The proponents of centralized power require a homogeneous “people” to justify expanding government power. Such a “people” will have similar interests that only the central government can effectively identify and serve. Interests like “social justice”, “social duties”, and “social efficiency”, cannot be fulfilled by local or state governments, or by the parochial aims of civil society or the market, or by churches divided by sectarian beliefs. The federal technocrats of government agencies, more knowledgeable than the people about what they really want and need, must be given the power to trump those clashing local interests and manage polices that serve the larger “social” good – as defined not by the people in all their variety and complexity, but by federal bureaucrats and technocrats.
We quote from an excellent article by Bruce Thornton at Front Page.
In 1902 Theodore Roosevelt intervened in a strike by Pennsylvania coal miners, exceeding his Constitutional authority as president. When this was pointed out to him by Republican House whip James E. Watson, Roosevelt allegedly yelled, “To hell with the Constitution when the people want coal!”
This outburst reflected the novel Progressive view of the Chief Executive. Instead of the Constitution’s limited powers focused on specific needs, such as national defense, beyond the capacity of the individual states or local governments to address, the President needed more expansive authority in order to serve the “people”. Over 100 years later, Barack Obama has governed on the same assumption, one that undermines the Constitution’s structure of balanced powers and limited government, and puts at risk our political freedom and autonomy.
In January of this year Obama famously asserted, much less honestly than did T.R., his willingness to shed Constitutional limits: “We’re not just going to be waiting for legislation in order to make sure that we’re providing Americans the kind of help they need. I’ve got a pen and I’ve got phone.” And he’s been true to his belief during his nearly six years in office. He has changed his own signature legislation, Obamacare, 42 times.
He has also used his “pen and phone” to change immigration laws, gun laws, labor laws, environmental policy, and many other statutes that should be the purview of the legislative branch, to which the Constitution gives the law-making power.
Other presidents, of course, have used signing statements and executive orders. But Obama has pushed this traditional prerogative far beyond the bounds that presidents in the past were usually careful to respect.
But the ideas behind this expansion of power are not peculiar to Obama, and transcend any one man. They come from the Progressive worldview that rejects the Constitution’s philosophical vision of humans as driven by conflicting “passions and interests”, and eager to amass power in order to gratify both. The Progressives, on the contrary, believe that human nature can be improved, and that technocrats armed with new knowledge of human behavior and motivations can be entrusted with the concentrated power necessary for managing that improvement and solving the new problems created by industrialism, technology, and the other novelties of modernity.
In terms of the federal government, the key to this new vision is the executive branch, led by an activist president. Woodrow Wilson was quite explicit about these ideas. In 1890 he wrote of the need for a “leader of men” who has “such sympathetic and penetrative insight as shall enable him to discern quite unerringly the motives which move other men in the mass”. He knows “what it is that lies waiting to be stirred in the minds and purposes of groups and masses of men”. This sympathy is one “whose power is to command, to command by knowing its instrument”, and the leader possessing this “sympathy” cares only “for the external uses to which they [people] may be put”.
More frightening still are Wilson’s comments further expanding on this “sympathy”. “Whoever would effect a change in a modern constitutional government must first educate his fellow-citizens to want some change. That done, he must persuade them to want the particular change he wants. He must first make public opinion willing to listen and then see to it that it listens to the right things. He must stir it up to search for an opinion, and then manage to put the right opinion in its way.”
Gone are the notions that free people decide their own political fate and choose representatives to serve their interests and principles, their autonomy protected by the Constitutional structure of checks and balances. Now an empowered elite presumably wiser about human nature will, like Plato’s Guardians, manipulate the people’s opinions so that they make the “right” choice. These ideas are on a continuum that at the extreme end lie Mussolini’s fascism and Lenin’s communism. …
Ideas that have been recycled by Cass Sunstein – former Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Obama White House – with his proposal that people must be “nudged” to do and think as he and his fellow Progressives are certain they should.
We see in Wilson’s writings another Progressive assumption still with us today: defining Americans as an abstract, collectivist “people”. This unitary “people” rejects the Founders’ recognition of America’s great variety … that characterize the citizens of the United States. … As John Adams wrote in 1787, the “selfish passions in the generality of men” are the “strongest”.
Knowing that this selfish inclination is rooted in a human nature … and so cannot be improved or eliminated, the Founders sought merely to balance faction against faction so that no one faction can amass enough power to threaten the freedom of all.
Two visions irreconcilably opposed to each other: that of the Founders’ taking account of human nature and its natural selfishness and finding the way to accommodate differences while protecting the freedom of each with rules for all; and that of the Progressive elite who would change human nature, homogenize interests, and impose their own vision on everyone, subordinating individual choice to a collective will controlled and guided by themselves.
