Food Policy

Pushing Back Against Food Nudges

Should libertarian paternalists in government nudge you to make "better" food choices?


Nearly a decade ago, the humor publication McSweeney's pitted two popular breakfast cereals against one another in a brilliant sendup of an archetypal David Brooks column. Brooks, in case you didn't know, is a New York Times columnist. I don't read his work regularly, but it's often taken to task in these here (and here and here) pages.

According to the McSweeney's parody, members of the American electorate belonged to one of two camps—the "Lucky Charmers" and the "Cheerioians." And Brooks, who the spoof claims has "a pathological need to seem reasonable," briefly floats a choice between the two before advocating in favor of the oaty choice readers knew he'd find to be the more reasonable one.

Nine years later, Brooks himself has seemingly circled back to the McSweeney's parody with a formulaic column in support of so-called libertarian paternalism.

To bolster his assumptions, Brooks focuses in part on food choice architecture.

Libertarian paternalism around food posits that government shouldn't ban foods but should instead make the choices wise government employees want you to make easier for you to exercise and the choices those same bureaucrats think are less desirable more difficult for you to make.

Government's job here, Brooks argues, is to "gently bias[] the context" in which we make choices.

"It's hard to feel that a cafeteria is insulting my liberty if it puts the healthy fruit in a prominent place and the unhealthy junk food in some faraway corner," he writes, invoking a scenario from page 1 of Cass Sunstein's influential 2008 book in support of libertarian paternalism, Nudge. "Or, most notoriously, government could make it harder for you to buy big, sugary sodas."

Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic gets to the heart of the matter in a good rejoinder to Brooks on the cafeteria issue.

"So long as every cafeteria is free, under the law, to organize its food as it sees fit, I am all for inculcating a norm whereby the healthy stuff is prominently displayed and accessible," he writes. "But do I want the federal government regulating food placement in every American cafeteria?"

No. And as long as it's not government that's inculcating that norm, I'm all in with Friedersdorf.

Another good reply to Brooks might be one made by Sunstein himself, who writes in a forthcoming Yale Law Review article (an article Brooks cites in his column) that "the Joyless Cafeteria, with the tastiest foods relatively hidden," is an "objectionable" solution.

Still another opponent of the argument Brooks advances might be… New York Times columnist David Brooks, who wrote in 2011 that nanny state paternalism has "helped undermine personal responsibility and…. will have to be cut back[.]"

No longer.

"I'd say the anti-paternalists win the debate in theory but the libertarian paternalists win it empirically," Brooks wrote in his column last week.

But does the empirical evidence Brooks presents support his claim? The Obama administration sure thinks so, Brooks and others note. And Brooks does cite a few examples in which he says the "concrete benefits of these programs… are empirically verifiable."

Even if I were to concede that point, there are plenty of programs that might be called soft or libertarian paternalism and that yield negative outcomes.

For example, federal farm subsidies quietly influence the choices made by farmers and consumers and lead many in both groups to believe they're better off—a key precept of libertarian paternalism.

Subsidies influence farmers to produce some foods (like corn, soy, dairy, and sugar) to the exclusion of other foods (like arugula, bok choy, and yams). It's no surprise that the former foods are the ones most farmers grow, and that they're much more frequent choices among eaters.

The noodgy allure of farm subsidies is that farmers get money and certainty, while consumers get abundant and cheaper food at the grocery.

Another example of libertarian paternalism around food is menu labeling. Its proponents refer to laws mandating calorie counts on fast food and other restaurant menus as a gentle nudge that requires businesses to provide us with information the government thinks we need but still allows us to make our own choices. The hope by government is that we'll choose items with fewer calories and be better off for exercising that choice. But studies have shown mandatory restaurant menu labeling does not work in practice. Worse, a recent study showed mandated menu labeling can actually cause consumers to choose foods with more calories.

So both farm subsidies and mandatory menu labeling present firm empirical evidence that libertarian paternalism doesn't work, right?

You might think so. But Sunstein's Nudge writing partner, Richard Thaler, would likely argue that these failures simply call for more testing on the part of government.

"No one knows the answers to every problem, and not every idea works, so it is vital to test," Thaler said earlier this month.

Of course. Who else but a cadre of bureaucrats who've never met you could possibly through trial and error determine what's best for you to eat?

"The cafeteria owners may be imperfect decisionmakers," writes The Atlantic's Friedersdorf, "but they still possess more information than faraway government rulemakers—and aren't lobbied ruthlessly to make certain rules."

He's right. And consumers possess even more information about their own personal preferences than do the cafeteria owners.

Thomas Jefferson warned more than 225 years ago that we should never allow bureaucratic "inquisitors"—"Fallible men; men governed by bad passions, by private as well as public reasons"—to dictate our food choices. Fallible bureaucrats were then, and remain now, ineffective as our decisionmakers. As Jefferson makes clear, their very basis also goes against the American ideals of individual rights and limited government.

Given the choice, we'd do best to choose Jefferson over Brooks and Sunstein. We must resist the clucky charms of libertarian paternalism. Cheerio.

NEXT: Matthew Feeney Discusses Surveillance and Privacy on KPFA Today Between 1-2pm ET

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  1. Does anyone else feel offended at the term libertarian paternalism?

    1. Yes. It is a completely nonsensical phrase. It's self- contradictory. Only a buffoon like Brooks could create that phrase. Brooks can suck it.

      Hi Baylen. Nice article, as usual.

      1. The phrase would work in the context of parenting. The parent of a child should want that child to have the freedom to develop their own identity, but still needs to exercise a certain paternalistic care. Otherwise, you'd have 5-year-olds dashing across busy streets, who eat chocolate pudding for dinner, and go to school in filthy pajamas that have never been washed.

        The problem stems from when government views the adult public as children. I for one, am not ten and, besides, the state ain't my dad.

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    2. Yes. It's oxymoronic, with or without the oxy-.

      1. making it perfect, coming from the likes of Brooks. My god, these people actually believe their own bullshit.

      2. ^^Exactly this. It's raping the language 1984 style.

        1. It is something that a "progressive" would do. Those whose own name is a disguise and does not reflect their ture desire to return to a bucolic, pastoral, idealized world that never existed.

          This is not the first time, and will not be the last time, that they corrupt the language.

