Is Internet Porn Destroying America?

Chuck Grassley wants to start a "national conversation" about looking at dirty images in the workplace.

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The Washington Times editorializes about the "virulent cancer" that is destroying our economy. Toxic bank assets? Nope--Internet porn. (HT: The Agitator)

The Times supports Senator Chuck Grassley in calling for a "national conversation" about employees watching porn on their computers at work. Of course, we know what these "conversations" turn into when kicked off by politicians--witness the circus of Congressional hearings around the issue of Major League Baseball and steroids.

I've blogged about attempts to regulate the Internet before, because I think that keeping this "last frontier" safe from regulation is very importnat for the interests of the entrepreneurial community. So what about this claim that workplace internet porn is draining productivity and wasting wages?

Let's look at the only evidence the Times uses to back up this claim:

As ranking member of the Committee on Finance, Sen. Grassley has sent a letter to the National Science Foundation asking for more information on employees viewing pornography on company time. He cited the most recent NSF Semiannual Report that referred to a systemic problem in which government computers were being used to view sexually explicit material.

One employee spent 20 percent of his work time viewing pornography - a cost of $58,000 in compensation he received for work he was not doing. Sen. Grassley is calling for a complete account of the use of the NSF drive by its employees. This, he rightly says, is an essential component of his oversight responsibilities - especially since the NSF relies on public funds for scientific and engineering research. Certainly Americans do not want their tax dollars being used to pay employees for indulging their sexual fantasies.

That last sentence is certainly correct. But a problem with Internet porn in the government bureaucracy hardly means there is a national crisis at work. Wasting money happens in bureaucracies with or without Internet porn. For just one recent example, recall the story about the New York State Insurance Fund employee who has been paid as much as $93,803 to do literally nothing.

Are there any actual empirical studies out there about how much internet porn costs the private sector in productivity?

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