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Monday, December 12, 2005

Movie Censoring: Market Demand or Attack Upon Liberty

“Yippe kiya…”well you know the rest; or do you? If you’ve never seen a theatrical version of a movie from the Die Hard trilogy you would have never heard the rest of the catch phrase of John McClane. A question arises why are there two versions of the same movie? The question maybe simple, the answer is not, and both are fascinating from an economic liberty point of view.

Ever since Rhett Butler’s immortal parting with Scarlett O’Hara there has been profanity (and other objectionable material) in the movies, and people upset about it. Some of those people have been so upset that they have tried to ban the use of profanity. Enter economic liberty. So long as watching a movie remains a voluntary act no harm is done. Yet, the story continues.

While some of those who were upset about profanity in the movies sought government’s coercive power, others have tried a more economical approach: provide edited versions of the movies for those who demand them. Thus those who are offended by the original nature of the movie need never see it. This though has raised alarm in Hollywood. This has been seen as an infringement upon the rights of the movie makers; that their creation is being altered in ways they did not intend. This is only half right. While it is true their movies are being altered in ways not intended by them, the movies are not their property they belong to the studios. Thus only if movies are being altered in ways not deemed acceptable by the studios can there be harm.

Down the line, the creators of movies may demand more control over their creations, but for now studios find it in their interest to provide their movies in the most pleasing version to the consumers. Economics provides some fascinating insights into America’s (if not the world’s) fantasy land, and to Hollywood I say: “may the force be with you.”

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