The federal government is hiring what it calls a "Behavioral Insights Team" that will look for ways to subtly influence people's behavior, according to a document describing the program obtained by FoxNews.com. Critics warn there could be unintended consequences to such policies, while supporters say the team could make government and society more efficient.Folks, let me ask one question with regard to this idea. Name ONE government program that didn't wind up a bloated, wasteful parody of itself inside of 10 years. DOE? EPA? HHS? SSA? Have any of those done anything towards alleviating the problems that they were created to address? Really? How many have made it like, I don't know, 100 times worse? War on Drugs? War on Poverty? TSA?
While the program is still in its early stages, the document shows the White House is already working on such projects with almost a dozen federal departments and agencies including the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture.
Now imagine the "Department of Useful Modifications to Behavior". Does anyone think that this won't turn into yet another useless bureaucracy with a "czar", seventeen undersecretaries making six figure salaries, their own police force, and s SWAT team armed with machine guns and a tank? I'd give it six months, nine tops before it turned into YAUGA (Yet Another Useless Government Agency). And they'd be complaining that the 3% increase in funding is ZOMG THEY'RE CUTTING IT TO THE BONE because it wasn't the 15% increase they asked for.
Besides, don't we already have multiple, redundant government agencies that could be handling this? Why couldn't we have the Department of Education whip up something on better behavior? Or the EPA could put out a series of "don't pollute" PSAs. Hell, put the TSA in charge of changing attitudes about improper touching. If there's an issue that could be addressed by this new program, odds are about 50 billion to one that there is NOT already an agency with that specific aim buried somewhere in their bloated mission statement.
And then, let's get to the heart of the matter. The .gov has no damn business trying to "influence" behavior. Hell, most of the time they get it wrong. Remember the gas additive MTBE? Remember how the EPA mandated that it be added to our gasoline to increase our gas mileage? It was supposed to increase the octane rating and burn the gasoline more cleanly - and instead wound up showing up in water tables because MTBE is very miscible with water. Oh, and it's a potent carcinogen. They kinda, oops, forgot that cars get into accidents and tanks leak and gas winds up in places where it shouldn't be.
In their zeal to show us that government would force us to be better, they made things worse. This is their modus operandi. Every single time you see a government program, they're wasting otherwise good money. Look at the ROI for private IRAs vs. SS. Check the performance of any private school vs. a government school. USPS vs. Federal Express? You start talking about a "nudge" program, chances are some lifelong government hack is going to use that "nudge" as a social policy bludgeon.
Besides, once they've got a government program to subtly alter behavior, can G-23 Paxilon Hydrochlorate be far behind?
That is all.
Another dispatch from...
(image courtesy of Robb Allen)