Wednesday, August 7, 2013

No-Comment-Required Dept: The "Nudge Squad"

I'm sure Miss Maya Shankar is a perfectly nice young woman -- with a dollop of emphasis on young -- but I greatly doubt whether she's wise enough to cross the street without a minder. The hubris displayed in this initiative should make my case:

When does a nudge become a shove?

Americans may find out in coming years, as the federal government is setting up a 'behavioral insights team' to tinker with the way we accomplish everything from saving money and staying in school to losing weight and becoming more energy-efficient.

A document from Maya Shankar, a late-20s Yale graduate and former violin prodigy, sketches out the Obama administration's grand plans for behavioral science....

'[I]nsights from the social and behavioral sciences can be used to help design public policies that work better, cost less, and help people to achieve their goals,' says her proposal, first spotted by Fox News when Shankar sought help from a university professor....

Shankar's mandate is to reproduce a British pilot project in the U.S. Launched in 2010, it identifies and tests 'interventions' that can save the government money, and drives ordinary Britons to embrace behaviors that the government finds desirable and cost-effective.

Now the concept is poised to enter America with a formal structure consisting of a team to oversee clinical experiments to see what works and what doesn't. Shankar's memo suggests the project is already up and running.

'We are already working with over a dozen federal departments and agencies on newly-designed behavioral insights projects,' the document reads, 'including the Department of Labor, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Education, Veterans Administration, Department of Treasury, Social Security Administration, Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the United States Department of Agriculture.'

Shankar did not respond to a request for comment....

Utah State University economist Michael Thomas said he was 'very skeptical of a team promoting nudge policies' in Washington.

'Ultimately, nudging ... assumes a small group of people in government know better about choices than the individuals making them.'

Professor Thomas's observation, while obvious, absolutely needed to be said. Add to it this observation by Glenn Beck:

"First they nudge, then they shove, then they shoot."


"The lust of government is the greatest lust." -- James Harrington

I cannot say this often enough:

Persons in "public service" have made the acquisition of power over others their highest priority.

It simply doesn't matter what they say. Neither does it matter how noble their intentions might if we had some way of objectively gauging the sincerity of such things. What matters is the "lust of government:" the desire to dictate to others with coercive force at their backs.

I must concede that in recent years, the economic desirability of government jobs has risen relative to private-sector employment. All the same, the work itself must be sufficiently attractive to persuade the applicant that he can endure it...and the institutional incentives of government employment will rapidly filter out any who cannot bear to override the preferences and prerogatives of private citizens.

A Michael Bloomberg pursues his Nanny State fantasies with overt ukases. Soberly considered, that approach is preferable to covert "nudging," for two reasons:

  1. It's overt;
  2. A Bloomberg -- an elected official -- can be openly rebuffed by legislative bodies and disciplined by electoral defeat.

In contrast, Miss Shankar's notion of "nudging" Americans away from behaviors her bureaucracy would like us to avoid and toward ones she'd like us to adopt is covert. If it remains subtle, it could have severe economic effects before Americans generally were aware of what was being done to them. But worse than that, if the "nudges" should fail to produce the results a Maya Shankar seeks, it's a short step to coercive imposition: regulation, taxation, and the erection of quasi-judicial bodies with the power to haul Americans and our voluntary organizations up by the scruffs of our necks.

Do not doubt that the failure of a Shankarian "nudge" to garner the desired public "adjustments" would engender sufficient resentment to elicit a coercive response. The defining privilege of government is its pre-indemnified use of force upon its subjects. The willingness to use that privilege is an absolute requirement for entry into "public service."

Think EPA.

That the Obamunists are permitting such a development to be at all visible suggests that they no longer fear that they might evoke sufficient public outrage to expel them from power, whether electorally or by other means. It's a far darker matter than it might first appear.

Fear is a powerful motivator: it inhibits motion in the direction of the thing feared. A government that ceases to fear the displeasure of its subjects is prone to running wild. The one we suffer today has already transgressed its proper bounds in several directions. If it feels sufficiently invulnerable to begin the re-engineering of Americans -- a New Soviet Man project for the Western Hemisphere -- we cannot exclude any imaginable development from the sphere of plausibility, including the indefinite suspension of the Constitution in all particulars.

"When the people fear the government there is tyranny, when the government fears the people there is liberty." -- Thomas Jefferson

We must make the State fear us once again.
There can be no further delays.
The hour has come.


Joab Parmacetti said...

"We must make the State fear us once again."

How should we do this?

Anonymous said...

"They want to make people..better.
I do not hold with that, no
more running. I aim to misbehave!"

Captain Malcom Reynolds,

Nuff said!

Yours In NON COMPLIANT Liberty!
Steve Kristmann aka Northgunner III

KG said...

By overt or covert violence, directed at those who order agents of the State to violate the rights of the people as set out in the Constitution.
Until those who give the orders are themselves in real physical danger, nothing will change and the slide into tyranny will continue.

Pascal said...

I only just discovered (and have written two post on it so far) that more than one progressive site has been fondly quoting the despicable demagogue Huey Long. I took time to point out how they have used it as a kind of reminder of what they have been seeking.

“Fascism will come to America in the name of anti-fascism.”

It fits the pattern the Left consistently follows.

• They call themselves progressive when they are really regressive.

• They call themselves liberal, but more intolerance of others’ opinions you will not find from any other group.

• They call themselves anti-fascists, but they really seek fascism with “the right people” in charge.

You among others keep pointing to their intrusiveness and attempts at forcing everybody to comply to their whims. But who among us has yet called it by its right label?

Perhaps that is because they called us that label first. Like an old schoolyard rule we still dare not break no matter how true it is.

Isn't there a movement to reclaim the language before Orwell's Newspeak totally ruins our ability to think? There better be.

Anonymous said...

As Orwell wrote:

War is Peace.
Freedom is Slavery.
Ignorance is Strength.