          They do not view "1984" as a warning - rather, it is considered more of an instruction manual.

      3. I was thinking it's as oxymoronic as "socialist libertarian"

        1. Bingo.

        2. Well someone could be a socialist in that they want to live on a commune in a libertarian society, with like minded people.

          I suppose a libertarian paternalist would be someone who constantly offers advice on the proper way to live while absolutely opposing any coercion.

          1. This is what I was thinking.

            1. Yeah but libertarian paternalist doesn't roll off the tongue the way that nagging busybody does.

    3. It's slightly less offensive than the term "libertarian populist".

      "Populist" and "paternalist" are almost always used in a pejorative sense.

      1. Yeap, beat me to it.

      2. I find it slightly MORE offensive than "libertarian populist".

        Libertarian populist is a made-up term for a made-up movement that attempts to co-opt the libertarian insurgence in the Republican party and use it to recreate the old right-libertarian alliance under neocon control.

        Libertarian paternalist is a term that implies theres some humanly possible way to be both libertarian, and paternalist at the same time. Which there ISN'T.

        Someone, really explain to me, how it is possible to be a "paternalist" and not violate all sort of libertarian principles.

        1. As usual with you, I find what I'm already thinking, but expressed better.

        2. Hazel, I'm going to split a hair here, but it is possible to be paternalist and libertarian simultaneously.

          Let's start with brief definitions courtesy Google:

          paternalist -A policy or practice of treating or governing people in a fatherly manner, especially by providing for their needs without giving them rights or responsibilities.
          populist - of or relating to a political party that claims to represent the interests of ordinary people; or a belief in the rights, wisdom, or virtues of the common people.

          Both words generally have negative connotations. Paternalism is generally used to describe a more or less oppressive system; populism is generally used to describe a more or less stupid system.

          However, it is possible to be a "paternalist" and not violate libertarian principles, providing that the paternalistic system is entirely voluntary.

          For example, in a purely libertarian society, an employer may provide medical insurance to his employees as part of compensation regardless of whether the employee would prefer cash wages. Compensation is a matter of contract between employer and employee. An employer with paternalistic attitudes toward employees should be free to offer paternalistic non-cash benefits as long as prospective employees are free to seek employment elsewhere.

          1. Of course, paternalistic mandates by the state are inherently coercive and thus contradict libertarian principles. Every single cause or movement (except arguably women's suffrage) labeled "populist" has involved coercion until Reason's recent ridiculous embrace of the notion of "libertarian populism".

        3. Libertarian populist is a made-up term for a made-up movement that attempts to co-opt the libertarian insurgence in the Republican party and use it to recreate the old right-libertarian alliance under neocon control.

          You might be right about the neo-con part, but I don't see the old right equation there at all. Tim Carney? Ben Domenech?. The first synergy of old right libertarians and populist (Pat Buchanan, Joe Sobran, Murray Rothbard) formed in opposition to the first Gulf War and the neocons and mainstream conservatives who pushed it and they got decimated in the mainstream media for it.

          1. Joe Sobran, Murray Rothbard) formed in opposition to the first Gulf War and the neocons and mainstream conservatives who pushed it, and they got decimated in the mainstream media for it.

          2. Precisely. That why the current iteration of "libertarian populism", which is invented by Republican strategists, jettisons the anti-war, civil-libertarian, non-interventionist rhetoric of actual, existing libertarians like Ron Paul. They're trying to excise all the stuff from libertarianism they think will hurt them.

            1. Well, if you jettison all those things, what's left? It's not libertarian anymore.

        4. Well, ask any libertarian who has young children how it's possible. But that is obviously very different. The state has no business acting as a parent, especially not towards adults.

    4. Yeah, as soon as you see those two words together (in a positive way) you know that was follows is going to be utter vapid bullshit. The biggest problem is that because a famous columnist has used the word "libertarian" a lot of people are going to believe that his twisted meaning is accurate.

      1. I think it's a bit of a stretch to call him a "famous" columnist. He's a fourth-rate political hack. A famous columnist would be someone like Art Buchwald or Dave Barry.


    5. Yes, I am. One thing the progressives are good at is co-opting labels and terms. Now they are trying to steal 'libertarian', and as always, change the meaning to the opposite of its commonly understood meaning.

      It is mendacious as hell. They know fucking well that if they came right out and said what they want in easy to understand language that people would soundly reject them.

      This is Brooks shilling for Sunstien and Obamas new nudge squad. What a vile bunch of scum.

      1. Now they are trying to steal 'libertarian'

        Nah, they're to busy demonizing the hell out of the word to steal it.

        1. They beat the crap out until it's time for a "rescue" mission followed by a co-option! Its just how they roll!

          1. They beat the crap out...

            of it...beat the crap out of it!

      2. trying to steal 'libertarian'

        Of course they are! Just like they stole "liberal", "progress", and "justice".


        1. Just like they stole "liberal", "progress", and "justice".

          I would add "rights" and "liberty" to that list.

    6. The two words are not opposites but orthogonal. "Libertarian" refers to a political philosophy while "paternalism" is a social/cultural attitude. You can be paternalist and libertarian at the same time, though this is very rare in the wild. John Mackey of Whole Foods could be described as a libertarian paternalist.

      Of course it's not what Brooks is talking about, since he's using govt to enforce his paternalism, and thus violating the libertarian half.

        1. Yes.

      1. Orthogonal isn't quite right, but there's enough distance between the two to serve as basis vectors for a different Nolan space.

      2. No, you are wrong. Paternalism and libertarianism are contradictory terms.

        Harper Collins: "the attitude or policy of a government or other authority that manages the affairs of a country, company, community, etc, in the manner of a father, esp in usurping individual responsibility and the liberty of choice"

        Cambridge: "the practice of controlling esp. employees or citizens in a way that is similar to that of a father controlling his children, by giving them what is beneficial but not allowing them responsibility or freedom of choice"

        Merriam Webster: "a system under which an authority undertakes to supply needs or regulate conduct of those under its control in matters affecting them as individuals as well as in their relations to authority and to each other"

        Random House: "the system, principle, or practice of managing or governing individuals, businesses, nations, etc., in the manner of a father dealing benevolently and often intrusively with his children: The employees objected to the paternalism of the old president."

