September 16, 2015
Good Lord, this whole situation just keeps getting weirder and weirder.
What sort of a thing is this?
I guess you would expect certain government agencies to be doing this anyway, simply because they can, but to have the President issue an executive order making it a matter of official policy?
And guess who designed the program?
That’s right. Another Chinese guy.
President Obama announced a new executive order on Tuesday which authorizes federal agencies to conduct behavioral experiments on U.S. citizens in order to advance government initiatives.
“A growing body of evidence demonstrates that behavioral science insights — research findings from fields such as behavioral economics and psychology about how people make decisions and act on them — can be used to design government policies to better serve the American people,” reads the executive order, released on Tuesday.
The new program is the end result of a policy proposal the White House floated in 2013 entitled “Strengthening Federal Capacity for Behavioral Insights.”…
According to a document released by the White House at that time, the program was modeled on one implemented in the U.K. in 2010. That initiative created a Behavioral Insights Teams, which used “iterative experimentation” to test “interventions that will further advance priorities of the British government.”
The initiative draws on research from University of Chicago economist Richard Thaler and Harvard law school professor Cass Sunstein, who was also dubbed Obama’s regulatory czar. The two behavioral scientists argued in their 2008 book “Nudge” that government policies can be designed in a way that “nudges” citizens towards certain behaviors and choices.
The desired choices almost always advance the goals of the federal government, though they are often couched as ways to cut overall program spending.…
In its 2013 memo, which was reported by Fox News at the time, the White House openly admitted that the initiative involved behavioral experimentation.
“The federal government is currently creating a new team that will help build federal capacity to experiment with these approaches, and to scale behavioral interventions that have been rigorously evaluated, using, where possible, randomized controlled trials,” the memo read.
That document cited examples from the U.K. which showed that sending out a letter to late taxpayers which read “9 out of 10 people in Britain pay their taxes on time” led to a 15 percent increase in compliance.
The new executive order encourages federal agencies to “identify policies, programs, and operations where applying behavioral science insights may yield substantial improvements in public welfare, program outcomes, and program cost effectiveness,” as well as to “develop strategies for applying behavioral science insights to programs and, where possible, rigorously test and evaluate the impact of these insights.”
To jump-start the programs, agencies are encouraged to recruit behavioral science experts to join the federal government and to develop relationships with researchers in order to “better use empirical findings from the behavioral sciences.”
Definitely “Orwellian.” Or, perhaps more accurately, “kikery.”