Search This Blog

Monday, February 18, 2013

Scary Reading of the Day

For the libertarian/conservatives among us, if you want to read something really scary check out the following:

It's For Your Own Good!

The fact that the ideas in the article are even being taken seriously is appalling in my opinion.


Susan's Husband said...

There is so much wrong in that article it's hard to know where to start. The biggest one, IMHO, is that it gives no consideration at all to personal preferences, the idea that one might well trade off increased risk for enjoyment. Only maximizing personal fitness / safety can be a rational goal.

The second biggest is the bootstrapping problem. You have stupid and ignorant people, so someone else needs to decide what's best for them. Who? Who decides who decides? Who decides who decides who decides ... I see no grounding for the recursion, other than "we are more willing to be violent than you are to resist doing what we tell you". As I need to cite, leftism is violence just with pretty rhetoric.

Bret said...

SH/aog wrote: " gives no consideration at all to personal preferences..."

Yet it pretends to. Consider this excerpt:

"If a paternalistic intervention would cause frustration, it is imposing a cost, and that cost must count in the overall calculus. But Conly insists that people’s frustration is merely one consideration among many. If a paternalistic intervention can prevent long-term harm—for example, by eliminating risks of premature death—it might well be justified even if people are keenly frustrated by it."

Frustration would be due to personal preference. Yet how would this cost be calculated? How would they know how frustrating something is to an individual or even in aggregate across all individuals and what the pain and cost of that frustration is?

I just find it's really scary that anybody takes this absolute nonsense seriously, even if it is the NY Times.

It looks to me like they're not even considering us subjects, serfs, slaves, etc. anymore.

We've been pretty much reduced to being pets: "don't let Fido eat something that's bad for him because we want him to be healthy and live a long, long time."

One day we're going to look back fondly on the days when they considered us slaves.

erp said...

Why are you resigned to the inevitability of it?

Bret said...

It's generally a bad idea to bet against the trend. This is a pretty strong trend on many time scales.

Peter said...

I understand why you are opposed, Bret, but why appalled? Not to put too fine a point on it, where ya' been for the last half-century? The whole thrust of academia and the social sciences and "progressive" social policy has been determinist and dirigiste for a very long time.

Bloomberg's anti-soda initiative was fascinating to me. I remember sing a picture of His Whatever taken with his "Health Commissioner" and her team. They all looked like semi-anorexic Park Avenue matrons fresh from appointments with their shrinks and personal trainers, refreshed and ready to save the little people. But super-sized sodas are so intrinsically abominable that trying to defend them is a bit like citing the Founding Fathers to defend Triple X porn. I was really sorry there wasn't a populist politician with the wit to say that, while he shared the Mayor's concerns about obesity, he was also concerned about excess alcohol consumption, and so he was prepared the support the Mayor in exchange for support for his proposal to limit the sale of wine in New York to half-bottles.

Howard said...

What if they're wrong in ways they can't even conceive...?

Sunstein and Conly are yet two more people who are in-touch with their "inner tyrant."

Bret said...


Well, I suppose you're right and that it's mostly that I keep trying to ignore the world and when the world won't let me ignore it and forces me to observe I'm appalled when I shouldn't even be surprised.

However, I think this case goes a bit beyond the usual dirigisme. I think most of us have Howard's "inner tyrant" that we're in touch with (I certainly do and have to put a lot of energy into suppressing it lest I act like a tyrant towards family, employees, etc.). Some on both the left and right let their inner tyrant run rampant. Some of those try to justify their inner tyrant in order to feel moral. Other useful idiots listen to them and form a group that sings Kumbaya while wreaking untold havoc and misery upon everybody else.

However, this particular article not only pushes those to an extreme I haven't seen before, but claims with a straight face and all seriousness to refute the logic of Mills (and probably others) with a couple of random statements of nonsense.

Does this article not seem to take totalitarianism and nonsense to a whole new level to you? I'd be curious if you could point me to another article which is equally extreme in a paper of record?

Peter said...


It's a book review in the NYT. A timeless home for lefties and lefty wannabes. It's been a long time since I read it regularly, but that review seems pretty standard stuff for them. Sunstein is clearly interested in what she has to say, but, to be fair, not completely uncritically.

My favourite part is how Conly deftly distinguishes means from ends to support her argument that coercion should only be used to bully people about their health, business and public life and never, ever, be applied to sexual practices or proclivities. It makes no sense to me at all, but will delight all those horny Upper West Side marxists.

Susan's Husband said...


Yes. As far as I can tell from the issue that animate the nomenklatura, as long as they get lots of consequence free sex, nothing else matters. It's the only freedom they value. They call it "sophisticated" but it seems exactly the opposite to me, a discarding of everything that distinguishes humans from animals. Perhaps humanity is too large a cross for them to bear?

Bret said...


It's precisely the "means" instead of "ends" that pushes this well beyond the usual. "Means" opens the gate to regulate and control every last aspect of behavior, making us just "pets" of the state.

Susan's Husband said...

Samizdata discusses this same article.

erp said...

SH, that's a blog blast from the past. I haven't seen it a many years, but it's as interesting as it used to be.