Go back to Obama’s “pen and phone” statement and read what follows to see this same collectivist vision at work: “And I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions and administrative actions that move the ball forward in helping to make sure our kids are getting the best education possible, making sure that our businesses are getting the kind of support and help they need to grow and advance, to make sure that people are getting the skills that they need to get those jobs that our businesses are creating.” The president assumes that in a country of some 330 million people, “the help they need” and their views on improving job creation, education, or job training are all the same, and thus one man can formulate policies that advance them, cutting out the several hundred representative of Congress, and state and local governments.
The obvious danger is one evident from the 20th century’s history of totalitarianism from the Bolsheviks to the Khmer Rouge. Elites convinced of their superior knowledge and insight into human behavior and the proper aims people should pursue, demand the coercive power to achieve these goods. But true to the Founders’ vision of a flawed human nature, power is “of an encroaching nature,” as Madison and Washington both warned. It intoxicates and corrupts those who possess it. Moreover, it requires weakening the autonomy and freedom of the people, whose various interests will contradict the “vision of the anointed”, as Thomas Sowell dubs them, who claim to know what’s best for everybody, and use their power to neutralize or eliminate those who resist this superior wisdom.
We need to recognize that for over a century this Progressive vision has revolutionized the federal government, which now has a size, scope, cost, and coercive power that would have horrified the Founders.
An Investor’s Business Daily editorial lists some of Obama’s far left appointees, and asks: “Does he have any friends who aren’t crackpots?”
But the question that arises from the list is: Has Obama any friends – has he ever had any friends – who aren’t communists?
America is a country of 320 million people, most of them holding to traditional values. Yet President Obama keeps mining the fringes for his hires. Does he have any friends who aren’t crackpots?
Seriously. The president keeps saying he champions the middle class and its values. But his choices of people to help him run the country are the most extreme in U.S. history, and his second-term nominations are more radical than the first.
No sooner had even some Senate Democrats joined Republicans in voting down a cop killer-coddler for civil rights chief, Debo Adegbile, than Obama sent up a 2nd Amendment-basher for U.S. Surgeon General. Dr. Vivek Murthy advocates doctors asking patients if they keep guns in the home, a shocking invasion of privacy.
Murthy may also have a rocky path ahead of him, but other extreme-left nominees are getting confirmed.
Last year, Obama tapped former Congressional Black Caucus chief Mel Watt as, of all things, head of the federal agency regulating Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which together underwrite 90% of all new-home loans. Republicans blocked his confirmation. But thanks to Democrats invoking the “nuclear option” and ending the filibuster, one of the most radical lawmakers in Congress is now effectively running America’s mortgage industry.
Meanwhile, radical racialist Tom Perez runs the Labor Department, where he’s threatening to sue employers who don’t hire minority felons, just like he sued bankers who didn’t make prime loans to un-creditworthy minority borrowers when he was civil rights chief.
You have to be a Kremlinologist to keep track of all the communist-sympathizing cronies orbiting this White House.
Obama’s previous appointees include:
• Valerie Jarrett, his closest White House adviser, whose father-in-law worked closely with Obama mentor and Communist Party leader Frank Marshall Davis in a number of front groups during the Cold War.
• David Axelrod, Obama’s political aide, whose mother worked for a communist organ in New York and whose mentor was Soviet agent David Canter.
• Van Jones, an admitted communist hired by Jarrett as Obama’s green jobs czar.
• Anita Dunn, former White House communications director and Obama’s 2012 foreign policy debate coach, who listed communist dictator and mass murderer Mao Zedong as one of her two favorite philosophers whom “I turn to most” when questions arise.
The other was Mother Teresa. The message: Torture, kill, pray.
• Cass Sunstein, Obama’s regulatory czar who wrote a socialist “bill of rights” and who advocates redistributing wealth through climate-change policy.
• Samantha Power, ambassador to the United Nations, a 9/11 apologist who advised the president to follow a “doctrine of mea culpa” and literally bow down to foreign leaders as atonement for America’s “sins.”
• Anne-Marie Slaughter, former State Department policy chief, who advised the president to apologize for the War on Terror.
• Rashad Hussein, Obama’s Mideast envoy, who once defended a convicted terrorist (then got caught lying about it), and drafted the president’s Cairo speech apologizing for the War on Terror.
• Rose Gottemoeller, Obama’s Soviet-sympathizing chief nuclear arms negotiator, who thinks America is a global “bully” and must unilaterally disarm for the sake of world peace.
• John Trasvina, assistant HUD secretary for fair housing who once headed the radical Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund, whose co-founder made racist statements about whites.
• Cecilia Munoz, head of White House domestic policy who used to work for La Raza, the militant Latino group that advocates illegal immigrant rights.
• Erica Groshen, Bureau of Labor Statistics chief who sends her children to Camp Kinderland, aka “Commie Camp,” a communist-founded institution where kids during the Cold War sang Soviet anthems.
