April 8, 2013

"We should immediately distinguish between paternalism about means and paternalism about ends."

"Means paternalism is like a GPS. You can ignore what the GPS says and try your own route, but if you do so, there is a serious risk that you will get lost. To return to the fuel efficiency example: means paternalists would steer consumers in the direction of considering all relevant costs at the time of purchase, certainly by providing relevant information, and if a fuel economy mandate would help consumers on balance, they would be willing to consider it."

Cass Sunstein is talking up paternalism again.
Yes, we've heard it before, but I thought you might like the GPS analogy, and it seems to summarize his new book, "Simpler: The Future of Government."

54 comments:

Seeing Red said...

My GPS takes the long way and does get people lost.


Seeing Red said...

The evidence is all around you, and more is coming soon. Simplified mortgages and student loan applications. Scorecards for colleges and universities. Improved labeling of food and energy-efficient appliances and cars. Calories printed on chain restaurant menus. Healthier food in public schools. Backed by historic executive orders ensuring transparency and accountability, simpler government can be found in new initiatives that save money and time, improve health, and lengthen lives. Simpler: The Future of Government will transform what you think government can and should accomplish.



LIE!

Seeing Red said...

BTW, has anyone accessed their safe deposit box lately?

When did it become standard procedure for banks to ask if you're a student, working or retired?

Nonapod said...

I suspect Cass Sunstein would be a fan of PC games like Sim City and Civilization, where you're able to exercise absolute control over a society with sliders and micromanagment and a person is just a unit or an integer on some graph.

YoungHegelian said...

GPS is a great example of what's wrong with paternalism.

When I have absolutely no idea where I'm going (e.g. when I was driving in LA) I religiously followed the GPS in the rental car.

But, when I drive around the DC metro area and use the GPS, I routinely ignore its recommendations because I know easier or shorter or not-under-construction routes that it doesn't.

GPS is top down. If I'm totally clueless, it's way better than nothing. But, if I've got local knowledge and to the minute experience (bottom up), my decisions are much better than a GPS, even if I'm not a professional cartographer.

cubanbob said...

The future of government according to this troll is more and more intrusion in the minutiae of life and less and less ability and competence in the presumed spheres of competence of government. What could possibly go wrong?

edutcher said...

Richardson has pinups of ScarJo, Choom has pinups of Harris, he has pinups of Chairman Mao.

TMink said...

When you parent a five year old, you make decisions for them. When you parent a young adult, you inform them of possible and likely consequences and let them act their age.

I think the current and recent governments think we are 5.

Trey

dd said...

I choose to buy and use a GPS. That is like saying asking and listening to advice - that you asked for- is paternalism

Bob Boyd said...

What he really means is, follow the route his GPS tells you to follow, or lose your license.
And do it in the vehicle he says you may drive, only when he says you may drive it, at the speed he says you may travel.
And go straight there and straight back! No fooling around with your friends. Do you hear me?

chuck said...

It's another example of Sunstein pushing bullshit fiat science. Why this clueless totalitarian goofball is regarded as brilliant escapes me.

BDNYC said...

So he's just repeating himself now?

cubanbob said...

The Left has been fighting the Man and patriarchy for fifty years and now comes this Man of the Left arguing in favor of more paternalism. It's become impossible to parody the left.

Mitch H. said...

Cass Sunstein wants to be your daddy. I'm kind of surprised they haven't re-branded it as something less hot-button, "paternalism" makes me think either "patriarchy" (bad from the idiot identity-politics left as reeking of "privilege") or Old-Russian "patrimonialism" wherein the people are all property of the State/Czar-as-Slaveowner, and are directed by the "Little Father" for their own good.

Kirk Parker said...

"Soft" tyranny is still tyranny. This guy is a monster.

edutcher said...

Didn't Samantha Power basically buy him from his ex because she wanted him?

If so, this may be why he thinks being owned and being told what to do is so swell

pigpaws said...

Simpler means looking at a map and finding your own way.

Simpler means more people like him minding their own business.

Peter said...

At one of my first jobs, the boss told me "One of the good things about this job is, you don't have to think."

I think he meant it, too. (Yes, it was an awful job. But I not only didn't have to think, I was all but prohibited from doing so.

And that, surely, is the essence of this "gentle" paternalism: "You don't have to think" is promoted as a good thing.

And it probably is- for those who would tell you that you don't need to think.

But not such a good idea for the rest of us. Even if we didn't know that "You don't have to think" invariably morphs into "Thinking is prohibited."

Sort of like the old Greyhound bus slogan, "Leave the driving to us." Many do not enjoy driving, but, driving is freedom to go where you want when you want to go. Riding the bus means no driving but it also means being restricted to going only where the bus goes, waiting when the bus stops, etc.

Paul Zrimsek said...

If Sunstein is going to talk up this distinction between paternalism about means and paternalism about ends, he could at least make use of it himself. Fuel-economy mandates are an example of paternalism about ends, not means.

