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When Politicians Tax Violent Video Games 315

talien79 writes "Taxing video games has a storied history in state legislatures. The reality is that video games, violent or otherwise, simply make too much money to be stopped. But taxing them is a viable compromise, a 'sin tax' of sorts similar to that levied on cigarettes. This article reviews the time-honored tactic of politicians pandering to their base: taxing violent video games."
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When Politicians Tax Violent Video Games

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  • by kcornia ( 152859 ) on Monday April 13, 2009 @04:05PM (#27562039) Journal

    I'm sure ALL the tax revenue will go towards educating kids on the dangers of violent video games and/or to the victims or violent video game inspired violence, right?


    • by linhares ( 1241614 ) on Monday April 13, 2009 @04:07PM (#27562087)

      I'm sure ALL the tax revenue will go towards educating kids on the dangers of violent video games and/or to the victims or violent video game inspired violence, right?

      No, sir, you see, it's on my contract here. The money comes to me.

      Yours Truly,

      --Dr. A. Linhares, Senior Vice President, AIG.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by operagost ( 62405 )
        You misspelled "Fannie Mae" as "AIG", there. The Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac failures all got bigger bonuses than the people at AIG who worked for $1 last year. Oh, BTW, Barney Frank is still collecting his paycheck.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Most of the money give to AIG actually went to other banks that had contracts with AIG, even foreign banks such as UBS and Deutsche Bank. Most of the money went to banks located outside the United States.

        German and French banks got $36 billion from AIG Bailout []

        Don't forget that all of these bailouts combined ($12.8 trillion) are nearing the United States entire GDP. []

    • by rackserverdeals ( 1503561 ) on Monday April 13, 2009 @04:22PM (#27562345) Homepage Journal

      Actually, that's exactly what's going to happen.

      They plan on showing them computer simulations of violent acts to illustrate how bad violence is.

      I've seen the prototype of the simulation. It's pretty neat. It's from a first person perspective of someone running around killing people and being shot at. And it progresses. First you get to see what the horrors are of killing people with a pistol. Then you pick up a shot gun and see how horrible it is. Then you pick up a machine gun and see that atrocity.

      There's even a little number at the top that keeps count of how much you've learned.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by need4mospd ( 1146215 )
        Man that's awesome! If they could figure out a way to sell that for like $50, they could make a fortune!
    • by Red Flayer ( 890720 ) on Monday April 13, 2009 @04:23PM (#27562379) Journal
      Who cares where the tax revenues go. It all goes into the general treasury anyway. People who believe in earmarked revenues let themselves be misled. Ever wonder why earmarked revenues rarely result in higher spending on the earmarks' targets? Spending from the general treasury is reduced to make up for the earmarked spending.

      My biggest problem with this has nothing to do with where the money is spent. It's with the concept that violence is OK, as long as you're willing to pay extra for it. So next time I pick up a hooker, it'll be OK if I beat her on top of screwing her, as long as I give her an extra $40 or so? Or If I send an extra $40 to the government as a "sin tax"?

      If you take the ideas of these brain-dead lawmakers and their brain-dead constituents, this is the logical conclusion.

      Also, while we're at it, let's tax movie tickets on a sliding scale based on their rating. G? Pay the sales tax. PG? Pay 2 x sales tax. PG-13? 3 x sales tax. Etc.
      • by slummy ( 887268 ) <> on Monday April 13, 2009 @04:27PM (#27562443) Homepage

        So next time I pick up a hooker, it'll be OK if I beat her on top of screwing her, as long as I give her an extra $40 or so?

        You might want to OK the beating with him/her first. Otherwise her pimp Sugar might get wind of it and give you a really bad day.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        So next time I pick up a hooker, it'll be OK if I beat her on top of screwing her, as long as I give her an extra $40 or so?

        Yes, it is OK, so long as she agrees to accept $40 for providing the service of punching bag... prostitution is about paying for what you want... it just so happens most people want sex.
      • by Chris Mattern ( 191822 ) on Monday April 13, 2009 @04:49PM (#27562817)

        So next time I pick up a hooker, it'll be OK if I beat her on top of screwing her, as long as I give her an extra $40 or so?

        I thought the lesson of video games was that if you beat up the hooker, you got your $40 *back*.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by phantomfive ( 622387 )
        You might want to check out the tax plan set out by Ari Fleischer [].

        Basically he suggests get rid of all specialty taxes, and all specialty tax breaks. Make it simple.