• John Holdren, Obama’s science czar, who’s advised surrendering U.S. sovereignty to a “Planetary Regime” that will redistribute the West’s wealth to underdeveloped countries and who once advocated “adding a sterilant to drinking water” to control population.
• Harold Koh, former State Department general counsel who believes in “trans-nationalism” and sees nothing wrong with Shariah law in U.S. courts.
• Tony West, associate attorney general who oversees Gitmo policy, even though he defended al-Qaida and Taliban terrorists including John Walker Lindh, who pleaded guilty to aiding the enemy and fighting U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
So what? In Washington, personnel are policy. These people make the rules we have to live by, from health care to home loans to homeland security.
And these radical political appointees hire other radicals at the bureaucratic levels, where they’ll become entrenched as career federal employees.
In 2008, before Obama was nominated, we warned about his radical associations, including his ties to Davis — a hardened communist with a thick FBI file — at his Honolulu home. His defenders wrote off this Marxist indoctrination as youthful experimentation.
When we pointed out Obama spent 20 years in the pews of an America-bashing preacher, his apologists argued he was merely attending Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s church to burnish his urban bona fides.
When we noted Obama launched his political career in the living room of an unrepentant communist terrorist, his defenders argued Bill Ayers had blossomed into a respected professor, that his days of cheering on the Vietcong and bombing the Pentagon were behind him.
We were told the parade of anti-American subversives Obama came in contact with throughout his life amounted to ancient history. But now we have this roster of radical appointments, a current record that’s harder to explain away and which raises the indefeasible question of whether they’re a reflection of himself.
Only there can be no question about it. He and they are birds of a feather.
The enemy has gained the commanding heights of power.
Let’s listen in on a conversation the socialists are having among themselves. Brace yourselves, fellow individualists!
In the New York Review of Books, Cass Sunstein writes about a book by Sarah Conly titled Against Autonomy: Justifying Coercive Paternalism. It is the book for the Age of Obama.
“Coercive Paternalism” is a flimsy euphemism. The book argues for dictatorship.
Cass Sunstein’s review is titled It’s For Your Own Good!
Conly’s case, as the title signals, is that we ordinary mortals cannot make the “right” decisions for ourselves and so need those who work in government offices, and are by virtue of that fact superior to us in knowledge and judgment, to decide for us how we should live.
In the United States, as in many other countries, obesity is a serious problem.
For whom? If for the obese, the remedy is in their own hands. Only a socialist can think of fat people as a political problem.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to do something about it. … In 2012, he proposed to ban the sale of sweetened drinks in containers larger than sixteen ounces at restaurants, delis, theaters, stadiums, and food courts. The New York City Board of Health approved the ban.
Many people were outraged by what they saw as an egregious illustration of the nanny state in action. Why shouldn’t people be allowed to choose a large bottle of Coca-Cola? The Center for Consumer Freedom responded with a vivid advertisement, depicting Mayor Bloomberg in a (scary) nanny outfit.
Many Americans abhor paternalism. They think that people should be able to go their own way, even if they end up in a ditch. When they run risks, even foolish ones, it isn’t anybody’s business that they do. In this respect, a significant strand in American culture appears to endorse the central argument of John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty. In his great essay, Mill insisted that as a general rule, government cannot legitimately coerce people if its only goal is to protect people from themselves. Mill contended that
“the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or mental, is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinion of others, to do so would be wise, or even right.”
… Mill offered a number of independent justifications for his famous harm principle, but one of his most important claims is that individuals are in the best position to know what is good for them. In Mill’s view, the problem with outsiders, including government officials, is that they lack the necessary information. Mill insists that the individual “is the person most interested in his own well-being,” and the “ordinary man or woman has means of knowledge immeasurably surpassing those that can be possessed by any one else.”
When society seeks to overrule the individual’s judgment, Mill wrote, it does so on the basis of “general presumptions,” and these “may be altogether wrong, and even if right, are as likely as not to be misapplied to individual cases.” If the goal is to ensure that people’s lives go well, Mill contends that the best solution is for public officials to allow people to find their own path. Here, then, is an enduring argument … on behalf of free markets and free choice in countless situations, including those in which human beings choose to run risks that may not turn out so well.
Mill’s claim has a great deal of intuitive appeal. But is it right? That is largely an empirical question, and it cannot be adequately answered by introspection and intuition. In recent decades, some of the most important research in social science, coming from psychologists and behavioral economists …
Collectivists all …
… has been trying to answer it. That research is having a significant influence on public officials throughout the world. Many believe that behavioral findings are cutting away at some of the foundations of Mill’s harm principle, because they show that people make a lot of mistakes, and that those mistakes can prove extremely damaging. …
Or because they, being socialists, have to try and defeat Mill’s argument for individual freedom.
