Monday, 3 January 2011

A New Year's Devolution

I read an article in today's Independent about the tactics that the British Government wish to employ to make us do what is right and proper. No, there won't be a deluge of the newly initiated police-people. No, there won't be a confusion of Czars - there is a special tool for people like us:

Emotional Exploitation The Nudge.

If you read this article, you will learn that the Coalition had set a seven-person working party to the task of determining what makes us tick so that they can use those emotional discoveries as tools with which to govern us. The idea of massaging 'egotism' and the fostering of 'social norms' is central to this, and is hoped, among other things, to increase giving, organ donation, the sale of condoms, and (I can only assume) making the correct decisions at successive elections - I guess that, in short, they want to make us feel bad enough to want to do the right thing. These plays to our subconscious, referred to tellingly as "Nudges" will form a part of government policy, now that its ministers have all been required to sit and read Thaler's book, "Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth and Happiness" (I am assuming that I, with you if you are British, have paid for these books for them).

This is the tool to repair Broken Britain, revamp a morally bankrupt society, stop us being fatties, cause us to do for free what people used to paid for before they lost their jobs, pay for things that were once Government funded with money from our ever constricted sources of income - and in the end to be jolly nice proper people like wot we ain't at the moment, innit.

I once saw a film called 'Demolition Man' where a police-person was cryogenically preserved and defrosted sometime in the distant future. He found himself in a world of Nice, where there was never a transgression of any sort, and were one to occur, a benevolent voice would emerge from a hidden computer speaker to offer gentle chastisement. A Utopia or a Nice Hell - the film caused one to make that choice!

Anyway - I am left asking what the moral bedrock to all of this is? Where is it rooted. I see no facet of any faith in any of this, let alone Christianity. Its morality seems to be the one determined by a government based on the given needs of the given generation. In an age where that government thinks us fat and lazy, it will become immoral to be such - and we will made to feel that way. There is nothing of the 'Other' in what [little, I grant you] I have read - just a need for us all to conform to models not of our making. 

Like the world of 'Demolition Man', first instincts are that it is a wonderful wheeze. However, am I alone in thinking that it could very well be the most extraordinarily fearful development? 


  1. Shades of 1984. How do 'they' propose to inflict this programming on an unsuspecting populace? Will they send us on a sort of "Gullible's Travels" course for the brain-dead?
    Viva la Revolution say I.

  2. I think that the "Nudge" scheme comes out of a sound instinct which may sadly backfire in the way you indicate. I suspect its proponents don't like the micro-regulation of daily life by the government (or recognise that ordinary people don't like it), and see micro-encouragement as "nicer", because less coercive. It *is* less coercive, but also feels, as you hint, more sinister.

    If only they could steel themselves to say, "this isn't our responsibility. It's yours. We aren't going to do anything about it."

    I'm also interested that you (cynically!) suggest that people will be nudged to vote the correct way. I suspect that will backfire, too, as surely decreasing people's dependence on government is more likely to make them vote Tory.

    Meanwhile people already inclined to vote Tory (me, for instance), will add this to the growing list of reasons why we shouldn't. As for their coalition partners, I'm not sure there is anyone inclined to vote Liberal Democrat any more.

  3. I can see how this *could* work, and after all, asking people to be citizens and cohere is no bad thing when founded on decency and commonality - but it is the lack of a spiritual dimension that worries me a lot. After all, is it not the spiritual dimension that informs our moral dimension?

    This whole issue is consuming my thoughts today, even in the face of marauding twinnies!



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