Tuesday, September 14, 2010

So Many Big Problems Start Out So Small

It has been said that the worst kind of tyrant is the one who is dominating you for your own good.  There is no limit to what they will do - for your own good.  Keep that in mind when you read that Michelle Obama is trying to get restaurants to change their menus - for the children. Quoting from the LA Times,
First Lady Michelle Obama, who has been unable to convince the Smoker-in-Chief to give up that dreadful habit, now has some health suggestions for other American families and for restaurant menus across the country. The goal is to eat healthier, although that might hurt restaurant sales and cause disappointed children.
The LA Times piece goes on to say:
One idea Mrs. Obama had is to serve apple slices as the default side dish with, say, hamburgers, instead of French fries, which she confessed to liking.
Also she'd like less butter and cream in restaurant dinners, not enough to....
...ruin the flavor but enough to make them healthy. A difficult balance, millions have learned.
So what's the big deal?  Why not offer apple slices instead of French fries?  Aren't we in a terrible epidemic of childhood obesity?  Won't eating healthier help?

My argument is that it isn't her call and it shouldn't be any of the government's damned business.  It's the parents' call to ask the restaurants what they want their children's meals to be.  It's the market's call.  This is the first nudge in what will become a war.  Oh, and mark my words: this is a coming war. 
Cass Sunstein
(image from)

As you will see from that Amazon link, Nudge is co-authored by "Regulatory Czar" Cass Sunstein.  The idea behind the book is simple: we all have an inner Homer Simpson and an inner Mr. Spock who run our decision making.  While the Ruling Class Elites are under the control of their inner Spock, you're ruled by Homer.  You're too stupid to make good choices, so the wise and wonderful government will make them for you.  We'll put the fries elsewhere on the menu so that kids don't see them.  You don't get them unless you ask.  If that doesn't work, they'll make the fries cost a little more than the apples.  If that doesn't work, well, they'll just have to take them off the market completely.  You enjoy that weekly cigar?  It's too linked to mouth cancer, don't you know.  We'll have to quadruple the taxes on them.  Or more.  Or take them off the market.  It's for the children, you know.  By the way - that anger and revulsion you're feeling?  That "who the #?*! do they think they are??" feeling?  That's just another symptom of the "optimism and overconfidence" that your inner Homer gives you (last paragraph of that Slate piece).

The worst aspect of any health care insurance system is that my choices become your business.  I may not want to wear a hard helmet when I ride my motorcycle, but if the long term care for my chronic vegetative state adds a hundred bucks a year to your insurance premium you start to care about it.  When the plan is well-managed, the effect is barely noticeable.  When the government becomes the sole provider of health care there is not a single aspect of your life that isn't some bureaucrat's to rule over (and don't tell me we're not headed there or I'll 'pop a cap in yo ass').  Your weight, the amount of hours you sleep, whether you use your seat belt, how much bacon you eat, how often you hug your kids or have sex with your spouse - it all can be argued to have an effect on your or their health, which leads to the cost of the health care and irrevocably to the national budget. 

Eventually these "nudges" become pushes, full-body checks and then hits by NFL defensive tackles.  It may be that fries are outlawed, or it may be bacon, or health care is denied because you don't follow their nudges.  Prohibition, the last great experiment at changing people's behaviors, worked out so well, didn't it? 


  1. Guy with a haircut like that has no business telling anyone that their inner Homer Simpson doesn't follow Best Practices!
    Someone needs to nudge him to a SuperCuts, and then down a flight of stairs...

  2. Winner! QoTD material right there.

    Legend has it that Cass Sunstein is widely known as "Ass Buttstain". But I wouldn't know anything about that. And I certainly wouldn't enter those terms in the Google search bar of my blog.