Barack Obama’s nudge-ocracy

The New Republic calls it his “new theory of the state.”

Obama has set out to synthesize the New Democratic faith in the utility of markets with the Old Democratic emphasis on reducing inequality. In Obama’s state, government never supplants the market or stifles its inner workings–the old forms of statism that didn’t wash economically, and certainly not politically. But government does aggressively prod markets–by planting incentives, by stirring new competition–to achieve the results he prefers. With health care, for instance, he would make it easier for employees to tote their insurance from job to job, eliminating the disincentive for insurers to invest in preventive care. Or take his bank plan, which helps banks dispose of their toxic assets, reducing uncertainty and making the banks more attractive to private investors–a far less drastic step than nationalization. Rather than force markets to conform to his wishes, he shapes their calculus so they conclude (on their own) that their interests coincide with his wishes.

The “-ocracy” label is about as unpopular as libertarianism and paternalism, so the term joins a proud, long tradition. The full piece is here.

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3 Responses to “Barack Obama’s nudge-ocracy”

  1. Philip Frankenfeld Says:

    Another way to understand the emerging theme and philosophy of statecraft of the Obama administration is in terms of the roles the constellation of policies and institutions, means and ends are collectively creating for each of us within the polity.

    I have induced that oen of these roles is akin to my ideal of Techological Citizenship.

    Via transparency, channels for public input, rights to be protected from harms to health, safety, job loss, resource depletion plus education for the twenty-first century and technologically globalized world, duties to learn about technologies and complex issues, duties to pay the full price for the impacts of our acts through True and Total Social Costing (TTSC) we are becoming citizens within the technological society with defined, guaranteed, secure roles and a cocoon of protections and connections.

    There are statecraft and soulcraft aspects to this. Rights, duties, onuses bonuses, all as unities. The values affirmed are dignity, autonomy, freedom from harm, responsibility, empowerment. Hence, it’s communitarian.

    There is a mature recognition that there should be protections of the public from harms that are complex because they are complex. Caveat emptor has been eclipsed by a renewed “caveat umpire”. But often using libertarian paternalism and gentle, noncoercive nudges to get others to induce us to act correctly; and to induce others who impact us to act correctly.

    As Technological Citizens, we will feel more rooted and connected with our natural and built world; and less estranged and alienated.

    If we are being nudged into this new, ennobling role of Technological Citizen by the choice architecture of many institutions and policies, then this role is the plight at the end of the funnel.

    PHILIP FRANKENFELD

  2. Nan Says:

    Are you all nuts? You have just given manipulation a new term and control a very pleasant euphamism….Why do you want to give up personal freedom? This is bizarre to me.

  3. Fred Says:

    Obama is not actaully even doing the tings you say he is doing. For example, you state, “With health care, for instance, he would make it easier for employees to tote their insurance from job to job,” This is not in any of the plans congress is considering. However, it IS part of the Republican plan, which is not permitted to be considered by the majority Democrats.

    Also, you state, “Or take his bank plan, which helps banks dispose of their toxic assets, reducing uncertainty and making the banks more attractive to private investors–a far less drastic step than nationalization.” He has not actually done this. However, he IS nationalizing comapnies, such as General Motors, and starting to nationalize banks.

    This is very strange stuff. Socialism and capitalism cannot co-exist, no matter how you try to plan it out. It will eventually transition to full socialism by government force, or back to full capitalism by populist uprising.

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