rule of law rather than disseminating party favors to the mess of tatterdemalions, rogues, pettifoggers, lickspittles, louts, knaves, clods, cluttermidges, churls, and skiddermarks under their weal can far more graciously suffer a clamor of saffron journalists. 'Tis no accident that state-provided media is a staple of dictators.

The press is not euvoluntary in a big, big way. How we approach our moral intuition towards it depends in no small part on the role it plays in forming policy opinion. A sensible, Bayesian precautionary principle hints that perhaps a natural immunity to the shenanigans implied by the First Amendment can be discovered when the sovereign more closely hews to restraint rather than the profligacy that so characterizes its many functions. Small steps to a more euvoluntary world, people.

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Do you have suggestions on where we could find more examples of this phenomenon?