        1. Tulpa's correct, as far as advancing the cause of utilitarian anything can be considered correct, which is to say, about as correct as progressivism or neoconservatism. When your ultimate end is a paternalistic, all philosophies are subordinate.

    7. Nothing wrong with it if it voluntary (in this case, on the part of cafeteria owners), and in the case of government if it is restricted to government functions (i.e., have organ donation as the default choice on driver's license forms).

      As this example shows, some people miss the point and presume that this is just another chance to control other people.

      1. (i.e., have organ donation as the default choice on driver's license forms).

        Automatically opting you in to the centrally-controlled organ donation system where you are legally bound to get no choice over the destination of your organs and no compensation is definitely paternalistic, and definitely not libertarian.

      2. No, it is just another chance to control people. That is fucking intrinsic to the fucking idea.

      3. A more precise term that wouldn't arouse suspicion might be
        "non-prohibitionist paternalism."
        I consider Alan's examples as legitimate "lesser evils" than government mandates would be, and sometimes actually desirable. My driver's license currently lists me as an organ donor, not because I went out of my way for it, but rather because I could not provide *myself* with a good reason to change it.

        I agree that "libertarian paternalism" sounds like "people's democracy" or "democratic centralism."

        1. I consider Alan's examples as legitimate "lesser evils" than government mandates would be

          But it's really not, because it effectively is a mandate. If a private entity wants to force me into a narrow range of choices for my own good, I"m free not to patronize their business or to accept the tradeoff. When government does it, either directly, or through its granted monopolies, or through threats that fall short of actual legislation on the private sector, there's a degree of force and lack of alternatives that makes it indistinguishable from an actual legislative mandate. A rose by any other name...

      4. "The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort. " - Heinlein

    8. Oh, no, live free, it's libertarian because they don't point a .45 in your face and MAKE you do what they want. They point the .45 in the other guy's face and make him do it for you. See. They're being nice. You should thank them.

    9. Start working at home with Google! It's by-far the best job I've had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this - 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link,

  2. It's hard to feel that a cafeteria is insulting my liberty if it puts the healthy fruit in a prominent place and the unhealthy junk food in some faraway corner...or make it harder for you to buy big, sugary sodas.

    Clearly the liberty of the cafeteria or restaurant owner is of no concern here.

    1. None. And I resented having my business considered a "public accommodation." It wasn't a "public" anything; it was a private business. If I happened to serve the public, it was for my own private purposes.

    2. I always made more or less the same argument over whether to force restaurants to be no-smoking. When people claimed they had a right to fresh air, I said, what about the private property rights of the property owner to allow people to smoke on his property?

      The answers I got usually revealed that the "right" most people are interested in is the "right" to tell other pepole what to do with their property.

      1. It comes down to this: almost everyone loves liberty for themselves. Only a few extend that concern to others.

        1. No. You give them too much credit. People learn to love their chains.

          1. ^THIS

            1. Freedom is slavery. Slavery is freedom.

          2. "Those two in paradis estood before a choice: happiness without freedom, or freedom without happiness. They, the blockheads, chose freedom - and then what? Understandably, for centuries they longed for fetters. That was the cause of world sorrow. For centuries! Until WE figured out how to return to happiness again."

            -Yavgeny Zamyatin "We"

            1. Such an excellent book for this particular moment in history

            2. Well, that's kind of a false choice as happiness without freedom is generally short-lived for an adult human with a healthy mind.

              1. You have to read the book. It's satire.

          3. No. You give them too much credit. People learn to love their chains.

            This is true, but after a certain point they don't recognize them as chains any more. So both you and LynchPin are correct in different ways.

            1. Right, they go from "these chains are heavy and bind me" to "look at this cool protective necklace!"

          4. No. You give them too much credit. People learn to love their chains.

            I highly recommend Etienne de la Boetie's Discourse on Voluntary Servitude, which examines this subject incisively. It's a great, short read.

            "It is incredible how as soon as a people becomes subject, it promptly falls into such complete forgetfulness of its freedom that it can hardly be roused to the point of regaining it, obeying so easily and so willingly that one is led to say, on beholding such a situation, that this people has not so much lost its liberty as won its enslavement. It is true that in the beginning men submit under constraint and by force; but those who come after them obey without regret and perform willingly what their predecessors had done because they had to. This is why men born under the yoke and then nourished and reared in slavery are content, without further effort, to live in their native circumstance, unaware of any other state or right, and considering as quite natural the condition into which they were born."

      2. "what about the private property rights of the property owner"

        Yeah, I would say the same things and get the response that majority rules. So there you go. Just pray that your always one of the many wolves and never the one of the few sheep.

        1. It almost sounds as if these people first decide on the policy they want and then try to figure out how it helps liberty.

      3. "The answers I got usually revealed that the "right" most people are interested in is the "right" to tell other pepole what to do with their property."

        That is isomorphic with the right to vote - that is, the right to put a hand on the sword of the state.

      4. Yup.

        I got nothing against a restaurant choosing to be a non-smoking establishment, I've got everything against a restaurant being forced to be a non-smoking establishment.

        And most people are power-hungry assholes that deserve to have others worse than themselves set in authority over them.

        1. I agree with this.

          To the extent 'nudging' is limited to minarchist government functions and doesn't involve coercion at any point (for example when the person goes against the nudge) then it seems unobjectionable. To the extent that it goes any further it is not.

          1. I reject it for the simple reason that government is our slave, not our master.

            Government is a guy I hire to take out the trash, lock up the crooks, patch the potholes, and occasionally fight wars. The opinion of government workers on my personal business means less to me then the opinion of the skeezy guy who lurks in front of a 7-11.

            1. Bo is failing to see the age-old mistake of allowing the camel to get his nose under the tent. We should never allow government to intervene in our decision making, direct our decisions, or control our decisions, no matter how harmless, benevolent or benign it seems because once they get their nose under the tent, the control grows and is then directed at other aspects of our lives. Just look at the Social Security Act, Medicare, Welfare, standing armies, etc., etc.

      5. If I were to argue against it, I would ask back what the purpose of a restaurant is other than to serve the public? Since all the property owner wants to do with it is make money, s/he should be indifferent as to how that money is made, therefore the rule as to whether to allow smoking is none of hir business.

