I have been following this series of posts with interest. As Claire recognises, there is an important principle involved, even if its application to soft drinks is obviously a bit silly, so please forgive the long post.
I think the idea that people actually can make informed, fully autonomous choices is a utopian view of human nature. It’s an error committed by the libertarian right on the scale of our own error on the left about our ability eventually to get people to disavow self-interest and self-identify with a collective. Both are things we’d respectively love to be true, and would make our systems work if they were true, but neither stands up in practice.
More and more research is coming out that describes how the important decisions we make are nothing remotely like series of syllogisms based on the best available data. They’re lumps of emotion-laced muddle tainted by gut feeling and subject to last-minute what-the-hell surges in the wrong direction. Westen’s The Political Brain made a splash to that effect a few years ago in politics wonk circles, but it’s fairly well-trodden ground by now.
One might counter this by saying that it is nothing new, we should accept this imprecision as part and parcel of human nature, and that a comely wench probably sold more produce per unit of time when staffing a medieval fruit stand than did her snaggletoothed father. The problem with that is that we live in a time when the science of getting us to make market choices contrary to our self-interest is more advanced than ever. Corporations do not spend countless millions on seemingly-inane advertising because it doesn’t work. Western politics has become a game of expenditure as much as actual ideas; saturation-bombing with political ads containing easily-verifiable untruths works depressingly well. Ridiculously-valued Internet empires have been built on the promise of ads targeted by clever algorithms to personal information. Simultaneously, the complexity of market choices required of the individual has risen tremendously, while the average quality of education has, to put it charitably, lagged behind. There is no commercial incentive to keep the population smart and wary, and the large segment of it that you would have compete on the labour market simply by offering cheaper, longer hours to employers, would barely have the time and wherewithal to read a book.
Conservatives (as distinct perhaps from pure libertarians) recognise this perfectly well when it comes to issues placing you, for cultural reasons, on the opposite side of absolute individual choice – like abortion or euthanasia. It is often pointed out, correctly, that shattering the euthanasia taboo and making it an accepted practice cannot help but increase undue pressure on individuals to go ahead and make that choice. Choices simply aren’t made in a vacuum, independent of other people, nor are they ever wholly ours.
I don’t disagree with the point Claire made in earlier iterations of this, that there is a thin-end-of-the-wedge element here ending in the government prescribing the correct way to live, but drinking some ungodly quantity of dissolved refined sugar is probably one of the few things that we can agree upon as not the best nutritional idea. Since I’m led to understand that the consumer can still buy multiple smaller drinks that add up to the original amount, let his poor consumption-conditioned, brand-triggered, noise-addled, impulse-buyer brain at least go through the extra step of doing so. The libertarian stand can just as easily be made a little further down that road.
Ok Sheiky — Yer on: I’m sure a cadre of The PMs will gladly come to your house and tell you how to live your life.
If people are unable to make “good choices” autonomously about their own lives, howinhell are Other People [aka gov't] gonna make “good choices” for them?
[and are you using "autonomously" to mean "without facts" or what? Cuz I make choices for myself "autonomously" all the dang time. 'Course I research stuff I don't know alla dang time, too. Anyone else here?]
Well Duh Points — “drinking some ungodly quantity of dissolved refined sugar is not the best nutritional idea” And yet, if you want to do that; it’s none of my business. It’s your fat arse and you’re in charge of it. Not me. Not Other People [aka teh gov't] Excusing tyranny because the subject of it is “silly” or “a good idea” is the first step of slaves.
OTOH, if Other People “save” people from the bad consequences of their poor decisions, there is no real-time feedback to inform those “autonomous choices”.
lumps of emotion-laced muddle tainted by gut feeling and subject to last-minute what-the-hell surges in the wrong direction
That may describe your cohort well, but it doesn’t quite describe mine…
Agreed: Bernays handed a metaphoric nuke to a baby those many years ago, yet I do not find myself with — or wanting — a flat-screen TV, a case of Axe bodyspray, Geico insurance, a fistful of Lotto tickets, a carton of Fritos or a Pious, either. Funny, that… I “autonomously” decided that for meself. I guess I figured out that being smart and wary is good for me.
There will always be gamblers and suckers. It’s none of my business if they fail. Maybe if they are allowed to fail a couplafew times, they’ll figure it the hell out.
“The libertarian stand can just as easily be made a little further down that road.” That way lies voluntary slavery. Akin to “compromising” on how much arsenic I want shoved down my throat.
[ooooo Missed Point Points: "abortion or euthanasia" are about protecting the 'choices' of people who cannot protect themselves: The very old or infirm and the very, very young. Sorry -- play again next time.]
Comment by Claire: pink pig barbarian, etc — June 19, 2012 @ 12:16 pm
I am not questioning that advertizing has psychologically targeted customers for well over a century in America. In the beginnings of our childhoods, cigarettes were advertized by *doctors* as good for you. And, Carter`s little Liver Pills had zero, zippo, nada to do with the liver…..
However, “…..a little further down the road…” was about 50 years ago, give or take! Historically, as a nation, America has gone through about 3 major changes and, in my opinion, is at the beginning of a 4th change. As a card-carrying board member of The Tea Party Patriots, I find myself actively contributing to changes that I never imagined before. And I am far from being alone….I doubt I will live to note the outcome since they usually, normally, almost always take a half century or more…..
Comment by Colonel Jerry USMC — June 19, 2012 @ 12:30 pm
Cuba. North Korea. The Soviet Union. Communist China.