        Everyone pays a percentage of their income (they get the benefits of having a government, they ought to at least chip in a little bit), and those who make more can pay a higher percentage. Taxes would be significantly easier to calculate (currently tax preparation and processing, if all the labor that goes into it were actually counted, w
    • by thetoadwarrior ( 1268702 ) on Monday April 13, 2009 @04:41PM (#27562691) Homepage
      It'll go towards paying the debt for the violence in Iraq.
    • by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Monday April 13, 2009 @05:39PM (#27563441) Homepage Journal

      Okay I am on the opposite side of most people when it comes to video games. I have no problem with mandatory age restrictions on video games. I have no issue with taxing cigs and alcohol. But I have an issue with extra tax on video games. Yes I see how Left4Dead would be unhealthy for an 8 year old to play but for a normal adult it is just fine. Violent video games are no worse than violent movies or books.
      If you want to tax a game how about golf? Golf Courses do a huge amount of damage to the environment. How about a $5 a round tax on golf and a $1.00 a ball tax on golf balls.
      Of course who will pay the sin tax on game America's Army?

  • stupid (Score:2, Insightful)

    by gsgleason ( 1241794 )
    Sales tax when media or other tangible goods exchanged is acceptable. Taxing the sharing of the intangible is asinine. Why not tax for having ides, next?
  • by tmosley ( 996283 ) on Monday April 13, 2009 @04:06PM (#27562067)
    They steal more from those they don't like than those they do. God help you if they don't like you.
    • by FooAtWFU ( 699187 ) on Monday April 13, 2009 @04:10PM (#27562127) Homepage
      First they came for the AIG executive bonuses, but I did not speak up, because the AIG executives were a bunch of jerks...
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        To some extent, you're damn right. There's a very fine line between taxing to encourage certain behavior, and taxing to punish people you don't like.

        Unfortunately, the only way to get around this issue is to abolish taxes completely. Since that's an impossibility (both for bureaucratic and for survival reasons), we're stuck with trying to walk this fine line.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I think "control" is giving the process a bit too much credit. I don't see it as being that planned out. This seems to be mostly going on at the state legislature level. Whether it's driven by elected state legislators who themselves foolishly believe that society needs saving from cheap violent videogames or if it's driven instead by elected state legislators who merely exploit those who think that way I don't know. But at the heart this is about moral grandstanding, not "control."

      Example: FTA

      In Louisiana, Rep. Robert Billiot (BILL-yot) proposed a one percent sales tax on televisions and video game equipment. Money from the tax would flow into a "No Child Left Indoors Fund" to pay for programs and activities to mitigate the effects of childhood obesity. The implication being that video games, not poor parenting, is somehow responsible for making kids fat.

      He's not

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by tmosley ( 996283 )
        His motives don't matter. What matters is that he has misappropriated the far-too-awesome power of the state in order to force someone not to do something. A 1% tax may not have a huge impact, but once it's there, they can and will raise it, until that behavior they don't like is either wiped out or driven underground.

        The best example is smoking. It's now so expensive to be a smoker that almost everyone is quitting, though I know a number of people who have bought tobacco seed and are now growing thei
  • Movies? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by maxter3185 ( 816089 ) on Monday April 13, 2009 @04:07PM (#27562079)
    Ok, fine, do it, but what about violent movies and TV shows?
    • Good point. Here's more: What about the GORE AND BLOOD on the fucking Bible?
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by jgtg32a ( 1173373 )
        In most cases when there is Gore and Blood on a bible its considered art or a crime has been committed, it depends
        • Ok, but how about how the bible erodes the family unit cause Adam was originally with Lilith and then dumped her for Eve.

          • by Dan Ost ( 415913 )

            I don't think Lilith made the final cut for the modern Christian bible. Once upon a time, I read the King James version and don't remember her in Genesis.

            but I could be wrong...

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Already been done, my friend.

        Take a good look at all those biblical epics Hollyweird produced in the late 1940s through the 1950s: The Robe, Ben Hur, Samson and Delilah, The Ten Commandments, and others. Hollyweird used those to defeat the censors. It's hard to complain about all those HOT JEZIBELLES and all the MURDER AND VIOLENCE when it all originated in the Bible or in christian fiction. I mean, it's good for the children to see this stuff, cuz' it's from the Bible. So all you censors can just STFU

      • Re:Movies? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by linhares ( 1241614 ) on Monday April 13, 2009 @04:42PM (#27562699)
        MEMO to game makers: PLEASE make a game with the most kick-ass moments [] from the bible and market it as a christian thing.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by linhares ( 1241614 )
          I'd pay $200 for a bible game that included Ezekiel 23:19-20 [], with all the members and their emissions. $200 dollars would be a good price for encouraging a game developer to fight fire with fire. They should even market it as a good bible teaching aid.
    • And that damn rock and roll!
  • ..for whatever reason.

