The White House’s “Nudge Squad”

Written by Marilyn Assenheim on July 31, 2013

Although the White House is painting its usual, self-serving picture, experts warn that there is nothing to stop government’s “we know best” snowball from turning into an avalanche. Michael Thomas, an economist at Utah State University, aired his concerns to FOX News: “Ultimately, nudging … assumes a small group of people in government know better about choices than the individuals making them. And sometimes… government actually promotes the wrong thing.” No kidding.

David Laibson, behavioral economics professor at Harvard University, is working with the government on the program. Laibson’s involvement in the program is right up The Lyin’ King’s alley; his verbal contortions outdo mountain switchbacks. First, Laibson states that “Every intervention would need to be tested to make sure (the program) works well…” Then Laibson added that the way the team will function is still unknown.

Finally, Laibson “hopes the government will shy away from involving itself from controversial policies.” Well, Elvis certainly departed that auditorium ages ago. Laibson ends with a bang: “Let’s say we want people to engage in some healthy behavior like a weight loss program, and then start automatically enrolling overweight people in weight loss programs — even though they could opt out, I’m guessing that would be viewed as offensive …” Why assume one could “opt out”? Horrifyingly, Laibson believes it would be problematic not because of automatic enrollment but because “a lot of people would say, “…this is judging who I am and who I should be.”

FOX News ends with a cautionary note from Jerry Ellig, an economist with the Mercatus Center: “If you can keep it to a ‘nudge’ maybe it can be beneficial…but nudges can turn into shoves pretty quickly.” Mr. Ellig is dead wrong about a nudge from government being beneficial. A “nudge” from government is never beneficial to anyone except to government. We have almost five years of evidence of that.

Image: Description: Español: Pintura Político-social; author: Cesar Leal Jiménez; Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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Marilyn Assenheim
Marilyn Assenheim was born and raised in New York City. She spent a career in healthcare management although she probably should have been a casting director. Or a cowboy. A serious devotee of history and politics, Marilyn currently lives in the NYC metropolitan area.