Leaving aside the need to define a mistake, let’s look at what we now know the book is assuming: that there are beings on this earth, outside the category of “people”, who will never make mistakes; who are infallible in their judgment, and as omniscient as “God” is reputed to be. And Conly/Sunstein think that therefore we should try to summon up enough good judgment to put ourselves in their hands. The hands of those who are angels of selfless kindness, motivated entirely and exclusively by consideration for us.
People may, for example, delay enrolling in a retirement plan, starting to diet or exercise, ceasing to smoke, going to the doctor, or using some valuable, cost-saving technology. Present bias can ensure serious long-term harm, including not merely economic losses but illness and premature death as well. …
So how is it anybody’s business except their own?
To those who have the mind-set of a collectivist, that question will never occur. If it is put to collectivists they will find it meaningless. You may as well be addressing them in a strange language. If they hear you at all they may get the impression that you are reacting with anger, but that will only be proof to them that you are too selfishly wrapped up in your own feelings to pay attention to their wise council.
A great deal of research finds that most people are unrealistically optimistic, in the sense that their own predictions about their behavior and their prospects are skewed in the optimistic direction. In one study, over 80 percent of drivers were found to believe that they were safer and more skillful than the median driver. Many smokers have an accurate sense of the statistical risks, but some smokers have been found to believe that they personally are less likely to face lung cancer and heart disease than the average nonsmoker. Optimism is far from the worst of human characteristics, but if people are unrealistically optimistic, they may decline to take sensible precautions against real risks. …
See in that paragraph how the very idea of the individual as a world in himself is lost to the sociological mind.
Emphasizing these and related behavioral findings, many people have been arguing for a new form of paternalism …
In the United States, behavioral findings have played an unmistakable part in recent regulations involving retirement savings, fuel economy, energy efficiency, environmental protection, health care, and obesity. In the United Kingdom, Prime Minister David Cameron …
… who, make no mistake about it, is a man of the Left …
… has created a Behavioural Insights Team, sometimes known as the Nudge Unit, with the specific goal of incorporating an understanding of human behavior into policy initiatives. In short, behavioral economics is having a large impact all over the world, and the emphasis on human error is raising legitimate questions about the uses and limits of paternalism.
Can they not suspect that the Nudgers (and for the invention of such “nudging” Sunstein takes credit in the review) may be as humanly susceptible to poor judgment as everybody else? Wait – Sunstein does come to that. But he really, really likes paternalism.
Until now, we have lacked a serious philosophical discussion of whether and how recent behavioral findings undermine Mill’s harm principle and thus open the way toward paternalism.
As if every tyrant in history, every king, every chief, every dictator has not seen himself as the Father of his people!
Sarah Conly’s illuminating book Against Autonomy provides such a discussion. Her starting point is that in light of the recent findings, we should be able to agree that Mill was quite wrong about the competence of human beings as choosers. “We are too fat, we are too much in debt, and we save too little for the future.”
You (possibly overweight and improvident) persons who pursue your private unexceptional ends invisibly; or who aim high, investigating our universe; inventing new technologies; working in advanced mathematics; exploring new territories of the earth and the imagination, going boldly where no man has gone before; composing, discovering … You for whom one crowded hour of glorious (perhaps gluttonous) life is worth an age without a name … You who wish to die … Take your minds off your vocation, your vision, your inspiration, your personal drama or despair. Concentrate on being one of the herd. Be like the rest. Obey the masters in office. Be thin. Live austerely. Do as you’re told – or “nudged”?
Well, no. Nudging might not be enough.
With that claim in mind, Conly insists that coercion should not be ruled out of bounds. She wants to go far beyond nudges. In her view, the appropriate government response to human errors depends not on high-level abstractions about the value of choice, but on pragmatic judgments about the costs and benefits of paternalistic interventions. Even when there is only harm to self, she thinks that government may and indeed must act paternalistically so long as the benefits justify the costs.
“Benefits” in whose estimation? Costs to whom?
Conly is quite aware that her view runs up against widespread intuitions and commitments.
Not to say against the highest aspirations of mankind and the Constitution of the United States.
For many people, a benefit may consist precisely in their ability to choose freely even if the outcome is disappointing. She responds that autonomy is “not valuable enough to offset what we lose by leaving people to their own autonomous choices.” Conly is aware that people often prefer to choose freely and may be exceedingly frustrated if government overrides their choices. If a paternalistic intervention would cause frustration, it is imposing a cost, and that cost must count in the overall calculus. But Conly insists that people’s frustration is merely one consideration among many. If a paternalistic intervention can prevent long-term harm — for example, by eliminating risks of premature death — it might well be justified even if people are keenly frustrated by it.
Apparently it has not occurred to those who nudge or coerce us for our own good that some among us may reject life long before old age.
