Friday, June 08, 2007
Several months ago, I noted with dismay that a North Carolina Republican was calling for his state to add government review of the scripts for movies made there as a condition for film makers to qualify for a package of financial "incentives" offered by that state.
Apparently, the Texas legislature heard that them boys in Carolina had a bigger gummint than Texas: They have upped the ante by passing a package -- which Governor Rick Perry signed -- that includes state-funded grants to film makers and conditions on the subject matter of the film!
[T]he new law has a provision that allows film grants to be denied "because of inappropriate content or content that portrays Texas or Texans in a negative fashion."Well, at least they were specific about what kind of content they'd refuse to fund. Just don't put anything some redneck fundamentalist will find "inappropriate" into your script and you're home free.
Texas is the first state to enact such a provision as part of a film incentive program, said Vans Stevenson, senior vice president of state government affairs for MPAA, who wrote the letter and said it speaks for itself.
A letter from Stevenson said the provision would permit state government to review and approve motion picture scripts to be eligible for a production incentive, which it said "contravenes the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which guarantees freedom of expression, and it will discourage filmmakers from coming to Texas." [bold added]
Stevenson, being from Hollywood is, of course, perfectly happy to take government money -- and wrong about this measure constituting a violation of the First Amendment. The First Amendment only guarantees freedom of expression. It does not guarantee that someone who wishes to be heard will be provided with a forum or the means to be heard.
There are plenty of other things wrong with these grants, though, the obvious one being that they would constitute gifts of stolen taxpayer money to film producers. Furthermore, regardless of the specific content of any movie, its content, style, and manner of presentation or argument will all be affected by the ideas and opinions of its creator.
Therefore, even without a government review, this program constitutes the taking of money by the government for the purpose of helping someone promote ideas to which at least some citizens will be opposed. With a review, the injustice of theft will be aggravated by the fact that ideas favored by those in power will be promoted by the state at the expense of all others.
It is very unfortunate that the confiscation of property by our government for purposes of redistribution -- a direct violation of the right to property -- is so well established in America today. This new law will almost certainly not be challenged or declared unconstitutional on such grounds, though it should be. There may be other legal bases for challenging the review portion of this law, but in fact, the entire thing should be thrown out.
Finally, while the grants being "equal to 5 percent of what a filmmaker would spend in Texas" might sound like a good deal to film makers, it is not. If we conceptualize this as a tax rebate, the applicability of what I said about North Carolina's slightly different program becomes obvious:
If [the Republicans] really were so concerned about ordinary citizens having their money stolen from them to pay for others to say things they may not like, [their] time and energy would be far better spent in abolishing public education, which accounts for a far larger part of the public tax burden than this tax abatement program and is far guiltier of forcing people to fund ideas which they find offensive. [They] would also support a truly free film industry in [this] state.... This last would be a far better "incentive" than the small break from government looting [North Carolina] trumpets so loudly now.Once again, we see a continuation of the expansion of our welfare state coupled with increased government censorship -- presented as some revolutionary idea by the "party of small government"! And, if the GOP ought to spend more time fighting for smaller government, so should Stevenson and others in the entertainment industry, if they really care about preserving their artistic independence or about saving money
But [the GOP] is not concerned with ... economic or personal freedom .... Instead, ... [it] has accepted the notion that we should have a conservative welfare state rather than abolishing the welfare state altogether. Unsurprisingly for ... the political party that supports censorship of "obscenity" (which is already part of this "incentive") and works nonstop to bring about more intrusion of religion into our government, [one of its members] is taking the opportunity to subject films made in North Carolina to higher taxes if they do not meet with government approval.
I and others have often said that the GOP is far more dangerous than the Democrats when it becomes interested in expanding the intrusiveness of the state due to the fact that most people believe it stands for small government. This story also gives us a particularly good glimpse of just that:
[Governor] Perry suggested the provision would be implemented judiciously: "Look, what we're trying to do here is ... trying to get the film industry to come and reinvest and invest in a big way in the state of Texas. And if the first thing that happens is we start seeing some type of censorship, it's not going to happen."Translation: "We'll get people used to the idea of a government official reading movie scripts for awhile before we really start throwing our weight around." The GOP is not just confused or misguided. It is deliberately and dangerously expanding the welfare state and making it seem like its doing so isn't such a big deal.
Well, they do say things are bigger here in Texas. Just look our government! Thanks a heap, Governor Perry!