    "Protecting the children" is often a convenient one, but there are others.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by reidiq ( 1434945 )
      Anytime they (as in government) can label someone as a victim they see a reason to tax and in turn desire control.
  • The powers that be seem hell bent on making any video more intense than Paper Mario an adults-only form of entertainment; and thereby make even 3rd rate gore games desirable in the eyes of the consumerist teenager. They just keep pushing these games into sexier and sexier territory: "What? I have to pay a special tax because "teh game is teh hardcorz"? I'll take ten!!!"
  • by MBCook ( 132727 ) <> on Monday April 13, 2009 @04:12PM (#27562159) Homepage

    Good for them. It's not like violent games ever show [] justified violence [], or even semi-realistic portrayals of current foreign combat. It's not like there is ever a point of the violence.

    Violence is always bad []. It's never a good way to put an end to problems [] people may face.

  • I mean, "violent" video games are linked to cancer. They are linked to diseases of bystanders who are in frequent proximity as well.

    It's causing quite the health epidemic. It's amazing how it was once popular and even fun! Now, it's known to be a carcinogen and causes other diseases.

    Wait.. games.. right? We're talking about video games here? And what the @#$@ is "violent" anyways? Anything that shows any blood? Anything to do with guns? How about anything that depicts fighting or harsh language?

  • 1. Select an arbitrary public health/social/economic issue

    2. ????

    3. Propose tax as a solution

    4. ???

    5. Profit ?
  • I don't like the precedent set here. It's like we're failing to distinguish between what is harmful and what we find in bad taste. Cigarettes are harmful. The studies are conclusive. Is there any evidence that games are?
    • As if taxing cigarettes and alcohol prevented anyone from using them anyway.
    • For decades, cigarettes were sold as healthy, by doctors (or at least actors in white coats) and their users denied any harmful side-effects even when their lungs were 50% tar and 50% cancer.

      Do you REALLY want to link the denials of smokers and the tobacco industry witht the denials of gamers and the game industry?

      In my mind, that just ain't smart. Not only are you by association making yourself suspicious of being in denial, you also show that the only way to curb an activity harmful to some (who cares i

  • a 'sin tax' of sorts similar to that levied on cigarettes

    Can you please explain what part of playing a violet game is a sin?
    I can understand a tax on tobacco and alcohol, both have a clear and quite direct negative side effect on you and the people around you.
    But what makes a violent video game different from a other video game? The simulated violence? How about real violence shown on the news and "reality" shows? Isn't real violence worse than simulated violence?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sesshomaru ( 173381 )

      See and this is a problem with "sin taxes." A sin tax is just a tax on a socially unpopular item. It's not meant to be a fine, which is a punishment that's used to discourage people from breaking the law.

      The reason why sin taxes target socially unpopular items is "divide and rule." In other words, if everything gets a sales tax, everyone complains. If violent video games get a sales tax, only video game players complain. If they aren't a big enough block to vote out the taxers, and the tax holds up in

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Can you please explain what part of playing a violet game is a sin?

      All the purple prose in the dialog.

    • The term "sin tax" refers to a ban on any presumed-deviant action -- meaning any behavior which a majority of politicians and their constituents won't admit to. It rarely has anything to do with morality or ethics, much less the religious concept of "sin" for which it's named.

  • Constitutional? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Monday April 13, 2009 @04:19PM (#27562295) Journal

    Would the Supreme Court find a content based tax constitutional? I can see how states would get away taxing all video games, but taxing one type of video game based on its content seems like a first amendment issue. Are there other types of media that get this treatment?

    • Re:Constitutional? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mea37 ( 1201159 ) on Monday April 13, 2009 @04:36PM (#27562591)

      Well, tax laws can apparently be used to punish you for something you did before the law was passed (see AIG bonuses), so why would the Constitution apply in this case?

    • Well the Constitution has two types of tax: Direct and indirect. There has only ever been one direct tax that I know about, so we'll put that out of view.

      The indirect tax (excise or tariff) is on the happening event. It can only be evoked when someone or something is doing something. Your current oil and tobacco taxes are on the manufacture or importation of these things. These specific two examples also have transfer liability clauses that allow the tax liability to be transferred to the buyer, thereby mak

      • Addendum.

        That was for federal taxes. (For video games, the Federal government could claim authority under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution or the First-Sale Doctrine, if coming in from outside the US, and additionally subject to tariffs)

        The states can do whatever they want as long as it does not violate their own state constitution.

  • But taxing them is a viable compromise

    You know, I could see taxing alcohol and cigarettes in proportion to the societal burden it incurs and if it were applied in a systematic way to pay for healthcare, prevention and education programs, extra police, etcetera instead of being thrown in the general fund and cranked up everytime they "need" more money.

    However, violent video games have a neglible (perhaps even positive as a cathartic release) societal burden. This is just a money grab on an unpopular group o

  • You can't "copy" cigarettes, but you can (but not legally in most cases) with digital media.

    If said digital media has a "tax" on it, and someone makes a copy, then could that be made into an additional crime of tax evasion?

  • yea great idea.. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Pvt_Ryan ( 1102363 )
    That won't encourage piracy....