Palladian said...

I read the title as "Simperer".

More apt, perhaps.

Bruce Hayden said...

Sunstein's heart is in the right place, which I don't think you can say about a lot of successful liberal politicians. BUT he makes a classic socialist mistake in believing that the best and the brightest can successfully plan and manage society. They can't for a lot of pragmatic reasons. He should understand this after serving as Obama's regulation czar or something. He apparently has a very short and selective memory.

Rusty said...

I like how the state is going to mandate that automobiles get 50 miles to the gallon by a certain date.

"Make it so No. 2!"

"I want a boat with THREE propellers!"



mccullough said...

Sunstein's work in the Obama administration has taught him nothing. He's a brilliant guy. And like most brilliant guys he's clueless. Good to we he's back at law school where he belongs.

Mitch H. said...

Like most would-be occupiers of the "commanding heights" of his generation, Sunstein has made it his life's work to wage war upon the "little platoons" and to deprive them as much as possible the capacity to make use of their Hayekian local knowledge, if possible by actively destroying the sources of that knowledge.

Terry said...

Sunnstein thinks that the government can make value decisions for you.
It knows what the true value of fuel economy for consumers is.
Consumers don't.
It knows how big your soda should be.
Consumers don't.
Consumers don't like electric cars.
The government likes electric cars, so they bribe you to buy one with other peoples money.
Sunnstein is an idiot because his ideas will lead to economic failure. Consumers aren't stupid just because they value things different than bureaucrats.

tim maguire said...

I do like the GPS analogy, because most people don't need it until they have it. And once they get used to it, they lose their natural sense of direction and become dependent on it.

Palladian said...

Sunstein's heart is in the right place, which I don't think you can say about a lot of successful liberal politicians.

No one who places so little value on the idea of freedom has their heart in the right place. I think Sunstein's heart is somewhere in his colon, and his balls are in a jar in some paternalistic federal agency somewhere.

Henry said...

Sunstein lives in the best of all theoretical worlds.

madAsHell said...

He writes like a girl.

Larry J said...

Rusty said...
I like how the state is going to mandate that automobiles get 50 miles to the gallon by a certain date.

"Make it so No. 2!"


Government mandates force people to do things against their will. People make all sorts of unapproved decisions and they don't coincide with what the central planners want. So, instead of convincing people to change their minds, the central planners change the law.

You can make cars get 50 MPG but engineering is all about tradeoffs.

You can make cars lighter to increase the mileage by going to more advanced materials but that will drive up the cost. You can also lower the weight by reducing the structure but that will lead to more injuries and deaths. There's a reason why no one sells cars like the old Geo Metro anymore. Not only did few people buy them when they were being sold, they don't meet today's federal crashworthiness standards nor did they have all those airbags.

You can increase the use of hybrid technology but that will drive up the cost.

You can do things like try to squeeze a little more efficiency out of gas engines (good luck with that), improve the aerodynamics a bit more, and improve along the margins to get a bit better mileage. You can reduce the engine horsepower but some people actually use their vehicles to accomplish work and they need the power.

More likely, you'll have to do all of those things. The price will go up and the utility will go down. The death rate will likely also increase once again, too.

Michael K said...

If Sunstein had predicted fracking and the fact that the US now produces more oil than the Saudis, I would listen to him. He didn't and I don't.

Terry said...

Larry J. wrote:
More likely, you'll have to do all of those things. The price will go up and the utility will go down. The death rate will likely also increase once again, too.

Since Sunnstein is all about counting the "true costs" of consumer decisions, he should be held to that standard. Every time he opens his yap he should be made to justify the deaths of the innocents that will result from his 'paternalism'.
The reason consumers are more trustworthy than the government to make these decisions is because they will be held accountable for them. Sunnstein will not.

AlanKH said...

Ends paternalism = nanny state

Means paternalism = naggy state.

Got it.

tim said...

What a boob, a know nothing if his best argument is a gps. On the road they are terrible (great at sea though), road gps will constantly send you the worst way. Learn to read a map and make an intelligent analysis.

Larry J said...

Terry said...
Since Sunnstein is all about counting the "true costs" of consumer decisions, he should be held to that standard. Every time he opens his yap he should be made to justify the deaths of the innocents that will result from his 'paternalism'.

The reason consumers are more trustworthy than the government to make these decisions is because they will be held accountable for them. Sunnstein will not.


Hold Sunnstein accountable? Why, that's crazy talk! He means well, mouths all the right platitudes and is likely a snappy dresser with an Ivy League background. Why should he possibly be held accountable for higher costs, decreased utility and increased fatalities? By the time we suffer those losses, he'll have moved on to other mandates to force down our throats.

Robin said...

There is something about Cass Sunstein's style of argumentation that makes me wonder at how much naivete he can embed into each sentence.

Most grating.

