Would you expect anyone chosen to serve in the Obama administration to not be a raging progressive liberal? Well, don’t because they are. Cass Sunstein, chosen by Obama to head the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), is a progressive “change agent” that prescribes to this outlandish doctrine of “Libertarian Paternalism”. In other words, while we seem to have the freedom of choice, our choices should be guided by government. Why? Because according to Sunstein, humans will generally follow the path of least resistance and, in turn, make bad choices for themselves. Therefore, the government should make available, as primary choices to its citizens, things they normally wouldn’t choose without some coaxing or nudging. Sunstein is also an extremist animal activist, who argues animals should have the right to sue humans in a court of law. To top it off, he also feels that the Internet, as currently designed, leads to extremism, and should be redesigned to incorporate a “fairness doctrine” allowing people to be exposed to a wide cross-section of opposing viewpoints.
In 2008, Sunstein and Richard Thaler wrote the book, Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness. It discusses how, through the use of law, behavioral economics, psychology, political science, private institutions and government can “nudge” people toward choices that will make them healthier, wealthier, and happier. In other words, the majority of people will take the path of least resistance in making important life choices and make bad choices. His quote from the book sums it up pretty good:
Every day, we make decisions …Unfortunately, we often choose poorly…we often make bad decisions involving education, personal finance, health care, mortgages and credit cards, the family, and even the planet itself.
Sunstein sees this nudging effect being beneficial in the areas of environmental regulation and mortgage regulation. Since he feels most people do not have the capacity to make healthy decisions, the government should guide their hand.
Regarding the Internet, Sunstein contends that it creates too narrow of a focus on particular subject matter, leading to extremism. This justifies that people should be exposed to opposing viewpoints they would not have sought, in order to consider the validity of those opposing viewpoints. How does the Regulatory Czar really feel about the Internet? Here are several quotes from an article Sunstein wrote in the Boston Review titled, The Daily We – Is the Internet really a blessing for democracy?
Group polarization is occurring every day on the Internet. Indeed, it is clear that the Internet is serving, for many, as a breeding ground for extremism, precisely because like-minded people are deliberating with one another, without hearing contrary views. Hate groups are the most obvious example.
It is also clear that the Internet is playing a crucial role in permitting people who would otherwise feel isolated and move on to something else to band together and spread rumors, many of them paranoid and hateful.
With respect to the Internet, the implication is that groups of people, especially if they are like-minded, will end up thinking the same thing that they thought before—but in more extreme form.
I want to raise a note of caution. I do so by emphasizing one of the most striking powers provided by emerging technologies: the growing power of consumers to “filter” what they see. As a result of the Internet and other technological developments, many people are increasingly engaged in a process of “personalization” that limits their exposure to topics and points of view of their own choosing.
Sunstein also feels that a mechanism should be in place to require a “cool-off period” or “time-out” regarding responding to emails involving contentious subject matter. You know, instead of firing off that email in haste, with possible regret, just wait a day to see if you have changed your mind about sending that email.
If that’s not enough to raise a red flag on this guy, then this should. He proposes introducing the 2nd Bill of Rights, as advocated by FDR. Sunstein’s 2004 book titled: The Second Bill of Rights: FDR’s Unfinished Revolution and Why We Need It More than Ever advocates that Americans have a right to an education, a right to a home, a right to health care, and a right to protection against
monopolies. I don’t remember those items being listed in our current bill of rights. Seeing the way Obama’s administration has pushed for government control over our lives, it seems they have already initiated this “2nd bill of rights” without being explicit about it.
Anyone who adopts and promotes an idea of marrying the concepts of libertarianism and paternalism is a kook. The American Heritage Dictionary defines libertarian as:
One who advocates maximizing individual rights and minimizing the role of the state
and paternalism as:
A policy or practice of treating or governing people in a fatherly manner, especially by providing for their needs without giving them rights or responsibilities.
How and the world you reconcile those two as a single definition is beyond me. This is what you call Frankensteinian behavioral engineering. He obviously thinks people have a need and desire to be guided and nudged along to make better decisions that will benefit mankind as a whole. I don’t know about you, but I call this “socialism-lite”. Help yourself, but I think I’ll pass.
For more reading on Cass Sunstein:
2nd Amendment rights:
Though the Constitution has governed the nation for well over two centuries, its meaning is not stable over time. In 1970, the Constitution did not mean what it meant in 1950. In 2008, the Constitution is quite different from what it was in 1988 – and in 2028, we will probably be in for some major surprises.
Why we should celebrate paying taxes:
Compilation of Sunstein quotes here:
Quote from his animal rights activist mentor, Peter Singer:
…killing a newborn baby is never equivalent to killing a person, that is, a being who wants to go on living. That doesn’t mean that it is not almost always a terrible thing to do. It is, but that is because most infants are loved and cherished by their parents, and to kill an infant is usually to do a great wrong to its parents.