Conly does concede, however, that people should be allowed to do certain things they may in their foolishness want to do. By a wild leap of imagination she arrives at stamp-collecting as an example of what might be permitted – 0r so Sunstein reports or suggests:
If people really love collecting comic books, stamps, or license plates, there is no occasion to intervene.
She describes the adverse reaction people may have to coercion by a dictatorial government as “frustration’. She seems to be unaware of the intense suffering those have endured who have had to live under dictatorships. And she seems to think that persons granted the power to force you to do such nice little things as to eat only what a government allows, put money away in savings accounts, and refrain from smoking will never, never use that power to lock you up or kill you. We itch to send her a long list of books that would inform and enlighten her if we had the least hope she would read them. But we are skeptics, and have no such hope.
We said that this is the theme of a conversation within the Left. The discussion in the review comes down to a small difference of opinon between the advocate of “nudging” (Sunstein), and the advocate of force (Conly). Sunstein does acknowledge differences of taste, and even the possibility of “official errors” – and fears repercussions:
Conly is right to insist that no democratic government can or should live entirely within Mill’s strictures. But in my view, she underestimates the possibility that once all benefits and all costs are considered, we will generally be drawn to approaches that preserve freedom of choice. … Our ends are hardly limited to longevity and health; our short-term goals are a large part of what makes life worth living. …
Freedom of choice is an important safeguard against the potential mistakes of even the most well-motivated officials. … Officials may well be subject to the same kinds of errors that concern Conly in the first place. … We might be inclined to favor freedom of choice as a way of … providing a safety valve in the event of official errors.
But having raised these few points of disagreement with Conly, Sunstein concludes that she –
… convincingly argues that behavioral findings raise significant questions about Mill’s harm principle. When people are imposing serious risks on themselves, it is not enough to celebrate freedom of choice and ignore the consequences.
If Sunstein, Conly, and their fellow socialists are not persuaded by John Stuart Mill, they will almost certainly not take account of what contemporary individualists have to say. But we can remind one another that among the consequences of freedom of choice are all the highest achievements of our history.
Consider the fate of Detroit. It provides a preview of America’s socialist future (if Obama gets re-elected).
This is from Investor’s Business Daily:
“Will the last one to leave please turn off the lights?” goes the old joke. In the socialist worker’s paradise that was the Motor City, nearly half the streetlights are broken and the city can’t afford to fix them.
Detroit, the buckle on the Rust Belt that as recently as the 1970s had 1.8 million people, now has only 713,000 in an area of 139 square miles.
It fell victim to one-party Democratic rule and labor unions that made its key industry — auto manufacturing — uncompetitive and financially unstable. Before there was Greece, there was General Motors.
Yes, that is what happened.
Now Detroit has announced plans to reorganize that could have come right out of Pyongyang.
As Bloomberg reports, some 40% of the city’s 88,000 streetlights are broken, and the city will try to “nudge” people into moving into a smaller, more compact area that can be better maintained.
Mayor Dave Bing proposes to decommission nearly half the city’s lights, including all those in alleys, two-thirds of those in declining neighborhoods and a third of those in more stable neighborhoods.
“You have to identify those neighborhoods where you want to concentrate your population,” said Chris Brown, Detroit’s chief operating officer. “We’re not going to light distressed areas like we light other areas.”
Aha! The phrase “concentrate your population” gives the game away.
This is not about economizing – since when do Democrats in power economize?
The Democrat-controlled City Council has found a pretext for implementing Agenda 21.
So Detroit residents can continue to reside in sparsely populated unlit areas — or move where the government wants them to move. …
In 2008, Obama czar Cass Sunstein co-authored a book called “Nudge” in which he argued that people could be pushed by government action into behaving in ways or doing things they would not ordinarily do or accept. The consent of the governed or the will of the people was considered an anachronism.
The scary part is that Detroit is what President Obama wants to fundamentally transform America into, a place where wealth is redistributed, not created, and where government picks winners and losers in an economy in which we all ultimately lose.
For the evils of Agenda 21, see our posts: World Communist government begins, May 13, 2012; Blessed are the slimy, May 5, 2012; Beware “Agenda 21″, June 24, 2011; The once and new religion of earth-worship, October 27, 2011; Agenda 21: the “smart growth” conspiracy, November 21, 2011;Three eees for environmental equalizing economics, December 4, 2011; Prepare to be DICED, March 23, 2012.
The Obama administration is growing ever longer arms and ever more grasping fingers, to reach into every aspect, activity, and setting of our lives: our homes, our possessions, our habits, our tastes, our choices, our minds; to regulate, manipulate, constrain, constrict, direct, control us. Their aim? For them, power beyond the imaginations of all former tyrants; for us, helpless dependence, obedience, submission.
An exaggeration? Let’s see.
