Cass Sunstein admonishes Bernie Sanders at The Economist web site. Old Socialist scoffs!

Headline: Does freedom need guidance?

Sub-headline: In this week’s podcast we speak to Cass Sunstein, a former White House advisor and co-author of “Nudge”

Anne McElvoy interviews Cass Sunstein, a former advisor to Barack Obama and co-author of “Nudge”, a theory of how people can be subliminally prompted to make wiser choices. They discuss how far the state should intervene in our personal freedom and why left-wing Democrats might be their own worst enemy. Runtime 23 min

Anne McElvoy calls ‘Nudge ‘an elegant way to describe human behavior‘, there is no transcript, so this is as close to what she said as I can get. Then Sunstein calls his new book ‘On Freedom’ ‘a song to freedom of choice‘ in his very mild mannered tone, which makes his mechanistic notion of ‘GPS’ sound very reasonable. Not to speak of his quotation from William Blake on ‘true merit’, call it beguiling garnish to his more carefully argued case for his ‘GPS’, which is subject to the actors discretion.  Ms. McElvoy does ask some almost probing questions, though her opening obsequious tone is not quite discarded. But for all that, Kant’s ‘self-emancipation from tutelage’ is an utterly foreign idea to Sunstein: who presents himself as that ‘GPS’?

The Anglo-American Political Tradition, John Stewart Mill, Jeremy Bentham and Hayek are Sunstein’s touchstones, or as he presents them , his New Obsession, as opposed to his Obsession of ten years ago in ‘Nudge’.

After some, what to call it, tedious recapitulation of his ideas, McElvoy then asks Sunstein  a question about the resurgence of Socialism in America, that then becomes for Sunstein a maladroit attack on Bernie Sanders. As a practitioner of ‘moral outrage’ rather than politics. Or what Sunstein, in his mealy-mouthed way, describes in his favored technobabble as the ‘expressive left’ that is ‘potentially destructive’ . Spoken like a true Neo-Liberal, or more aptly sounds like a riff on an Alan Greenspan apothegm.

Mr. Sunstein is a Soft-Core Authoritarian, who was co-author, with Nobel Prize winning Richard Thaler, of ‘Nudge’. Here are two links to reviews of this book, and a reply by Sunstein. This provides necessary intellectual background to the certifiable record of Sunstein’s Soft-Core Authoritarianism:

New York Review of Books October 24, 2013 titled ‘It’s in Your Own Best Interest’ by Samuel Freeman

It’s in Your Own Best Interest

October 9, 2014 New York Review of Books by Jeremy Waldron titled

It’s All for Your Own Good

Nudges: Good and Bad in the October 23 ,2014 letters from Sunstein in reply to Waldron:

Nudges: Good and Bad

That the ‘reviews’ are negative to this self-serving polemic should not surprise. As both Sunstein and Thaler are reliable Technocrats, who like all members of this very exclusive coterie, are the for rent intellectuals, who provide support for the ever expanding reach of the National Security State, in its never ending war on the autonomy of its citizens. The propaganda  instruments are television, movies the internet, they provide the tools by which that state manipulates ‘public opinion’. Sunstein and Thaler practice the art of camouflage, via the cultivation of bourgeois political respectability, and ‘public relations’. They cultivate their pose as benign intellectuals, yet are in fact employees of that state, and its corollary Capitalism, in its decayed state of failed Neo-Liberalism.

Sunstein passes himself off as observer of the the potential mistakes of the ‘Left’ in the Democratic Party. A hireling and ally of the Neo-Liberal Obama, somehow entertains the deeply held notion that ‘we’ will not not make the necessary connections between a well paid propagandist, and his project of political/behavioral manipulation, as somehow within the realm of the benign? The American Political Center is defined, at this moment, by the alliance between The New Democrats  and The Neo-Conservatives: call this catastrophic, and the utterly bankrupt Sunstein is one of its propagandists!

This essay by Kate Yoder , cross posted at Naked Capitalism and Grist provides some answers to ‘Nudge’. Yves Smith’s introduction to Ms. Yoder’s essay is instructive:

Headline: The bad news about nudges: They might be backfiring

Yves here. A problem with “nudges,” as in manipulation that makes clever use of cognitive biases (like putting fruit ahead of cake in a school cafeteria line…which ought to work all of once in getting kids to chose healthier desserts but reportedly has a higher success rate than that) is that, in the climate change context, the measures that will have a big impact require collective action, not individual action.

But this study finding is even worse…..that successful nudges reduce support for broader environmental policies.

Old Socialist





About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer. 'Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.'
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