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And Yet Another Link

with 12 comments

JD sent me this in e mail

http://www.spiked-online.com/newsite/article/standing_up_to_the_new_paternalists/14174#.UsEHIo3hxiE

And although I’d already seen the Conly book reviewed in NYRB, and posted the review here, I thought I’d put this out for people to see.

 

 

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Written by janeh

December 30th, 2013 at 3:37 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

12 Responses to 'And Yet Another Link'

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  1. Given that they think so little of the rationality of anyone not them, what gives them the impression that their needs, wants, desires, and judgements are any more rational? Who died and made them God?

    They don’t have the research to back up their conclusions, but they feel quite comfortable that they know how everyone else “wants” to live. Well, no.

    My husband just drew my attention to New York, which has now banned the use of vapor cigarettes anywhere real cigarettes are prohibited. Their rationale? That seeing people using them “normalizes the sight of people smoking” and that might lead to actual smoking, and we can’t have that. I wondered when they were going out outlaw water, because we wouldn’t want to “normalize the sight of people drinking” as it might lead to, k’now….Big Gulps.

    The outright arrogance is what pisses me off. But I’ve never been fond of paternalism, even when practice by my actual pater.

    Lymaree

    30 Dec 13 at 4:05 pm

  2. This is from the spiked review.

    Time and again she states that John Stuart Mill’s classic source of anti-paternalist arguments, On Liberty, is now outdated. ‘We have already revised our view of human agency, following Marx, Freud and the philosophical insights of feminism. What we see now, in light of contemporary psychology and behavioural economics, is that some further revision is necessary.’

    Since Marx led to Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot, I am not inclined to think much of his ideas.

    jd

    30 Dec 13 at 7:05 pm

  3. The thing that amazes me is that all these Marx fans who drivvel on about his influence have totally failed to notice that the more things have been “changed” by his followers, the more human nature and, pretty much, the entire world remains the same – or is quickly reverting to the status quo ante. One thing doesn’t change much and that is that educated idiots are still a glut on the market.

    Mique

    30 Dec 13 at 7:12 pm

  4. Let me see if I have this straight.

    When corporations/advertisers use the tactics to get people to make (personally bad) choices that profit corporations, our resident libertarians are OK with that as “free market” and defend with “hey, they have a choice” — but if a government uses the same non-coercive tactics to encourage (objectively, demonstrably) good (or at least better) choices, suddenly it’s now totalitarianism of the worst kind?

    Hmm.

  5. Well, the short answer to Mike’s question is–yes.

    But the long answer is required, so let’s try it.

    I could say that government action is never non coercive, but the fallacy in the argument above is that the government (or anybody else besides myself) knows what is “objectively, demonstrably” a good or better choice for me.

    Not only does the government not know that, but it can’t. Something is only “objectively, demonstrably” good or better on the basis of the fundamental assumptions of the choice–that is, if my goal is “health,” then choices x, y, and z may be best for me, but if my goal is “to live life in the fullest expression of happiness,” then x, y and z may have to be abandoned for things that fit that second goal at least partially because they CANNOT fit the first.

    If the pursuit of happiness is a natural right, then the government may not decide in what my pursuit of happiness consists, and therefore has no way to make such “objectively, demonstrably” “good” choices for me.

    But the issue is much wider than that.

    And there is, of course, the other thing–the delusion that there are “experts” somewhere who can make these choices better than I can make them myself.

    But the “experts” have no more insight into “good” choices–that is, in what their happiness consists–than I do, and they are WORSE at making such decisions when they’re trying to make them for me, because they can’t live inside my head.

    But the worst of this is that the foundational prinicple of democracy is that we are all created equal in a very specific sense–that we are all created equal in our right to decide for ourselves what we want and how we should go about getting it.

    Our elected leaders are no better than us–in fact, they’re our employees.

    And certain aspects of life should be strictly off limits to any government, including what I weight and whether I exercise, whether I’d rather smoke or not, anything about my sex life having to do with willing adults, and a whole list of other things.

    Not only should Cass Susstein not be nudging me–no matter how much he despises my choices, or how much he disdains my definition of the good life–but the government shouldn’t even be allowed to collect data on my private habits.

    Private businesses are welcome to try to convince me to do it my way. That’s a voluntary association, or lack of one.

    But nothing the government does is volunatary. I don’t get to not pay the tax, or to refuse to be covered under Obamacare.

    janeh

    31 Dec 13 at 6:36 pm

  6. There are times and/or circumstances when it is perfectly legitimate for governments and their agents to coerce the people to behave or not to behave in certain ways, eg warfare or times of defence or other real and serious mass or widespread emergency.