Among the people he has appointed to “czardom”, the unelected ideologues who have real executive power, are “behavioral scientists” and “behavioral economists”, who are actively trying to “usher in an era of profound social reform by getting us to change the way we behave, little by little, every day”, to quote an article by Christine Rosen in the July/August issue of Commentary, titled Now Behave. She names in particular Cass Sunstein, co-author of Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness, whom Obama has appointed his “regulation czar”. What he and his fellow philosophers now governing the Republic are doing is, in Rosen’s words:
.. reconciling political theory with the scientific study of human behavior since, they argue, the old categories of political theory no longer apply. … Personal responsibility? Impossible in a complicated world governed by complex ‘systems’ and limitless choices. The result is a kind of [Pavlovian] stimulus-response politics that promises to liberate citizens from having to make complicated choices in exchange for limiting their freedom.
Promises to liberate us from liberty?
It’s all for own good, of course, as every tyranny has ever been for the good of the tyrannized. But it’s not just for our own individual good. No – as always it’s for the good of “society”.
The new behaviorism isn’t interested in protecting people’s freedom to choose. Its core principle is the idea that only by allowing an expert to limit choices can individuals learn to break their bad habits. … Contemporary behaviorists want to nudge us, but not merely to make us happier, better people. They have specific hopes for the social effects this nudging will achieve: fewer smokers, thinner Americans, higher savings rates.
Now we see the dream in detail. It’s not exactly the same as the grand, vague, Marxist utopian dream of a proletarian paradise. It’s a more mundane, banal projection, concerned with correcting trivial behaviors that insult the puritan eye, nose, and tight fist. A largely aesthetic ideal based on parsimony, satisfying a taste for sparseness and austerity, with everyone skinny and no more unsightly fatties impeding passage through the mall. The venting of a petty and stingy enviousness that cannot endure the sight of abundance. A drive for conforming discipline, with a Spartan adulation of rude health, conjuring up images of medicine-ball, gym-slip, girls’ organizations in the early twentieth century.
The intelligentsia of the Western world, the elite that always classes itself with the rulers rather than the ruled, think all this is wonderful, great, brilliant. If you doubt it, read what distinguished critics and academics say about Cass Sunstein’s book Nudge, quoted proudly in it. Eg: “a wonderful book”; “this gem of a book”; “insightful and amusing, practical and deep … a must-read for anyone who wants to see both our minds and our society working better … it will make the world a better place“.
They see no contempt in it. No evil will. After all, it’s not a plan to force us, the masses; just to plant certain ideas in our minds so we can mull them over and come to accept them as better ideas than our own.
Not forcing us? Are they not already taking steps to regulate how much salt and fat we eat? To limit how much credit we may have so we don’t go and buy something just because we want it? The way you live in your own home will be scrutinized and corrected. Think you can cheat? They have technologies unavailable to earlier totalitarians, and they’ll use them to mold us to their heart’s desire.They are putting X-ray vans on the streets from which they can look into your house and see if you’re just lolling about when you should be working out (in either sense of the phrase). Complain about it? They’ll know. They’re working on censoring your internet communications.
Let’s look at an example of government interference in our home lives, at one way our betters are limiting the choices we can make in small and necessary things.
Ed Feulner, president of that splendid stronghold of conservative principles, the Heritage Foundation, writes today in Townhall:
So, are you ready to comply with the federal government’s ban on incandescent light bulbs? Me neither.
Starting in January 2012, a little over a year from now, the phase-out begins. Simple, inexpensive lighting will become a time-capsule item. Compact-fluorescent lights, or CFLs — the bulbs that look like a twisted ice-cream cone (and won’t fit in many light fixtures where space is tight) — will become the new norm.
Anyone who has priced CFLs knows they’re not cheap. Supposedly they’re worth the extra money because they’ll last longer. That’s cold comfort, though, given the dull, unnatural glow that these bulbs throw off.
Worse, CFLs are full of mercury. If one breaks — and who hasn’t dropped a light bulb now and then? — you have an elaborate clean-up process ahead of you. It’s on the EPA’s website, and it involves evacuating the area of all people and pets, and using duct tape and damp paper towels to get everything up. (Go to www.epa.gov for complete details.) And no vacuuming, or you may disperse the mercury – which, after all, is a toxic substance.
So why are we making the switch? … The theory, of course, is that we’ll consume less energy. It’s all part of the green agenda. The same agenda that the president insists will produce scads of high-paying, earth-friendly “green jobs.” Tell that to the 200 workers in Winchester, Va., who are losing their jobs as General Electric closes its incandescent-bulb factory there. Or to the Americans who work in other plants that have been shuttered.
Yes, some jobs will be created, thanks to the ban. Unfortunately, those jobs won’t be here in the U.S. — they’ll be in China, where CFLs can be made cheaper. …
But at least we’ll be saving energy, right? Not according to a recent study sponsored by Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. It found that energy use under newer “efficient” lighting will actually go up rather than down.