        1. What? Where do you get the idea that the purpose of a restaurant is to "serve the public?" Your assertion that "all the property owner wants to do with it is make money" is equally suspect. This may come as a shock to you but some people own restaurants because they love to cook food, or they enjoy eating with friends and getting people to try new things. If ALL the property owner wants to do is make money he or she would open a McDonalds or Subway and call it a day. Instead, we have Michelin star restaurants that produce glorious food for the enjoyment of food.

    3. that statement alone shows Brooks' ignorance of what liberty is all about. How many times has it been said here that you are only truly free when you are free to be wrong -

    4. And the cafeteria or restaurant owner places products based on what they think consumers want and what will sell. What the paternalists are doing is regulating our conduct through the guise of regulating business.

      And what is this "positive" and "negative" outcome crap? As far as I am concerned, if I am able to purchase the food or drink I want, it is a positive outcome. If I cannot, it is a negative outcome. Period.

      1. And the cafeteria or restaurant owner places products based on what they think consumers want and what will sell.

        That's not always the case -- sometimes they have special deals with vendors/brands to provide extra/better shelf space in return for some kind of monetary consideration.

        1. In that case they are serving the needs of two customers.

  3. Of course my big problem with this is that Big Government had a Big Hand in starting the rise of "epidemic" obesity. They don't know what's good for people because they don't pay attention to science, they pay attention to politics.

    1. Right. They've been "nudging" us for 60 years in the wrong direction. So, we should trust them to get it right this time?

      1. How dare you question the expertise of Top Men.

    2. Live Free, ever since my daughter was born sixteen years ago, I have been scouring everywhere I go for evidence of this "obesity epidemic" that is supposedly gripping the country. I still haven't seen it.

      Methinks that the paternalists have done with the word "obesity" what they did years ago with the word, "addiction": stretch its meaning far beyond anything its original definition was meant to cover, and then use the extended definition as justification for government intervention.

      1. Average BMI has gone up so it is a real phenomenon.

        TBH I'm more concerned about the misuse of "epidemic" than the misuse of "obesity". Real epidemics (of communicable diseases) are one of those gray areas where even most libertarians support govt intervention.

        1. BMI is a horseshit measurement. At least based off of the "chart" that government supplies doctors (short athletes that weigh more than a certain amount =/= obese). You can't tell how much fat a person has on them unless you take full measurements with calipers.

      2. The rate of diabetes has skyrocketed. Type 2 almost always follows obesity. We could argue about what constitutes diabetes (blood sugar levels), but the medical definition hasn't changes. Yes, people are much, much fatter.

        1. So what? No one is hiding the "secret" of how to get thin. People make choices. Sometimes we take some short term pleasure in exchange for some discomfort down the road or for the risk of a negative outcome. It's the same with sex, alcohol, driving fast, and just about everything in human history that is in the least bit fun. These Nanny people want to eliminate fun. Eff them.

  4. These soft mandates that these people push, like food arrangement, seem innocuous to the casual observer. Non-libertarians need to think of them drawing out to their logical conclusion, should they be resisted. If a cafeteria refuses to abide, and refuses all subsequent attempts at coercion to adhere to the mandate, what's next? State violence. Over the placement of food or the labeling of menus. These things are absurd.

    A nudge is an assault.

    1. If I want food labeling, I can demand it of food manufacturers and then not buy from those who don't comply. Of course, I'm still trying to figure out why some food has to be labeled and some doesn't. Why doesn't this bag of grapes have to show one cup has 27g total carbohydrate, 23g sugar and only 1g of fiber? The bag of fruit (with nothing added, btw) in the freezer section has to.

    2. I agree if government is force then being nudged by the government is an assault.Until our government is returned to its constitutional role we will have to endure these busybodies and nannies.

    3. Exactly. And when people ignore the nudging, what comes next? By agreeing to this you are agreeing to the assumption that government knows best. And once you do that, the argument is lost. If government knows best, why nudge?

      1. Once you sound like a kook to most people the argument is lost too -- by saying things like "a nudge is an assault".

        You're better off directly arguing against govt wisdom and in favor of private sector wisdom on this matter.

        1. If the statement "a nudge is a prelude to an assault", followed by an explanation of the violence that follows when you resist the nudge, makes you sound like a kook to them, then the person you are talking to isn't gonna be convinced to try liberty anyway.

          1. "a nudge is a prelude to an assault", followed by an explanation of the violence that follows when you resist the nudge

            I'd be OK with that revision.

          2. If I am moving in one direction and am "nudged" in a different direction against my will, that's an assault. And if I nudge back to return to my intended course? The nudge is the assault.

            Anyway, in this context they're talking about a metaphoric nudge. However gentle you sell it, the state's "nudge" is an assault on a person's liberty. Many people don't get it until it actually happens to them or someone they know. Experience convinces, not words.

    4. And as we saw with seat belt laws, the next step is for the government to announce that the "nudging" is "not working," and that mandatory laws must therefore follow.

      1. "Wanting people to listen, you can't just tap them on the shoulder anymore. You have to hit them with a sledgehammer, and then you'll notice you've got their strict attention."

      2. Click-it or ticket, bitches.

    5. I look at it the other way around: They've been using violence, and now they're talking about switching to nudges. Fine with me!

      1. They're not talking about replacing violence with nudges. Just introducing nudges to new areas where their violence isn't currently exercised. Given the choice, I'll take "neither" myself.

  5. No one knows the answers to every problem, and not every idea works

    I agree completely, and that's a powerful argument against paternalism, faux-libertarian or otherwise.

    OT: This is how government protects victims of domestic violence:

    1. "Officials can invoke the measure and pressure landlords to act if the police have been called to a rental home three times within four months."

      I thought it was us liberterrarians and objectionablists who were supposed to be heartless toward the poor?

    2. They could do so under the town's "nuisance property" ordinance, a law intended to protect neighborhoods from seriously disruptive households. Officials can invoke the measure and pressure landlords to act if the police have been called to a rental home three times within four months.

      Let's see, violation of property rights, unequal application of the law, what I am missing?

    3. Nuisance laws have been around for centuries in the common law. They're a compromise with reality.

      That said, "police visits" are a poor standard for assessing nuisance here.

      1. Anyone can call the police, over anything. Had a sociopathic landlord who was trying to get us to move out, who would call the police if we ran the clothes dryer past 10:00 pm. Or took what he thought was excessively long showers.

