Go Ahead and Let Him Try: A Plea for Egonomic Laissez-Faire
Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 35, pp. 3-20, 1992
17 Pages Posted: 1 Dec 2003
At a sandwich shop I used to frequent in Cliffside Park, New Jersey, there was a video game - Galaga, I believe - with a sign on it saying, Must be 16 years old to play. Evidently someone felt that video playing by youngsters was getting out of hand. In truth, playing Galaga can, in the case of the skillful, consume a lot of time, and, in the case of the unskillful, a lot of time and money. It won't expand the mind, and the skills developed are unlikely to be of lasting service, except in playing video games. In favor, however, is the sheer joy of it - what else is life for?
Suppose we call in a cost-benefit analyst who follows the writings of Thomas Schelling. The analyst says: There are two utility functions to account for, the ephemeral utility function enjoying the video game, and the enduring utility function which gets very little from the activity yet bears a cost in the form of forgone constructive activity. She reaches into her scientist cap and pulls out weights for each of the two utility functions, accounts for the corresponding costs and benefits, and comes up with a policy recommendation of whether to permit the activity. I submit that such a procedure overlooks something important.
Keywords: dignity, autonomy, parentalism, paternalism, liberty,
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