    There are no times or circumstances when it is acceptable for unelected and unaccountable busy-bodies to interfere with the rights of individuals to live their lives as they see fit provided that, in doing so, their activities do not constitute an infringement on other people’s rights or an endangerment to their well-being. Greenpeace is a prime exemplar of the latter sort of egregious busy-body. Most other so-called NGOs have their moments too, even the good guys like the Red Cross.

    A pox on them all.

    Mique

    31 Dec 13 at 7:44 pm

  7. Michael, if I might expand Jane’s short-hand a little?

    1. Yes, of course it’s coercive. That’s what laws and regulations are by definition. The “nudge” bit means the government is coercing an institution rather than an individual–that options be presented in THIS way, with THIS for the default setting–and usually with a reporting requirement, and inspectors. I some ways, it actually gets government deeper into micromanagement.

    2. And of course, for all your notion that it’s “objective” it’s anything but. Even Social Security is based on the notion that a 26 year old with debts and a family to support MUST be better off putting money aside so he’ll have it 40 years later when his house is paid for, his children raised and he’s at the top of his profession. It might be true of some or even most people, but it’s certainly not true for everyone and regardless of our opinions on the subject, which is what “objective” ought to mean in this context.

    And if you mean “objective” in the sense of “disinterested”–well that’s the last thing the advocates of such programs are–a bunch of religious fanatics without the saving grace of religion for the most part, and frequently they even turn out to have a financial interest in the policies they push, like Nancy Pelosi on “green” energy. Even if you could prove–which has NOT been done–that carrying 20 extra pounds would trim five years from my life, how does anyone decide “objectively” that for me it’s better to give up French fries and live to 85 than to enjoy myself and clock out at 80? It’s especially irritating in that the “nudge” people are the sorts to be interested in my “quality of life” when they’re planning to have me put down like a horse with a broken leg. Ought we not each to have a say in what gives our own life quality?

    3. It’s also interesting that none of the “nudge” people seems actually to be opposed to tossing out the nudge and going for full-bore regulation. There are no freedom advocates among them: they just
    don’t have the political clout to coerce yet. There’s an early Thomas Perry–ISLAND, I think–in which an acute observer describes people living high above the multitude, eating peanuts and watching the activities below. Then they start dropping peanut shells on the people whose activities they disapprove of. Then peanuts. Then they start dropping rocks and wrenches. Jane thinks we should stop them at the peanut shell stage, and she’s certainly right that they won’t stop of their own.

    The people who talk about nicotine addiction don’t dwell much on the addiction to power. Perhaps it’s time we took away their fix.

    robert_piepenbrink

    1 Jan 14 at 9:51 am

  8. Found this just by chance:

    http://projects.wsj.com/lobotomyfiles/?ch=one

    In the pursuit of their best interests and with objective science backing them, the VA lobotomized something over 2,000 WWII vets. The good news is that it only directly and immediately killed one in 12. (Maybe that’s good news.) On the lighter side, believers in all-wise benevolent government might want to study the history of governmental dietary and financial advice. What will the ruling class of 70 years from now say of the policies their grandparents are pushing us to follow?

    But government being frequently and spectacularly wrong is a side issue. The basic rule of a free society is Théoden’s: “were you ten times as wise, you would have no right to rule me and mine.”

    A pity the Gores, Obamas and Sunsteins of the world never seem willing to persuade me by the excellence of the example they set, instead of always reaching for a stick.

    robert_piepenbrink

    1 Jan 14 at 2:01 pm

  9. I don’t object to government telling a food company that they must give the nutritional information on the label but what I do with that information is my business.

    jd

    1 Jan 14 at 7:54 pm

  10. jd, I’d agree–and I’d expect them to check the nutritional information, the way I expect the Weights and Measures people to come by the gas station now and then.
    But I also think it’s a slippery slope. For instance, one of our lords & masters has now decreed that every vending machine in the country must list the calorie count of every product by the end of next year. (Nature of display not yet decided: you can imagine what this does to small businesses trying to comply.) Evidently the feeling is that I’m still hitting the vending machines too often, so I must be too stupid to read the nutritional information on the package. In terms of my earlier analogy, they’ve gone from dropping peanut shells to dropping peanuts. I’d like to draw them up short before they get to rocks, not afterward.

    robert_piepenbrink

    2 Jan 14 at 8:18 pm

  11. Just came across this from the latest edition of Commentary Magazine. Sums up a lot of our current problems in a nutshell:

    http://www.commentarymagazine.com/article/the-closing-of-the-scientific-mind/

    Mique

    4 Jan 14 at 7:09 pm

  12. Mique, I managed to read less than half of the Commentary article before giving up. “The Scientific Mind” doesn’t exits. “Science” is a very broad word which includes many fields of interest. There is little point to including Quantum Field Theory and Oceanography in one category called “Science”.

    And I strongly doubt that the tens of thousands of people who call themselves scientists share a particular philosophical or moral point of view.

    jd

    4 Jan 14 at 10:28 pm

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