The government should do something about spam phone calls already

  • The government should be working toward an agenda built around making people’s lives better, even if in small ways.
  • One way to do that is by stopping spam calls, which are exploding.

I wrote last year about the need for a governing agenda built around tangible, feasible deliverables that make people’s lives better by fixing the way markets work, even if in small ways.

Too much of politics today is aimed at purely social concepts (“say ‘Merry Christmas’ again”) or extremely lofty goals (free healthcare). A politics built around such goals will inevitably fail to deliver what it promises, encouraging cynicism.

If we want people to believe government can work again, politicians should stick to promising things government can actually do. These policies can be small, so long as they are noticeable. Ideally, they should address things people deal with every day, like their phones.

And that brings me to the subject of spam phone calls – automated calls, often promoting scams, that come from fake phone numbers.

The New York Times reports the volume of these calls is exploding, up to 3.4 billion in April. I seem to get about one a day. How hard could it be to stop this?

Evidently, fairly hard, since the problem persists. But, I would venture, likely not beyond the capabilities of a government that can produce nuclear weapons and send men to the moon.

So, I think it would be great for one of the approximately 60 people who will be running for president in 2020 to make this a cause célèbre.

I’m under no illusion that spam calls are the most important issue facing Americans. But sometimes it’s best to start small, build confidence, and move on to bigger things. Maybe Americans would be more inclined to trust politicians who propose new regulatory initiatives if they saw a successful one that made their lives a little better, for example by ending spam calls.

Congress has done this before. They made a law so phone companies have to let you take your number with you when you change carriers. They made a law so television ads can’t be louder than the programs they air inside.

Most of life’s little annoyances can’t be fixed by the federal government. But some of them can, and politicians could improve their image – and earn back some trust from the public – by taking the opportunities that arise.

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