    I would also point out that taxing doesn't reduce the amount of violence in the game..

    Sounds as effective as the Green tax tbph..
  • Ahem... (Score:5, Funny)

    by momerath2003 ( 606823 ) * on Monday April 13, 2009 @04:26PM (#27562423) Journal

    This is a perfect example of a sin tax error.

    Thank you, I'll be here all night.

  • alchohol; and I do not drink enough to make a difference, so I stood back and watched.
    Then they came for Tobacco; and I do not smoke, so I did not speak out.
    Now they've come for video games; and I don't play them...
    I see a pattern emerging here. Who cares if they tax video games. Thanks for the extra revenue that does not have to come out of my paycheck.
  • by geekmux ( 1040042 ) on Monday April 13, 2009 @04:34PM (#27562565)

    A sin tax? Are we serious? What's next? Will confessionals become toll booths? What constitutes a sin and by whos guage?

    And targeting this? Why don't you call it what it is. "Wow, you make too much money, we need to figure out a way to tax you more."

    I'll tell you what's a sin here. Re-electing these morons back in office. Give me a break. How about we look to tax lawmakers who fail to show up for work?

    Freaking morons.

  • New Tax Idea (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sir_Real ( 179104 ) on Monday April 13, 2009 @04:40PM (#27562653)

    Let's just tax bad parents. You let your kid fail spelling? That's a hundred bucks. You let your kid fail math? That's two hundred. You let your kid fail PE? Well, celibacy is it's own tax plus, he/she won't be squishing out any more sedentary, garbage pile producing crotchfruit to compete with the resources of other, more fit people. TAX PARENTS.

  • If you can't beat them, tax them.

  • Is the submitter suggesting "sin" taxes are a good thing?!

    If so, who gets to decide what activities and products are deserving of such penalties? How does this not quality as government-sponsored policing of morality? And who's system of ethics is ultimately the correct one?

    Obviously taxes are necessary to fund the cost of government and it's services, but abusing the system to punish those who aren't harming anyone is completely ridiculous. Look at the outlandish cost of cigarettes smokers are subjected to

    • I paraphrase the great Doug Stanhope.

      "Where do you get off exacting a 'sin tax' anyway? Whatever happened to separation of church and state? How do you legislate 'sin'? Fuck vice laws. Maybe a hooker and some blow gets me through my weekend, who am I hurting? Why not tax some Jesus while you're at it. I may wake up with spots on my dick and a nosebleed, but that's hurting *me*! The Catholic church left a lot more bodies in its wake than I or video games ever will."

  • What two viable positions is that supposed to be a "viable compromise" between?

  • I think a "vice tax" on violent games has already been found an obstruction to free speech (how is it free speech if you're taxed depending on what you say?) and thus unconstitutional.

    Letting that aside, "vice taxes" are a terrible idea, it basically means the richer you are the more vices you're allowed to have. To someone with a 200000$/year income the tax carries a completely different weight than to someone who earns 20000$/year. If vice taxes are supposed to make people use something less then they sho

  • Um.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by moniker127 ( 1290002 ) on Monday April 13, 2009 @04:47PM (#27562785)
    I'm sorry, Am I not supposed to be viewing violence as an adult male? I can understand mandates for them to put warning labels and such, for parents, but why the hell would It be reasonable to tax this?
    What is our government now? The mafia? Seriously. They are essentially saying "Hey, look, we like you, but you're in trouble. Now, if you make sure we're taken care of, nothing bad will happen to you."

    When did this become the job of the state?
  • Back in the 90's when it was quite popular to sue tobacco companies and put large tax increases on cigarettes, myself any many others said this was just the beginning and continue this tactic and use it for junk food or anything deemed bad.

    They have to do it. If the cigarette tax works then fewer people smoke. Tobacco tax money goes towards more things than health. It even goes towards road maintenance. So a lot of things the government does relies on that money and they won't give it up. If it comes to
    • "The US is in an incredible amount of debt and it has to be paid off some how."

      Bernanke will just print it, have no fear.

  • Ok, I RTFA'd and it doesn't seem that this is going Federal yet (and I'm Canadian). But lets' say it does.

    Talk about the pot in the kettle! The same people that want to tax violent video games are the same ones that want to sent 18-year-old 'kids' (I'm 30 .... anyways) away to war to get shot at and kill people. No matter where the conflict or the reason, its beyond me why its okay to kill people in a warzone at the age of 18, yet you have to 'pay extra' to do it in a virtual world even if you're under 18.

  • Cigarette Tax eh? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Chas ( 5144 ) on Monday April 13, 2009 @06:15PM (#27563851) Homepage Journal

    So when you buy that $7.00 pack of cigs, you know that $6.00 of it is taxes right?

    So, we can look forward to paying $350 for a boxed title that goes for $50 now?

    Fuck that noise.

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