9.25.2010

Getting Bruised from all the Nudging

Appearing today: another article about "nudging" Americans to make better choices. I'm really disappointed and somewhat surprised (decreasingly surprised) that others don't see this as a corrosion of liberty--or that if they do see it that way, that they aren't bothered by it. Somewhere one of my Austrian economists said something like, "Without economic liberty, there is no political liberty," and so when I hear some bureaucrat (or doctor who will probably soon be a bureaucrat) say, "We have to make the healthy choice the easy choice," I know that they're talking about raising prices on junk food.

Now, are you "free" if your government intervenes between vendors and consumers? If your government artificially increases prices on choices that it disapproves of? Do you care for choices? Or were you such goodie-two-shoes as children that you never felt an impulse to clench your jaws shut and throw your asparagus at your mom?

Republicans have overused the term "Nanny State" for a long time, admittedly. But I'm just so discouraged that people believe that it's the government's business whether I eat my vegetables. And of course--of course!--it almost officially is now the government's business whether we eat our vegetables, because health care is now a public good. But then why stop at vegetables? Certainly vegetables will soon be subsidized, and cigarettes and whiskey and pastries will come with taxes attached. But why not take the school lunch program national? Oh, you know you namby pambies would love to drink a half-pint of Chocolate milk and some Salisbury steak or some bullshit every day. G-d save us from the State.

Or else: somebody convince me that Freedom isn't really an absolute value.

11 comments:

Wishydig said...

i always loved asparagus. so i wasn't forced to each it. i'm still free to do so. if things keep going this way, my freedom my come a little cheaper.

yay!

Riles said...

I dont see how you can think of freedom as an absolute value. Our choices affect other people.

pure_sophist_monster said...

I would ask only: "Now, are you 'free' if your government doesn't intervenes between vendors and consumers?" Will I be more free if BP and Halliburton do whatever the fuck they want. I guess I could vote them out offi...oh, that's right.

Casey said...

Fielding ya'll in reverse order:

BP and Halliburton can only do what the market demands of them, unless the government subsidizes their enterprises, which was certainly the case with Halliburton, and very likely the case with BP... or even if BP wasn't subsidized out of the free market, all it was doing was getting us the gas we demand to get to work. And remember: in a free-market, oil companies would've been drilling on land in the Arctic Circle.

Riles, that's a reasonable point in response to a manic statement--fair enough. But I guess what I had in mind was a set of negative liberties where we all agree to "do no harm" to other sentient beings and, beyond that, grant ourselves a kind of ultimate freedom. But am I for speed limits? Yeah, I guess so. So maybe I should be complaining about the amount of freedom being less than I think would be ideal?

Wishydig, it's people like you who are the whole problem. Out of one side of your face you talk about not trampling other people's values, and out of the other, you're happily trampling values: "Hey, we're all postmodernists, so don't push your Christian values on me... but swallow this vegan-hippie-secular pill because we the postmodern majority can make you."

Anybody who knows the Constitution at all (Riles?) knows that the whole point of America was to protect minority parties from tyranny. And you asparagus people, when you were the minority party, cherished those rights and those freedoms. Now that you're a majority, you have no qualms about mouth-raping me with asparagus.

[Do my metaphors go too far? I actually like asparagus too, but... uh... ?]

comida !!!

pure_sophist_monster said...

So you're fine with government intervention in your favor?

Also, corporations don't nudge? They don't make certain outcomes easier? They don't nudge/lobby politicians? Just so I am clear on this. The free market is full of nudges. That's what makes is a free market: infinite nudges.

But, more importantly and problematically, you keep acting as if your liberties somehow exist apart from government intervention. Your liberties are government in(ter)ventions. They are interventions into a history that suggests humans typically see and treat other humans as shit or worse. Your freedom and my freedom are historical anomalies.

But, as always, the problem is your approach. Just vote against the party who nudges in ways counter to your values. But, for the love of WHATEVER, quit acting like you aren't doing it. Quit quantitatively distancing yourself from political life and get down here in the qualitative slop with the rest of us nudgers/nudged/nudges.