        This in retaliation because my GF called the cops after he came to our open screen door while my GF was sitting there naked, and harangued us and refused to leave even after she pointedly said she was naked and he needed him to leave right away.

        1. I am so glad I don't have to rent anymore. It's bad enough I'm under the constant threat of cops busting in my door on a false warrant to look for drugs and shoot my dog but to have to worry about some slimeball landlord would be too much.

          The bank may own my house but at least they don't come knocking on my door to inspect it "for my safety."

  6. Why anybody, I repeat ANYBODY, takes David Brooks seriously is beyond me. The proper response to a [expletive redacted] that puts the words "libertarian paternalism" on paper and expects to be taken seriously is to point and laugh.

    Baylin, patiently rebutting his drivel makes you a better man than me.

    1. I started reading Bobos in Paradise and quickly realized what a buffoon he was. I had found a copy in the break room at work; thank Semiramis that I hadn't put any of my money into his pocket for a copy.

      1. The most he he has earned, in my view, is derisive laughter, followed by the order to fetch me a coffee, boy. Although he'd probably fail at that, as well.

      2. We literally have no more public intellectuals left in this country. All we have are con-men and buffoons pretending to be such.

        1. Thomas Sowell and Mark Levin don't count?

          1. And Walter Williams

            1. sowell and williams are like in their 80s, there is no one else who can explain economics so lucidly as those two-maybe russ roberts but when sowell and williams go itll be a sad day indeed. And we also have to wonder how much public intellectuals contribute-I mean by their very mental architecture the ROADZ, KORPRASHUNS an BOOOSH DID IT progtard crowd will never admit they were wrong by retroactively casting a critical eye on their projects, they will only say we didnt go far enough

  7. All Brooks wants to do is give the country a gentle nudge. It's not his problem if the country is already on the edge of a statist cliff.

  8. Brooks is totally okay with the government gently nudging people to do things he already does an in ways that he is wealthy enough to ignore even if he didn't want to do them. He is just a selfless public servant that guy.

    This is a great example of the dangers of people who have no vested interest in an issue making policy decisions. Brooks doesn't give a fuck. It is not his behavior that is doing to be nudged. So he is therefore willing to believe whatever benefit the snake oil salesmen selling such policies tell him will accrue. When you are in no danger of suffering the downsides of a policy, the benefits always look great.

    1. Very true. It's like all the non-smokers who ignored the continued restrictions and taxes placed on smoking. Well now they're coming after YOUR large sodas, and soon YOUR red meat. And you jerks didn't stand up for us smokers when you had the chance and we told you this was coming next.

      You have to stop this crap at the very beginning. Once it gets a foothold it never stops. They can justify anything now to restrict behaviour they will claim "increases medical costs for the rest of us."

      So for the price of a non-smoking restaurant you've ruined us all. Congratulations.

  9. How about nudging all people who are on food stamps, and leave the rest alone. Those on food stamps can get a diet of soy beans, goat milk and rye bread.

    1. And they can have their own separate checkout lane. It's hard to feel that that would be insulting their liberty, it's just a nudge.

      1. Well, if obesity really is linked to (say) soda consumption, I'm not sure that it would violate libertarian principles to say food stamps can't be used for soda. But I doubt if that would make any difference. In CA now (don't know about elsewhere), EBT cards can now be used in fast food joints.

        1. Except something like 60% of the country qualifies for food stamps, and there's a push to get all of them on the program. As that percentage increases there will come a time where it's just a de facto occurrence that everyone buys all their food from food stamps. Then when you restrict EBTs to non-fast food places you're effectively limiting everyone's choices.

      2. Awright, faster service!

    2. soy beans,goat milk and rye bread.

      I happen to like the taste of goat's milk. It's the richest, creamiest milk you ever tasted. Just allow it to separate for a day in the fridge and enjoy... And kill every wild onion in the goats' reach, of course!

      1. Afghans will heat some goat milk to really, really hot, and stir in some sugar - my God that is incredibly good.

  10. "Libertarian paternalism"

    Pretty sure this translates as "Upian downism".

    1. Nice!

    2. Paternalism is a sociocultural attitude, libertarianism is a political philosophy. They're not mutually exclusive.

      Where Brooks goes wrong of course is in pushing his paternalism by force.

      1. Paternalism as a social force is fine. But that avenue is illegal for us to choose. Imagine if a business owner decided that he wouldn't serve people who use drugs? The progressives would be up in arms. But when the government says that drug users can't get government subsidized student loans to go to college they're all fine with that.

        Brooks and his ilk want to eliminate paternalism as a social force, and make it a government mandate.

  11. "the Joyless Cafeteria, with the tastiest foods relatively hidden," is an "objectionable" solution.

    Objectionable to Sunnstein, no doubt, due to the ease with which the customers can bypass the wholesome yogurt topped with alfalfa sprouts and lima beans in search of a hot fudge sundae.

  12. "It's hard to feel that a cafeteria is insulting my liberty if it puts the healthy fruit in a prominent place and the unhealthy junk food in some faraway corner,"

    It's a problem when whole milk is considered a 'junk food', so is replaced by chocolate flavored skim milk. Let's remove the SFAs that are satiating and necessary for children's brain development and replace them with sugar and starch. How's that working out?

    1. How's that working out?

      Let's see. Get them to eat lots of fruits and vegetables with lots of fat-soluble nutrients and then block the absorption by severely restricting fats.
      Waitwaitwait. Let's try this again...

  13. Dude seems to knwo whats going on over there.

  14. Libertarian paternalism:

    "Stop crying. I told you that was a bad idea. That's what you get for being stupid."

    1. Heartless bastard, giving them choices where they could pick the wrong thing.

    2. Ok, maybe it is possible to be a libertarian paternalist.

  15. Consumer pressure seems to work just fine, and that's how I can now look at the McDonald's website and find that some of the salad and dessert choices are perfectly agreeable to my dearest of vegetarian friends. Also, between that and a recent H&R entry here, I knew I wouldn't be compromising my current diet much at all if I let a McDouble and small fries help me make it home a couple nights ago, which it did rather well.

    1. Most of the McDouble's calories aren't absorbed anyway since it slides through your digestive system at roughly the speed of sound.

      And what is with the people going to McDonalds to order a salad? They're almost as bad as the people getting a Veggie Delite sub at Subway. What's the point?

