Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Federal 'nudge squad' led by 20-something wunderkind gears up to change Americans' behaviors – for our own good

When does a nudge become a shove? - Daily Mail

Americans may find out in coming years, as the federal government is setting up a 'behavioral insights team' to tinker with the way we accomplish everything from saving money and staying in school to losing weight and becoming more energy-efficient....

In the U.S., however, there's no indication that the White House's 'nudge unit' will be anything other than a government enterprise.

That may not bode well for the Obama administration, given the cautionary tale posed by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose long-ridiculed ban on large-size fizzy drinks has officially fallen flat.

An appeals court ruled Tuesday that the city's Board of Health didn't have the constitutional authority to limit how much soda can go into a restaurant's cup.

The measure was originally hailed as a perfect example of 'nudge' paternalism that would subtly change behaviors without preventing the truly thirsty from buying two cups.

But the ruling will set a precedent that opens up such government interventions to legal nannying of its own from industries whose bottom lines are affected when bureaucracies try to tweak what ordinary people do, and how they do it.