But their will be done.
One of the most profoundly troubling things about all this is that it’s being done to us so easily. Who is crying out against it? Even those who are aware that it is happening are not raising a hullabaloo, not threatening – let alone taking – action to prevent it. Christine Rosen, though she reports, explains, and objects to it, does not seem appalled by it. Ed Feulner, a champion of individual liberty, says of the light-bulb diktat: “This whole affair is a prime example of bad ‘unintended consequences’ resulting from well-intentioned plans — plans imposed by devotees of big-government solutions for nearly every problem.”
Well-intentioned? Can no one see that what we are being subjected to, stealthily nudged into, is a subservience more absolute than Orwell visualized, or Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao, and Kim Jong Il achieved?
Or are these absurd comparisons? True, no cruel punishments, no forced starvation, no mass killings are written into the scenario. The program wears a smiley face. Its authors, the rulers, wish only the happiness of all mankind.
Didn’t they all?
Jillian Becker September 28, 2010
There’s a government conspiracy being hatched to put and end to non-governmental “conspiracy theories”.
Fellow bloggers and all who are grateful for the First Amendment – beware! THEY are out to bind and gag us.
Freedom of speech is anathema to Cass Sunstein, one of Obama’s most powerful and most dangerous henchmen. He is Obama’s Information and Regulatory Affairs Czar. He may be deranged (he’s the one who suggested that animals should be allowed to sue people), but this new notion of his should be taken seriously because he speaks for the administration.
Here is part of a report about his plot to end freedom of speech and freedom of the press. It contains an audio clip so you can listen to what he says:
Disturbing audio has emerged of White House information czar Cass Sunstein, who in a previous white paper called for banning “conspiracy theories,” demanding that websites be mandated by law to link to opposing information or that pop ups containing government propaganda be forcibly included on political blogs. …
Sunstein said that if this system couldn’t be implemented voluntarily, “Congress should hold hearings about mandates,” which would legally force people to dilute their own free speech. The Harvard Professor also said that blogs should be forced to list a random draw of 25 popular websites, such as CNN.com.
“The best would be for this to be done voluntarily,” said Sunstein, “But the word voluntary is a little complicated and people sometimes don’t do what’s best for our society,” he added.
“The idea would be to have a legal mandate as the last resort….an ultimate weapon designed to encourage people to do better,” Sunstein concluded.
As we previously reported, in a January 2008 white paper entitled “Conspiracy Theories,” the Harvard Professor who is currently President Obama’s head of information technology in the White House called for “conspiracy theories,” that is any political opinion which didn’t concur with the establishment view, to be taxed or even banned outright….
In a set of proposals designed to counter “dangerous” ideas, Sunstein suggested that the government could, “ban conspiracy theorizing,” or “impose some kind of tax, financial or otherwise, on those who disseminate such theories”. …
In his white paper, Sunstein … cited the belief that “global warming is a deliberate fraud” as [a] marginal conspiracy theory to be countered by government censorship. …
Essentially, Sunstein wants it to be written into law that the government can dictate the very nature of reality to Americans and that their opinions can only be voiced at best when accompanied by mandatory federal propaganda or at worst that Americans can be silenced entirely by federal decree.
You think you own your body?
Well, you don’t.
How can you be so selfish, so acquisitive, so greedy as to want to claim permanent possession of it?
You have no moral claim to it whatsoever. Any more than to any other private property.
As Proudhon said: ‘Property is theft.’
Or at most a loan.
You’ve only got your body on loan from the community.
Not only must it be returned to common ownership after your death, but bits of it can be taken away from you while you’re still alive.
So says Obama’s ‘regulatory czar’, Cass Sunstein. He proposes the ‘routine removal’ of human organs from the dead, because ‘the state owns the rights to body parts of people who are dead or in certain hopeless conditions, and it can remove their organs without asking anyone’s permission.’
In our post of November 10, 2008, we quoted a 12 year-old’s joking definition of marriage:
Marriage is a union between two or more living things.
There are folk in Obama’s White House who wouldn’t find that funny.
Phyllis Schlafly writes at Townhall:
We thought our nation had settled the polygamy issue a century and a half ago, but this nomination makes it a 21st century controversy. Obama’s nominee for the EEOC, a lesbian law-achool professor named Chai R. Feldblum, signed a 2006 manifesto endorsing polygamous households (i.e., “in which there is more than one conjugal partner”).
This document, titled “Beyond Same-Sex Marriage: A New Strategic Vision for All Our Families & Relationships,” argues that traditional marriage “should not be legally and economically privileged above all others.” The American people obviously think otherwise, and current laws reflect our wishes.