      1. Well, it's not our first choice for a salad, either, but it is in a handy location.

      2. They're almost as bad as the people getting a Veggie Delite sub at Subway. What's the point?

        That you feel like having a sammidge without any meat on it?

        1. Only if it's a PB&J because you're broke/high, or pimento cheese because you're at Augusta.

          Beyond that, you put meat on it.

      3. And what is with the people going to McDonalds to order a salad?

        I just finished an 11,000 mile road trip, with a paucity of fruit and veggies along the way.

        Stop at McDs to pee, or use the free Wifi there to find a room for the night on the laptop, and enjoy a salad as long as you're there.

        That's one scenario where it makes sense. Sure there's plenty more.

  16. Sevo, I'm pissed. I just saw your Exploratorium link in last night's thread. That place was awesome, and the location on the Exposition grounds was perfect.

    Leave it to the Top Men to take a successfully functioning institution and completely fuck it up. It'll probably be tits up in 18 months.

    1. ..."It'll probably be tits up in 18 months."

      The charm it had was a result of the improvisation. And someone decided you could design that into a new place.
      It's like trying to 'legislate freedom' into place; like the new Cuban 'controlled free market' in real estate. Does not work.
      (or for that matter, like 'libertarian paternalism'

  17. Democracy North Carolina is "a nonpartisan advocate for clean elections."

    We know this because:

    "Democracy North Carolina is a statewide 501(c)3 nonpartisan organization that uses research, grassroots organizing and coalition building to promote voter participation and fair elections."

    They also engage in illegal "protest" activities, in a nonpartisan manner, in support of the "Moral Monday" campaign against the Republican legislature:

    Of course, these are not partisan actions, so the IRS wouldn't be interested.

    1. The IRS *was* interested in the content of a prolife group's prayers in its legal demostrations (which don't involve civil-disobedience arrests), but that's OK, and isn't at all an example of discrimination, because they ultimately got their exemption after filing numerous additional documents - presumably the same extra scrutiny which (I must assume) was given to Democracy NC (which actually broke the law, unlike the prolife group).

      David Weigel explains how all this is perfectly OK, although the teathuglicans will exploit it as if it were some kind of scandal or something:

      "We will hear more stories like this, as long as people are primed for outrage."

      1. The system for determining tax exempt status is a mess in theory or practice but I can see a legitimate reason to inquire into the content of prayers that an organization has at its events. Imagine a group that has to show it is not engaged primarily in partisan politics in order to get an exemption that starts every meeting with the following prayer:

        'Dear Lord, please move those who hear these words to give money and time to defeating candidate X who is an abomination before You. Please move those people to spread the word to their friends and co-workers to vote against candidate X. Please help them find Brother Stan, who works for candidate X's opponent, who is standing beside me, and sign up to work with him to work the phone banks for candidate X's opponent. Etcetera, etcetera.'

        1. Bo Cara Esq.| 8.17.13 @ 4:58PM |#
          "The system for determining tax exempt status is a mess in theory or practice..."

          The solution is quite simple; no tax exemption for anyone claiming any bleefs.
          You wanna bleeve in the FSM? Fine; here's your tax bill.

          1. The solution is quite simple; no tax exemption for anyone.


            Your political "bleefs", someone else's religious "bleefs", my social "bleefs"... if mine doesn't deserve special treatment, neither does yours. Way to go full shriek though. CHRISTFAG!11!!one!eleventy

            1. "Your political "bleefs", someone else's religious "bleefs", my social "bleefs"... if mine doesn't deserve special treatment, neither does yours. Way to go full shriek though. CHRISTFAG!11!!one!eleventy"

              I have no problem with that at all. So long as no one pays taxes, bleevers won't either.
              Until then if a bleever entity gets income, pay income taxes. Own's property? Pay property tax.

              1. Fine enough. It's somewhat ironic to me that some people take this tack as it regards tax exemption, but then employ the exact opposite argument on, say, gay marriage, where incrementalism is the highest objective. Nevertheless, my only point being that tax exemptions for religious non profits doesn't strike me as any more egregious than any other type. But then I don't think any business or non-profit entities should pay taxes - only individuals should (and actually I think income taxation is retarded, but I digress).

                1. If the tax rates were reduced, talk to me about removing exemptions - *all* exemptions, not just the nonprofit ones. Incidentally, the nonprofit exemption isn't based on the religious beliefs which so upset sevo; you can be a totally secular group devoted to (say) giving food and shelter to atheist refugees. Don't let your knees jerk so quickly as if the nonprofit exemption were religious.

                  (Churches get the benefit of special tax rules, but again, churches can worship anything or nothing so long as they're sincere, and in any case, the groups in the IRS scandal weren't churches).

                  1. And if nonprofits were driven out of business by high taxes, their work would simply be taken over by federal agencies - "we must step into the breach formed by these nonprofits mysteriously closing down!"

                    1. "And if nonprofits were driven out of business by high taxes, their work would simply be taken over by federal agencies"...

                      Quite a few of the N/Ps with which I'm familiar have 'work' so vaguely defined and so poorly measured that it would be hard to 'take it over'.

        2. "The system for determining tax exempt status is a mess in theory or practice but I can see a legitimate reason to inquire into the content of prayers that an organization has at its events."

          For the present, I am focusing on the discrimination by which a nonprofit secular (and, more relevantly, liberal) group gets to break the law at its protests while another (conservative) group gets cross-examined about its protest tactics.

  18. Guess what- fracking is racist.

    This message brought to you by the Melissa Harris Perry show.

    1. And the sound construction 'thhh' and 'pfff' in every word. Can't stand her. Can't stand her. Can't stand her.

    2. FWACKING IS RATHIST! /Melistha Hawwis Pewwy

  19. Well, I can't find a web cite yet, but Larry Ellison claimed in an interview this morning that TSA is no worse than American Express; they both collect data.
    I'm guessing NSA runs Oracle.

    1. More like Larry Ellison profits from TSA contracts from Oracle, and then finds it convenient to fail to find anything objectionable about what the TSA does with those Oracle databases.

      1. Oracle's database systems are the backbone of many a three letter government agency. This isn't a tough one to figure out.