Insignificant Wrangler said...

I don't acknowledge food arguments from a guy who lived on nacho cheese and bread sticks.

Casey said...

No, PSM: it really wasn't that long ago that it was a cliché to quote Voltaire and say, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." That was perennial, universal wisdom in the West (that is, in the Free world). We seem to me to be one twirl of the baton away from that statement being reworded: "...But I will defend your right to say it, but not tax free."

Obviously Freedom is a historical anomaly; that's why I'm so passionate about defending the notion. I'm just astonished at how willing people have become to limit the freedoms of others. You (all) seem to be conflating the freedoms that must be defended by police (negative freedoms) with freedoms that have nothing to do with what other people choose.

Now, as I said: in some light, this is the inevitable consequence of making something like "health care" a public right. Once that step is taken, there can obviously be no freedom to choose: aside from the issue of institutional inequalities in tax burdens, the government now has a vested interest in controlling (let's call it what it fucking is, okay? Let's stop using the word "nudge," for Confucius' sake) the behavior of its citizens.

I still fail to see the logic by which such intervention from the state is not problematic to you. Once you accept these kinds of interventions, your freedom is only available during periods when your political party reigns. Remember: when there's backlash against the aspargus party, the Twinkie and Donuts party gets elected. And that'll be a serious infringement on your freedom.

That's why what is needed is not -- is precisely not -- lowering ourselves into the qualitative slop. The only protection from tyranny is principles, which take the form of a Constitution, a charter of negative liberties.

The day you catch me arguing that the government should tax some behavior of yours that I personally disapprove of is the day I'll concede this point.

I'm just fuckin' stunned that this is coming from where it's coming from: as much as postmodernism was annoying, I never expected it to becoming tyrannous. "Values are relative, truth is based on consensus, and so we need to choose one set of values and enforce it?!?!"

WTF? What happened to letting everyone mill about in their own truth? What happened to opposing a values-based government, which was all the rhetoric I heard every time an anti-abortion candidate or a former witch ran for public office: we can't have Christianity mixing with politics!

Ah! Despair! Save me, Amsterdam!

pure_sophist_monster said...

Quit accusing me of being postmodern! I'm a sophist. There's a difference.

You are arguing with people who aren't in this room, Casey.

Casey said...

Well, you guys called me a Platonist for months before I ever picked up any Plato! :)

But okay: now I'm really really catching on. Ya'll are sophists who are willing to say anything to turn the world into your kind of tyranny! It's awesome, and scary.

Isn't it a wonder that no conservative ever proposed "nudging" people out of getting abortions by raising the hell out of taxes on abortions? A pack of cigarettes is more expensive than an abortion, last time I checked. This is because conservatives really actually believe in Law and rights and stuff.

But I will say (and conclude with) this: this conversation is finally driving me out of the "room" altogether. You've shown me my sins. I see now I already had lowered myself into the qualitative slop.

All I can do now is start a new blog and try to avoid the web again for as long as possible.

Wishydig said...

when have i ever said anything about "not trampling other people's values"?

what the hell does that kind of "trampling" mean anyway? my philosophy is closer to "i may disagree with what you say, but i'll defend to the death my right to make fun of you for saying it."

and the argument for these taxes isn't "pay more because what you're doing is wrong." it's "pay more because what you're doing is costing us."

now if you want to argue that america's health isn't costing anything, that's one thing. and if you want to argue that even if it is costing it doesn't matter and it shouldn't be taxed, that's another. but don't tell me that i'm happy taxing people because their preferences are different from mine.

it's not like anyone's proposing a tax on flavors.

Wishydig said...

and for what it's worth, i don't support these taxes. i think it's a silly and ineffective approach to the health concern. insufficient and unnecessary.

my joke really came from the issue not being worth much of my emotion.

what is? the fact that the president, who is a constitutional scholar, and DOD, is arguing that all the president has to do is claim that he knows a citizen is connected to al qaeda and he no longer has to say what he knows, or how he knows it, and he can skip right over due process and order an assassination.

fuck your dreams of a cheap cheeseburger.