I expect conservatives and libertarians to be exercised over the news that the White House is establishing a “Nudge Squad” – a group of behavioral scientists who will work with the government bureaucracy to try to help shape citizen behavior:
“Behavioral sciences can be used to help design public policies that work better, cost less, and help people to achieve their goals,” reads the government document describing the program, which goes on to call for applicants to apply for positions on the team.
The document was emailed by Maya Shankar, a White House senior adviser on social and behavioral sciences, to a university professor with the request that it be distributed to people interested in joining the team. The idea is that the team would “experiment” with various techniques, with the goal of tweaking behavior so people do everything from saving more for retirement to saving more in energy costs.
The document praises subtle policies to change behavior that have already been implemented in England, which already has a “Behavioral Insights Team.” One British policy concerns how to get late tax filers to pay up.
On the one hand, it all sounds very Orwellian. And it is; using the government to shape peoples’ behavior is a short and utterly undefineable step away from using it to shape peoples’ thought.
On the other hand? Precisely what has the public education system been since its inception?