        1. Rents no longer sought, but found!
          Hey, the dipshit did the same for his rubber-duckies race in SF.

  20. Fuck David Brooks and the rest of the "National Greatness" conservatives. He's one of those conservatives who gets "strange new respect" from progtards-he can suck a hill of dicks.

  21. TSA is no worse than American Express

    Did Ellison get whacked in the head by the boom on his sailboat?

    1. "Did Ellison get whacked in the head by the boom on his sailboat?"

      It's my opinion that he's simply hoping everyone else believes that.
      But then, as smart as he is, it's possible he's capable of self-deception in the matter.
      And it's odds-on that HIS comm is hidden under some heavy encryption.

  22. I just read Brooks' (PBUH) column. He has an annoying habit that I've noticed.

    When I was in college, and had to take the classes where we were supposed to discuss things as adults, some of the children in the class would take on a pretentious air whereby they'd speak of what "we" do. As in, "As a capitalist society we often...", or "We as a paternalistic society sometimes...", or maybe "The ways in which we use technology is often detrimental to..." and so on.

    What I interpreted from this odd usage was that "we" wasn't used as an inclusive term, but a finger pointing one. Though it's usually assumed that usage of the pronoun "we" by a speaker includes the speaker in what follows, I don't think that's a safe assumption here. When Brooks, or my sheltered classmates, used "we" they meant you, and by "you" they more specifically meant the unwashed proles not smart enough to live and think as the more enlightened have deemed the correct manner.

    Anyone else notice that?

    1. I have noticed this usage in the past -- to which my usual response is "speak for yourself".

      That goes over about as well with leftists in my social milieu as talking about food trucks leeching off public property goes over here.

      1. I prefer:
        Is that a turd in your pocket?

        1. ...or are you just happy to see me?

    2. I had a guy in one of my grad classes who, after someone had made a point, would respond by saying: "So what you mean is..." which was a pretty unsubtle way of saying you're not expressing yourself well

      It was pissing off a lot of people so one day when he pulled that on me, I just responded, "No, what I meant was what I just said."

      1. I'm so glad to be done with school.

        I didn't mind my math and science classes too much, but listening to sheltered 18 year olds still at the teet drone on about life, the universe, and everything was fucking annoying. I paid good money to learn shit from professors, not to listen to people who don't know a goddamn thing about anything tell me nothing.

      2. Actually, the guy was just trying to make sure he understood what others were saying, because communication is inherently difficult and vague - and you just told him you don't give a damn if he understands you because he's not worth your time.

        1. Uh no, Alan, no. Assuming GBN's classmates were the same as mine, it's more like this:

          Me: I don't think government food inspection is necessary, because it would be insanity for a business to poison its customers. Not to mention people have a vested interest in safe food, and would vigorously support third party inspection companies, or independent trade unions or a decentralized system of word of mouth to regulate food safety.

          Typical Statist Twat: So what you mean is, you want big corporations to be free to put whatever they want into the food supply, with no oversight or regulation, and THE CHILDREN WILL DIE BECAUSE OF IT.

          You want CHILDREN TO DIE.

  23. "And Brooks does cite a few examples in which he says the "concrete benefits of these programs? are empirically verifiable."

    Empirically verifiable based on whose presumptions of the relative value of outcomes?

    Freedom from government interference has a value. The value is not zero. People claiming "empirical proof" of the value of some government social engineering scheme are assuming it does have a value of zero - or at least a value relatively less than the outcome they desire.

    I can just as easily posit that the value of that freedom is higher than that of the outcomes they desire and they would not be capable of proving me wrong.

    1. I can just as easily posit that the value of that freedom is higher than that of the outcomes they desire and they would not be capable of proving me wrong.

      Yes... so why don't you just do that rather than complaining about empirical verification?

      1. I'm not complaining about anything.

        I'm STATING that their claims of empirical verification aren't empirical verification.

  24. The charm it had was a result of the improvisation.

    I went to the Exploratorium at least three different times, when I had to be in San Fran. The exhibits were cool specifically because many of them could have been built in somebody's garage, and you could even look down into the maintenance/fab shop. Those exhibits might have appeared "crude" but they worked, and they provided a simple and practical demonstration of concepts. I presume it's all sanitized, now.

    They had a little wind tunnel with a smoke generator, and you could manipulate an assortment of kids' toy wooden blocks of various shapes inside it, and watch the effect. I loved that thing. I should build one.

  25. food trucks leeching off public property

    How's the weather up there? Do the birds come and perch on your head? It must suck, having your hands nailed down so you can't shoo them away.

    1. See what I mean, gentle readers?

    2. In any case, once you bite one of their necks in half, they tend not to bother you.

  26. Vatican Radio quotes Coptic Church leadership's statement on the Egyptian violence.

    The statement denounces the Islamist terrorism, supports the Egyptian government, denounces any possibility of foreign intervention, and calls for media responsibility.

    Anything wrong here?

  27. From Al Jazeera:

    "Egypt's Christians face unprecedented attacks

    "More than 30 churches have been destroyed in the past week as thugs launch a campaign of intimidation."

  28. Guess what the Constitutional professor-in-chief has spoken. Health insurance is a right.

    Personally, I've looked. Can't seem to find it in any copy of the Constitution I've looked at. Can anybody else find it in their copy?

    1. The Constitution mentions a right to counsel. Therefore, single-payer legal care!

      And government sets the prices for lawyers at minimum wage. They're not worth any more than that.

    2. -Can't seem to find it in any copy of the Constitution I've looked at.

      I do not think health care is a right, but I also don't think that arguing if something is not written down as a right in the Constitution it must not be one. For one reason, the 9th Amendment of the Constitution shoots that argument down.

      1. "For one reason, the 9th Amendment of the Constitution shoots that argument down."

        No it doesn't.

        All of the "other rights" retained by the people mentioned in the 9th Amendment are negative liberties.

        A claimed "right" to health care would be an affirmative right. There is no such thing as affirmative rights.

        There are two reasons why the rights referred to in the 9th amendment all have to be negative liberties and cannot be affirmative rights.

        The first reason is the 10th Amendment.

        Negative liberties don't require
        government to do anything. It merely requires it to refrain from interfering with people freely exercising their rights such as freedom of speech and religion.

        To be continued..

