Are you sure you should be doing that?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Does freedom from self-destruction need a nudge?

I recently wondered whether freedom may not sometimes be an internal issue, as well as external. Isn't addiction a condition of being unfree? Is there some way of helping the unfree, without illiberal coercion?

As it happens, this is the thesis of a new book, "Nudge", by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein. It is critically reviewed by David Gordon here on the Mises website.

We are already being heavily nudged by our tax-greedy government and large commercial concerns, to gamble and drink away our wealth and future security. Surely there are ways in which we might diminish the temptation a little, to increase the possibility of rational, self-beneficial choice.

4 comments:

hatfield girl said...

'We are already being heavily nudged by our tax-greedy government and large commercial concerns, to gamble and drink away our wealth and future security.'

Yes, it is as if we are living a shadow late 18th and early 19th century, But where are our social reformers, our committed capitalists who see desperation and implement concrete solutions? Dissolved in the acid of socialism and state power, the bitter fruit of vulgar political understanding in the face of poverty caused by too rapid social change.

And by exploitation; it is reported that attempts by the Scottish Government to raise the price of alcohol are forbidden by EU regulation on trade.

SACKERSON said...

Thanks for your elegant comment, HG. I'm in no position to be preachy, but it seems you can't successfully manage on the last six items of the Decalogue alone, which is what socialism has tried to do since cutting its Christian and Jewish roots.

In practical terms, I think we could make progress by slightly reducing the accessibility of certain vices, as I have previously argued, e.g. by withdrawing liquor licences from supermarkets unless there is no other provider within a certain distance.

And of course, we have to leave the EU as a political/judicial entity, maintaining diplomatic and trading connections only. Without sovereignty there is no freedom of action.

nomad said...

Am I the only one round here who does not drink or gamble? I'll close the door on my way out!

SACKERSON said...

Nomad, if you don't drive, either, you're the government's worst mightmare.