I don’t *need* anymore, but there are many, many more.
IT DOESN’T WORK. STOP DOING IT. LEAVE PEOPLE THE FUCK ALONE. THEY DON’T NEED YOU.
But people can’t leave people alone, they always think they know better, so we will ALWAYS BE AT WAR.
1) Being human, our betters suffer from the same failures of reason. There is no such thing as an Enlightened Despot.
2) Those in power have their reasoning process further skewed by massive temptations to corruption and power-politics far beyond the petty gullibilities of us stupid peasants.
3) Your “one of the few things that we can agree upon as not the best … idea” is a tempting, but flawed way of rationalizing shoving something down others’ throats. Even if “we can agree,” you’re accepting the dictatorship of the majority. That’s Progressive “democracy” rather than a republic.
Besides, who says “we can agree?” You. How do you know that? I’m not arguing against the police powers of common law, but this is a law to be enforced without public legislation. This is, oh what’s the term … oh, yeah …
legislation without representation.
You know, dictatorship.
The “goodness” of an idea does not trump republican principles.
The end does not justify the means.
4) Furthermore, I challenge the “good-for-you factor” as the objective or motivation of Bloomberg’s supporters. That’s a friggin’ lie. Every supporter that I’ve read has made the point you made, that it’s a restriction which is ridiculously easy to get around. Ergo, limiting sugar is not the objective, establishing nanny precedents is.
Comment by DougM (jackassophobe) — June 19, 2012 @ 3:46 pm
ummm love the troll feast. My comment is when can I start the very profitable “soda bootleg concern” in MA… those MIT kids live on the dew and other hi caf beverages.
By the way,
my comment (9) applies to all social-behavior legislation.
Not only “blue laws,” but all government-enforced behavior is a threat to freedom. It’s critical that the community’s police power be used to enforce only commonly agreed behavior that puts others at risk, not just enforces a normality that is subject to change through maturity and experience [insert tome on the dangers of cool, chic, and fashionable deviance]. There’s always a risk of the dictatorship of the majority. That’s why we have constitutional and charter limitations on the power of local governments, and that’s why local issues are contentious and vary from place to place. Governments get frustrated with that, and they always, always tend to look for ways to circumvent the political process. When that happens routinely, freedom dies.
Comment by DougM (jackassophobe) — June 20, 2012 @ 10:17 am
Doug #9 —- Well said but well wrong— just cracked me up–I’m reading his comment and thinking wow very well said– :))) — isn’t he articulate? But is he clean and well dressed and does he have a crease in his pants? Yarbouti how long have you been following the Porch? Do you really think anyone here would have a thrill up their leg after reading what you post no matter how articulate you are.
A ban? Pretty soon the only thing they’ll be eating in Cambridge is mung bean casserole with organic lentil soup, with some organic thistlestick tea.
Cambridge used to be the home of a prestigious center of higher learning. It’s painfully obvious that none of the Worshipful City Council ever went there.
(PS: If some food is “organic”, is the rest “inorganic”?)
Yarbouti : Much as I disagree with most of your comment, I have to admit that you do have a point: “the important decisions we make are … lumps of emotion-laced muddle tainted by gut feeling and subject to last-minute what-the-hell surges in the wrong direction.”
As evidence, I present the current President.
“Corporations do not spend countless millions on seemingly-inane advertising because it doesn’t work. ”
Neither do political action groups (as you point out).
This is one of those cases where complex problems do not fall to simple answers. Look at the current “consumption-conditioned, brand-triggered” example. I submit that he is the result (and by “he” I mean “nobody on this porch”) of several generations of public schooling – which we’re tricked into believing is just a matter of good-intentioned failures – which were due to Cosmic Forces beyond their control (and if you’ll just give us a little more (by which they mean, a lot more)) money, we’ll be able to fix everything just fine.
It is, in fact, part of a well-executed plan, starting about the time of John Dewey, in the 20s and 30s, a plan to train out qualities like courage, decency, independence, love of country, religion, critical thinking (among others). We see now the effect of ’60s liberals advancing into academia (like tenured professor Bill Ayres), and promoting their twisted view of society onto the next generation of students.
“… absolute individual choice – like abortion or euthanasia.”
I suggest that the aborted baby has no say in the matter. Also, euthanasia (=”mercy killing”) is different than suicide (which is also wrong). One does not “mercy kill” himself. Someone else does it.
Our point is, government may have many functions (Constitutionally, not that many), but strikingly absent from those functions is the power to tell us how to live. Borrowing a line from the astrologers, government may impel, but may not compel (exceptions are few and are listed in the Appendix).
Claire: “If people are unable to make “good choices” autonomously about their own lives, howinhell are Other People [aka gov't] gonna make “good choices” for them?”
Just look at the excellent decisions government has made so far. Solyndra, anyone? People who make good decisions most of the time end up as large company CEOs or military combat leaders (even lowly CSMs). People who make bad decisions most of the time end up as Congressmen, union leaders, OWS front-line troops, &c.
COL Jerry: “…cigarettes were advertized by *doctors* as good for you.”
I remember the commercials: “Nine out of ten doctors who smoke say …” which we finished with “cough, cough, cough”.
Everybody knows that smoking is bad for you. Why else would people in the 30s and 40s call them “cancer sticks”? But for some inexplicable reason, for many people, it feels good. (What a philosophy! “Feel good now, die later”.)