And his view of reality resembles that of a blind man being told of the elephant by an autistic.

traditionalguy said...

It is all a shell game. Whatever decision he makes is the right one, and whatever decision you make is the wrong one.

That is not Paternalism. That is only the old control to dominate witchcraft dressed up in Scientific Talk.

Richard Dolan said...

"No one who places so little value on the idea of freedom has their heart in the right place. I think Sunstein's heart is somewhere in his colon, and his balls are in a jar in some paternalistic federal agency somewhere."

I think the truth is a bit more boring than that. Sunstein is a professor, and professors always have the right answer. Making it worse, he considers himself an expert at economic analysis, which is all about what rational actors should choose (always the 'efficient' result). His idea of paternalism takes as its model the typical academic setting: professor professing to a bunch of students, where the undergrads are annoyingly ill prepared and the grad students are gratingly obsequious (for career advancing reasons). If you prefer, Sunstein inhabits a Platonic universe; the rest of us are living in a different reality.

Rusty said...

You can make cars get 50 MPG but engineering is all about tradeoffs.

Exactly.
Hence the "smart car"
I don't care how many airbags it's got. When an F350 rolls over you, you're a dead person packed in airbags.

Rusty said...

You can make cars get 50 MPG but engineering is all about tradeoffs.

Exactly.
Hence the "smart car"
I don't care how many airbags it's got. When an F350 rolls over you, you're a dead person packed in airbags.

Sam L. said...

I'm pretty sure he wants paternalism on both means and ends.

Terry said...

Traditionalguy wrote:
That is only the old control to dominate witchcraft dressed up in Scientific Talk.

Witchcraft is right, it's reasoning based on gnostic, aka 'hidden' knowledge.

Higher level scientific teaching builds on the foundation of lower level scientific teaching. Gnostic knowledge doesn't build incrementally. What you learn as an advanced student upends what you learned as a beginning student.
So beginning economics students are taught about the efficiency of the market. Advanced students are taught that the market is not efficient at all because it leaves human desires unfulfilled.
Ditto political science: first you are taught that politics is the way people create and empower collective institutions. Advanced poli-sci people think it's about building a better world.
One style of knowledge is descriptive. It's about reality. The other is prescriptive. It's about values, and there is nothing rational about values.

Douglas2 said...

His fuel-economy example is interesting, because right from the start of this sort of paternalism it had undesired effects
a) shifting consumers into light trucks that were pound-for-pound less efficient and less safe than the large cars they replaced, and
b) the measure has been corrupted by interest groups seeking to promote their own stuff. So the MPG rating of electric cars is not a true reflection of their life-cycle costs or consumer cost, because the regulators have determined a formula that works politically.

ricpic said...

My hope is that it would be alright with Susstein if I wiped my ass without his help, but experience has shown that he'd have to, just couldn't help himself and would have to regulate the number of wipes and the tissue count per wipe.

Kirk Parker said...

Bruce,

"Sunstein's heart is in the right place,"

I most strenuously disagree.

Terry said...

The GPS analogy is apt because Sunnstein assumes that we already know where to go, we just need good directions.
Knowing where we want to go is the hardest part. Despite what most of the Left (and some of the Right) think, political decisions are not obvious or easy, or they would be obvious and easy.

Astro said...

I just found out my GPS is a bullshit detector. It's telling me to steer clear of Cass Sunstein.
It also translates: it tells me when he says simpler he means complicated.

n.n said...

Sunstein is acknowledging (or admitting) that our education system has incidentally or intentionally failed to prepare our children to be productive members of society and incapable of competing with rest of the world.

It's paternalism -- for survivors of abortion -- from birth to grave. It is a perpetual denial of individual dignity from conception to grave.

Mick Havoc said...

He should be filled up with Jack Daniels and sent to Sturgis.

Douglas said...

The behaviorists such as Prof. Sunnstein still have not addressed the point that regulators are just as subject to bias, incompetence, irrationality, emotion, and self-interest as anyone else.

Basil said...

These people are collectivists. They live to manage the hive and keep the queen happy. They have no soul and they could care less about the drones. Resistance is futile. Just be assimilated. Whatever happened to the individual rights Democrats?

Aaron said...

"The behaviorists such as Prof. Sunnstein still have not addressed the point that regulators are just as subject to bias, incompetence, irrationality, emotion, and self-interest as anyone else."

Exactly. And since their "theoretician" has actually worked in government, I'd like to see him judged an this actual work.

He did basically very little to remove useless regulations. IOW, he is a sham.

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Rusty said...

Terry said...
The GPS analogy is apt because Sunnstein assumes that we already know where to go, we just need good directions.
Knowing where we want to go is the hardest part. Despite what most of the Left (and some of the Right) think, political decisions are not obvious or easy, or they would be obvious and easy.

I think he's assuming everyone is clueless, like he is, without a GPS. Maps are your friend.