1984: Thread

grarpamp grarpamp at gmail.com
Sun Jun 4 23:34:55 PDT 2023

Govt. Nudge Units Find The "Best" Ways To Manipulate The Public

Authored by Marie Hawthorne via The Organic Prepper blog,



Freedom of speech means a lot to us at the OP.  However, that’s been
fading fast, as Daisy has documented, and as though speech
restrictions aren’t bad enough, most of us have been lab rats for
central planners’ behavioral experiments longer than we probably care
to realize.  And now there are Nudge Units.

Huge amounts of money have been poured into “nudge research,”
determining the best ways to get populations to change their behaviors
without passing laws or using force.

What are Nudge Units?

Let’s look at how these “Nudge Units” got started, what they’ve been
used for most recently, and what they’re likely to focus on next.

The concept of “nudging” people into making better choices became
popular with the book Nudge—Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth,
and Happiness, authored by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, and
published in 2008. Their book defines a nudge as:

    . . .any aspect of the choice architecture that alters people’s
behavior in a predictable way without forbidding any options or
significantly changing their economic incentives.  To count as a mere
nudge, the intervention must be easy and cheap to avoid.  Nudges are
not mandates.  Putting fruit at eye level counts as a nudge.  Banning
junk food does not.  (p.6)

(You may be interested to note that author Sunstein is married to
Samantha Power, the administrator of Biden’s US Agency for
International Development and previously Obama’s ambassador to the UN.
Forbes listed Ms. Power as the 63rd most powerful woman in the world
in 2014. Do you think she’s Nudging? ~ Daisy )

Individuals in government and industry quickly realized that the
authors’ insights into the decision-making process could be used to
manipulate that process in the minds of the general public, many of
whom don’t have the time or mental energy for NYT bestsellers.

The British government established its first Behavioural Insights Team
in 2010.  It began as a seven-person team within a Cabinet Office
nicknamed the “Nudge Unit” then became an independent social purpose
company in 2014 before being purchased by Nesta, a larger social
purpose company, in 2021.

These social purpose companies employ experts in promoting desirable
behaviors.  So in Britain, for example, they want to cut obesity rates
in half and reduce household carbon emissions by 28% by 2030.

I don’t know how successful they’ve been in cutting obesity rates, but
the Nudge Unit did prove its effectiveness early on by helping the
British government collect an extra £200 million (about $248 million)
in taxes in 2017. Not surprisingly, the Nudge Unit has become so
popular that they have worked with governments in over 50 countries
and have opened subsidiary offices in the U.S., Singapore, Canada,
Australia, Indonesia, Mexico, and France.
What does a Nudge look like in the States?

Within the U.S., Nudge Units have been employed by health care systems
such as UPenn, and Blue Cross Blue Shield Massachusetts. In a way,
this isn’t surprising; American and British citizens alike are known
for high obesity rates and poor overall health.

Promoting good health within the general population seems like a good
government goal, and I think most of us would have found this largely
uncontroversial before 2020.  We may not always have agreed with the
FDA’s exact dietary advice, but most of us would have probably agreed
that we, as a nation, don’t need quite so many candy bars.

However, during 2020, this changed.  Public messaging around health
care became far more intense, and some of the advice didn’t make
sense.  At the very simplest level, what makes people healthy?
Exercise and proper diet.  Humans have known intuitively for a long
time that sunshine is good for us. More recent research has shown that
it kills viruses and bacteria. So why were people being forbidden to
exercise and even, in some cases, to go outside?

This article isn’t really about the many possible reasons the public
was given so much nonsensical advice during 2020 and 2021.  I am just
pointing out that, in some ways, the public health messaging campaign
during Covid was seen by various governments (particularly the
British) as an opportunity to see how far Nudging could influence
actual behavior, even when the nudges didn’t make logical sense.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your point of view),
governmental Nudging didn’t influence people nearly as much as various
government bodies had hoped. In fact, Nudge author Thaler himself said
that, when it came to increasing vaccine uptake, it was time for
“pushes and shoves” in the form of passports and more severe
But the pandemic is officially over, right? Does this really matter now?

Yes, it still does.

As we discussed before, the World Health Organization is set to ratify
a new pandemic treaty in 2024. As discussed in our previous article as
well as in Jose’s more recent article, we have plenty of reasons to
believe that more pandemics will come along, and that the WHO will be
taking precedence over local and even national governments to address

The WHO has grown a lot since its inception in 1948.  It has had its
own Behavioral Insights Team since 2017.  And some of their work, like
their campaign to prevent the over-use of antibiotics, has been really
important.  But just because they undertake some worthwhile projects
doesn’t mean we can assume everything they do is benign.

It’s crucial to understand that there are no neutral Nudges. Richard
Thaler points this out himself in an interview with Sydney Business
Insights.  You will always be asked to choose between one thing and
another.  Thaler also says in this interview that, within the original
British Nudge Unit, their mantra was, “If you want people to do
something, make it easy.”   Ask yourself, are people that constantly
shoot for the lowest common denominator in a population the ones you
want to take guidance from?

Perhaps more significantly, the WHO’s new Chair of their Technical
Advisory Group on Behavioral Insights (their Nudge Unit), Prof. Susan
Michie, is an active member of Britain’s Communist Party.  Are you
comfortable with an avowed communist being responsible for subliminal
messaging regarding your health choices?  If you’re a communist
yourself, that might be great, but what about the rest of us?
The people behind the Nudge messages matter.

Do you want to get your relationship advice from Jordan Peterson or
Andrew Tate?  It’ll make a difference.

And health care is only one area of interest in Nudging.  Right now,
in the U.S., that has been the main area of focus.  However, since the
first Nudge Unit developed in Britain and then expanded outward, it is
reasonable to look to the British to see what may be coming next.  As
speculated upon by Laura Dodsworth in her recent interview with
Russell Brand, climate change rhetoric will likely ramp up.

We’ve already seen some examples of it.  The same tools they might
have been using ten years ago to get people to choose fruit as opposed
to candy bars are now being used to get us to choose insect products
instead of meat.  This has had limited effect, as we’ve reported
How do they work?

Nudges work best for behaviors that people know they should pursue
anyway.  It’s been difficult to Nudge people into doing things they
find very unpleasant (like eating bugs) or may have moral qualms about
(putting novel substances in their bodies).

So far, the usefulness of Nudging has been limited, but that may
change within the next few years simply because messaging of all kinds
is about to get so much cheaper, thanks to AI.  ChatGPT and other
similar programs will be able to churn out all kinds of little jingles
useful not only for traditional companies but for social purpose
companies and government programs, as well.

And as messages of all kinds become cheaper and cheaper to produce,
the demands to change our behavior for public health, or the climate,
or whatever, will become more and more constant.

It’s going to take more individual effort on our part to sort out the
real information from whatever convenient narratives are currently
being promoted.  This will apply, not only to current-events type
information but also to things like health and self-improvement.

I’ll say it again because it’s so important:  There are no neutral
Nudges.  We are all constantly being Nudged in one direction or
another.  We can’t escape Nudges, but we can choose which ones we give
our attention to.

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