      2. ...continued

        An affirmative right requires a government exercise of power to make someone do something for someone else or take wealth from someone and give it to another. The 10th Amendment confines government to specifically enumerated powers. There are no enumerated powers in the Constitution that authorize an enforcement of affirmative rights.

        The second reason is that everyone has exactly the same Constitutional rights. They are universal in nature. Everyone has exactly the same freedom of speech and citizen A exercising his in no way diminishes the right of Citizen B to do so. That is the nature of negative liberties.

        If there were an affirmative right to healthcare, then everyone would have exactly the same right to free medical treatment and no could be required to pay for it - and that means REALLY not having to pay for it in any economic sense. No accounting trickery whereby some are taxed to fund the system and others aren't that is supposedly giving everyone "free" treatment.

        Of course that is an economic impossibility and therefore there can be no such thing as affirmative rights.

    3. I'm sure that health insurance is in the penumbra of the Tenth Amendment.

    4. I can't pursue MY happiness without healthcare. Obviously we just need a single payer system.


      1. Progressives don't understand the difference between a "right" and an entitlement.

  29. Sad Beard latest tweet:

    If we alienate Egypt's dictators they might make it harder for us to fight pointless wars in the Gulf. It's win-win.

    Why would we want to make fighting pointless wars harder? Should we just not fight pointless wars in the first place?

    1. Crap. Posted to wrong thread.

  30. I can't believe no one has linked to this yet (that I saw).

    Nudge nudge.

    1. I don't like Spam.

  31. Nudge this.

  32. If all we're arguing about is on which shelf the store has to put things we want to buy, we've won.

    1. If that was actually all we were arguing about, you'd still be wrong, just a little bit less.

  33. If I, as a taxpayer, am providing free food to kids and their parents, then I choose to give them healthy food so they don't grow up to be fat/unhealthy and become a burden on our health care system. And even if the cafeteria is not gov't subsidized but the gov't (ie, school) is the distributor of the food, then the same applies. I am sick of paying for the support of people who make unhealthy choices in their life. they should take responsibility (ie, pay) for their poor choices and the gov't should not be wishy washy about what is good and what is bad. Having said that, what was done in NY with their 16oz soda glasses was stupid. That law does not change behavior and is just one more dumb law.

    1. gov't should not be wishy washy about what is good and what is bad

      Yeah people should eat lots of whole grains and cut down on the saturated fat. Also, corn is great and should be in everything!

      What other examples of government wisdom can we find?

    2. ..."I am sick of paying for the support of people who make unhealthy choices in their life"...

      Me, too, and the solution is not to tell them what to eat, but to stop paying the support.

    3. And even if the cafeteria is not gov't subsidized but the gov't (ie, school) is the distributor of the food, then the same applies.

      So you're a fascist under all circumstances. Thanks for clearing that up.

  34. Yo Brooks, I got a food nudge for ya - ESAD.

  35. The word "Nudge" reminded me of a Yidish word that might describe some food scolds:

    Food ascetism goes back at least a century, as in a amusing sketch by Saki, "Filboid Studge"

  36. I confidently believe that if tomorrow dawned and the entire population of the United States voluntarily started eating exactly the vegetarian organic non-genmod diet championed by the Intellectual Left, the Intellectual Left would drop it like a live grenade and start demanding that we eat something entirely different. This isn't about health. This is about making a concatenation of moral and ethical pygmies feel superior.

    1. ..."This isn't about health. This is about making a concatenation of moral and ethical pygmies feel superior."

      If the concern were about the health of tobacco smoking, the effort would be directed toward finding a healthy way to do so.
      It never has been; it is simply a effort to prevent non-PC enjoyment.
      No, I don't smoke.

      1. Which is exactly why e-cigarettes are under attack by progs worldwide.

  37. And, for a those who want to examine which bit of foolishness is really correct, we have:
    "Swedish athlete switches to red, not rainbow nails"
    "Emma Green Tregaro had been told by Swedish officials that the rainbow gesture, which brought international attention as a protest against Russia's new law against gay "propaganda," could be a violation of the competition's code of conduct."
    If she wiggles her fingers in some particular pattern, does that mean she's a member of norteneo?!

  38. "War is not healthy for children and other living things."

    Hey, Brooks and Sunstein, how about an antiwar nudge toward the Warmonger Zombie-in-Chief who is eating America's young and making you pay for it?

    Oh, yeah, that's right.........

  39. When a self appointed group of people take your property to fund the "incalculation" of how cafeterias are supposed to be laid out and attach "libertarian" to it is insulting. It simply a shot over the bow that the "bad stuff" is going to be back in the corner, then kept in the back, then has to be special ordered, and eventually not available at all. Fascism with temporary rubber bumpers on the corners is still fascism. Anyone with a brain realizes that government now deeply involved in food behaviors is connected to the centralization of health costs to the government treasury, and once that is further damaged by poor health, the "libertarian" portion will be launched. Only a hardy "fuck off pop" is the response to this whole "libertarian paternalism".

    In the meantime, since I am not allowed to be perfectly disinterested in other peoples' behaviors due to socialism, I would appeal to people to be rational in their caloric intake. Once we do away with coerced centralized responsibility, then by all means drink drano for all I care.

  40. Does libertarian paternalism qualify as doublespeak?

  41. Of course, given the horrible advice that has been pushed over the years, often by govt, (saturated fat is bad, salt is bad, etc)
    we can assume the govt will commit yet more blunders and advise exactly the wrong thing. And they can't be sued, either, if their advice kills you.

  42. How about we just end the farm subsidies? I'm sure most people can agree we can greatly scale back the subsidies.

    As an added benefit, subsidies are focused on the most unhealthy crop, corn. It's why much of America's food is saturated with corn syrup and why people are so freaking fat in this country.

    Of course, that'll never happen for as long as Iowa holds an outsized importance in the presidential process. You attack corn, you're likely not even going to be nominated (McCain being the one exception I can think of).

  43. like Albert responded I am amazed that a single mom able to profit $8568 in 1 month on the internet. have you read this web page... & my classmate's sister-in-law makes $73 every hour on the laptop. She has been out of work for 7 months but last month her check was $17103 just working on the laptop for a few hours.

  44. Nudge? I would call them Noodges.

  45. like Thelma responded I am startled that a mother can make $6821 in a few weeks on the computer. did you look at this web sitego to this site home tab for more detail---

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