Tucker Carlson: It's time for Congress to ban smartphones for kids

Via the Daily Caller, I found myself nodding along with him for the first two minutes here. Limiting screen time for kiddies sure does seem like a good idea for a responsible parent.

Then he takes a turn.

I’ve lost almost all of my capacity for shock at how far right-wing populists have traveled ideologically from the tea-party glory days of limited government to the Trump era. But calling for the federal government to step in and micromanage your kids’ cell-phone use because “in real life it’s just too difficult” to get parents to behave responsibly is a wowzer even to a jaded heart.

How would this ban even be administered? I think Tucker’s imagining a rule akin to cigarette and alcohol sales: If you go into an electronics store and ask the man for an iPhone, expect to be carded. But that’s goofy. Beer and smokes are relatively cheap goods, within the purchasing power of the average kid. (Especially if a group of kids chip in.) What sort of 12-year-old does he imagine is waltzing into Best Buy with the wherewithal to get a phone? When a kid has a phone it’s almost certainly because his parents want him to have it. In which case the ban would be enforced — how? The parents have to promise the salesman that the phone’s for them, not for their child? If they promise and give the phone to the kid anyway, do we call the FBI?

And why does this need to be a federal ban? The most minimal concession to traditional conservatism here would have been to call on state governments to do this instead. Federalism! I assume there’d be no Commerce Clause or other constitutional problem with that: Many states ban “assault weapons,” after all, even though the federal ban lapsed years ago. The states could and should do this if it’s to be done, unless we’re now embracing a philosophy of “our solution must be the solution for literally everyone.”

Which, I suppose, we are.

One thing I like about righty populism, at least as it’s imagined by people like Ross Douthat and Michael Brendan Dougherty, is its emphasis on empowering families. That starts with far more generous tax credits for working-class families with kids than conservative dogma would seemingly allow but doesn’t end there. Writ large, the idea is that many social ills could be eased by shifting political power to (and thus incentivizing the formation of) families. How does Tucker’s populist nanny-statism square with that?