In light of President Obama's choice of "nudgy" Cass Sunstein — father of "libertarian paternalism" and three-month-old Declan Power-Sunstein, his child by brand new wife NSC senior director for multilateral affairs Samantha "under the bus, wink, wink" Power — as his all-powerful regulatory czar, we herewith present a republication of our July 17, 2008 post "The facts are irrelevant":
"They are like bookends. They will bring you many years of pleasure," a veterinarian's assistant predicted years ago of then kittens Tiny (above) and Baby (below), out in the side yard this afternoon assuming full bookend posture.
Googling a half-remembered quotation [see caption, above] from our post "An exultation of adolescence" of a couple of years back, we had a eureka moment this evening — unrelated to the quotation itself — reading the words of Dr. Joy Bliss of Maggie's Farm:
It called to mind our imail conversation with Goomp yesterday morning as we shared thoughts on Thomas Sowell's latest essay, "Are Facts Obsolete?" First, here's Tom:
As the hypnotic mantra of "change" is repeated endlessly, few people even raise the question of whether what few specifics we hear represent any real change, much less a change for the better.
Raising taxes, increasing government spending and demonizing business? That is straight out of the New Deal of the 1930s.
The New Deal was new then but it is not new now. Moreover, increasing numbers of economists and historians have concluded that New Deal policies are what prolonged the Great Depression.
Babe mirrors Tiny's leonine pose in the countdown to supper.
"It is depressing how ignorant people are of how the world works," Goomp wrote, responding to Dr. Sowell's point that "A politician's problem is how to look like he is for 'the poor' and against those who are 'exploiting' them. The facts are irrelevant to maintaining that political image":
Goomp [channeling Dr. Bliss's question]: It is all because they want to escape from personal responsibility.
We: They want to continue to suckle at the maternalistic udder.
He: And be told how wonderful they are.
And politicians are only too happy to oblige. Flirting dangerously with Godwin's Law, we summed things up awhile back in "What's wrong with the utopianist left world view," our post linked by Dr. Bliss in her own post referenced above:
As we've blogged early and often, the totalitarian instinct runs deep and dark in our species. It is forever raising its ugly head on both ends of the political spectrum, and cheating your way to victory is precisely where it's at. Ends justify the means. That's why commies and Nazis -- not to mention Islamofascists -- parrot the same party line: We educated elites know what's best for you plebes. Bill and Hill's "What if you spend your money wrong?" and "We are going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good" come to mind.
Then there's "libertarian paternalism," a subliminal approach to political persuasion that has "caught the imagination of top politicians" including Barack Obama, according to a breathless London Times interview of behavioral scientist Richard Thaler, co-author with Cass Sunstein of Nudge:
So why the political interest? Because you can influence people's choices without being accused of "nannying" and it is cheap. Or, as the authors put it: "If incentives and nudges replace requirements and bans, government will be both smaller and more modest … In short, libertarian paternalism is neither left nor right, neither Democratic nor Republican. In many areas, the most thoughtful Democrats are going beyond their enthusiasm for choice-eliminating programs. In many areas, the most thoughtful Republicans are abandoning their knee-jerk opposition to constructive governmental initiatives."
Considering ourselves among "the most thoughtful Republicans," we are skeptical. So is David Gordon of the Ludwig von Mises Intitute, who notes that "Tocqueville long ago warned against the policies of which libertarian paternalism is an example." Blogger Cassy Fiano gets it just right in her post — with video link — on GWs press conference this morning where he tells mewling reporters that "Americans are smart enough to figure out whether they're going to drive less or not."
Liberals just can’t seem to grasp the fact that people don’t need their all-knowing wisdom-filled genius to live happy and full lives. When President Bush said that it was presumptuous to tell Americans how to live their own lives, I wanted to cheer. It’s something that liberals aren’t able to understand. They think that the American people are idiots who can’t be trusted to be intelligent enough to figure things out on their own, and therefore need liberals to come in and do everything for them.
And now back to Dr. Joy Bliss for the final word:
State parentalism is one step from totalitarianism. And not just psychologically, but also in reality. First, you get the people used to the idea that they can depend on the government to take care of you and to solve your problems (rather than simply to defend you, and to keep life reasonably fair), and, having slowly softened them up, you build on that until you can't smoke a cigarette in your car without getting fined, or find a decent fried chicken take-out in NYC.
We're smart enough, Barack Obama. Oh, and we're not a racist.
Update: Maggie's links. Thanks, News Junkie!