Fatherhood and Other Things That Ain’t Government’s Business
In conjunction with Father’s Day, the Obama administration yesterday unveiled Fatherhood.gov, a website offering various advice to men on raising kids that’s drawn quite a bit of more-or-less good natured hectoring from the blogosphere. (See Glenn Reynolds, Stephen Green, and Radley Balko for examples.)
Ira Stoll‘s posting is getting particular attention, with Reynolds highlighting a section questioning why the government thinks itself competent to tell Americans how to raise our kids when it can’t even do its core functions particularly well and Kevin Drum highlighting this passage:
Here was tip number two: “Watch a game on television with your children. Cheer for your favorite team and chat about the plays. Mute the commercials and use those minutes to talk about what’s going on in your lives.” Here is the government telling Americans to “mute the commercials.” Suppose I work at an advertising agency and earn my living making commercials, or own a company that has just invested millions of dollars in those commercials in the hope of winning customers and making a profit? Suppose I own a television network that makes its money by selling those commercials? Suppose I am a taxpayer who has just shelled out major bucks for the Army or the Census or some other branch of the government to buy these commercials, only to have another branch of the government instruct Americans not to listen to the same commercials my tax money was just spent to purchase. If I had any advice for fathers, it would be to mute the ballgame and turn up the volume for the commercials, or turn off the tube altogether and go play a game with your child. But now the government wants us to mute commercials? Really.
Drum snarks, “Muting commercials is your beef against Barack Obama and his socialist minions? And conservatives wonder why the rest of us think their entire movement has gone stone crazy?”
Now, as one who occasionally mutes commercials and more frequently fast forwards past them, I have no great sense of civic commitment to watching them. But here’s where Stoll has has a point: The federal government should not be taking a position on this issue!
Is this the biggest complaint I have against the federal government or the Obama administration? By no means. Indeed, my preference is decidedly that, given the choice between watching commercials or talking to their children, American parents should choose the latter. (Ceteris parabus, of course. There are parents whose influence is so toxic that their kids would be better off doing anything else by being further infected.)
But this is not government’s business. As Stoll notes, there are taxpaying citizens who make a living selling commercials and selling products via commercials. And there are other taxpaying citizens who make a living selling remote controls that allow the muting of commercials and recording devices that allow skipping of commercials. Why is the president spending taxpayer money putting his thumb on the scales?
Much of fatherhood.com’s other advice can be critiqued along those lines:
Experience the joy of reading without the cost of buying books. Visit your community library and get a card for each member of your family. Help your children select a variety of age-appropriate books you can borrow and read together.
I’m betting the folks at Barnes and Noble and Amazon love this idea!
Watch a game on television with your children. Cheer for your favorite team and chat about the plays. Mute the commercials and use those minutes to talk about what’s going on in your lives.
Aside from the aforementioned muting issue, Obama is telling Americans to choose one form of entertainment over another. What about the people with shows up against the game? Or people selling tickets to the game itself? And what of Mrs. Obama’s campaign against obesity? Why are these people sitting on their ass watching a game on TV instead of going out and playing themselves?!
Spring cleaning will be off to a great start if you first tackle that list of home improvement chores with your children. Little ones can find the hammer, wrench, or pliers in a toolbox while older kids can learn how to repair household items.
Will Obama take responsibility when the wee ones get hurt? Or do damage to the walls?
Look, this is all pretty silly stuff. It’s not pernicious or even particularly wrongheaded. But, again, why the hell is the federal government telling us how to raise our kids?
All that said, Jonathan Chait‘s post making fun of Stoll’s technical competence is rather amusing.