Feldblum is not the only pro-polygamy Obama appointee. His regulatory czar, Cass Sunstein, wrote a book in 2008 called “Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness,” in which he urged that “the word marriage would no longer appear in any laws, and marriage licenses would no longer be offered or recognized by any level of government.”
Sunstein argues that traditional marriage discriminates against single people by imposing “serious economic and material disadvantages.” He asks, “Why not leave people’s relationships to their own choices, subject to the judgments of private organizations, religious and otherwise?” …
The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was passed in 1996 by overwhelming majorities in Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has identified more than 1,000 federal laws that are based on the traditional definition of marriage, including the tax laws that permit married couples the advantage of filing joint income tax returns and the Social Security benefits awarded to fulltime homemakers, both very popular federal laws.
The peculiar push to recognize polygamy as just another variety of marriage is a predictable and logical corollary of the political movement to recognize same-sex marriage. If our government cannot define marriage as the union of one man and one woman, it follows that there can be no law against the union of a man and several women.
Or, to be consistent, none against the union of a woman and several men, a woman and several women, a man and several men.
And why leave it there? Why narrow the field to the living? A person recently married a fairground ride: must such a marriage be monogamous? Why not a person and several fairground rides?
Of course, a limitation to one spouse can be forced by circumstance, as in the case of the person who married the Eiffel Tower. There just aren’t any other Eiffel Towers. Nothing, however, should prevent the Eiffel Tower itself getting married to several persons.
And if marriage to things is now okay among some sections of public opinion, what about marriage to animals?
In welfare-state Britain wives are entitled to ‘benefits’ from the state just for being wives, and while polygamy is illegal under the law of the land, the several wives of a Muslim can all get these hand-outs. In effect this is a displacement of British law by sharia. Some Muslim men, in addition to a plurality of wives, keep an animal or two on the side for the further satisfaction of erotic urges; a practice not forbidden by sharia law, as is acknowledged by the late Ayatollah Khomeini in his Little Green Book. Fortunately for the British tax-payer, sharia does not require a man to marry his four-legged ‘bits of fluff’.
Phyllis Schlafly goes on to say:
For years, polygamy, even though it is totally demeaning to women, has been embraced by the powerful American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). …
The ACLU’s feminist president, Nadine Strossen, stated in a speech at Yale University in June 2005 that the ACLU defends “the right of individuals to engage in polygamy.” On Oct. 15, 2006, in a high-profile debate against Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Strossen stated that the ACLU supports the right to polygamy.
Speaking to the Federalist Society on Nov. 18, 2006, the ACLU’s executive director, Anthony Romero, confirmed his organization’s support of polygamy.
The massive immigration that the United States has accepted in recent years includes large numbers of immigrants from Third World countries that approve of polygamy as well as marriage to children and to close relatives. …
Attacks on the traditional legal definition of marriage come from the gay lobby seeking social recognition of their lifestyle, from the anti-marriage feminists and from some libertarians who believe marriage should be merely a private affair, none of the government’s business. These libertarians want to deny government the right to define marriage, set its standards or issue marriage licenses. …
We may have to depend on the Republican Party to maintain government’s proper role in defining and protecting traditional marriage. The very first platform adopted by the Republican Party, in 1856, condemned polygamy and slavery as the “twin relics of barbarism”. …
Phyllis Schlafly writes that Obama has appointed 34 czars. There may be more. Some of them are called ‘advisers’ rather than czars, but the difference is hard to discern.
One of them, Van Jones, Green Jobs Czar – who has come under scrutiny due to the intense and exciting efforts of Glenn Beck on Fox – is a Communist, a rabble-rouser (no, it’s not Barack Obama we’re talking about now, we’re still on the subject of Van Jones) a racist, and a ‘Truther’. There are others equally as revolutionary who have apparently slipped easily through any vetting process, or had none, and have moved into the White House. Examples (from Canada Free Press): John Holdren, Science Czar, who has written about the advisability of forced abortions and sterilization; Cass Sunstein, Regulatory Czar, who has declared in Newspeak that ‘there is no liberty without dependency’; Ezekiel Emanuel, Health Czar, who wants government, once it controls the budget for everybody’s medical treatment, to be sternly thrifty with it for small children and old folk; Mark Lloyd, Communications Diversity Czar, who wants the state to control the media and believes that any discussion of freedom of speech is ‘a distraction’; Carol Browner, Global Warming Czar, who wants world government.
Such as these form a constellation round the President. They constitute his actual as opposed to his official cabinet. To these he listens. Why should he not? He has chosen them himself.
The tax-payer remunerates them.
As we have said before, they should more suitably be named Commissars. They may be intended as the nucleus of the totalitarian government of an American Soviet Union that we suspect is the dream of the supreme community organizer of the United States.
Footnote September 6: News – Van Jones has been forced to resign. Well done, Glenn Beck!