Frightening Sentences of the Day

From Peter Ubel in Free Market Madness: Why Human Nature Is at Odds with Economics—And Why It Matters (Harvard Business Press, 2009):

The government could, theoretically, change the finances of the food industry enough to halt the obesity epidemic. […] Given that information alone may not suffice to encourage better eating habits, policy makers should consider yet another approach to combat obesity—an approach that structures people’s choices in ways that will lead them to make better choices, not through incentives or coercion, but through emotional or even unconscious psychological forces. (pp. 214, 217-18)

Ubel is a “physician and behavioral scientist” at the University of Michigan. He is apparently unaware of the manifest difficulties with which the word “theoretically” is fraught in the first sentence above; he is likewise apparently unaware of the frightening implications of a medical doctor and behavioral scientist proposing that the government use “emotional or even unconscious psychological forces” to manipulate its citizenry into making what he or it deems “better choices.”

Perhaps someone should remind Dr. Ubel that such things have been tried with a fair amount of vigor and dispatch during the twentieth century; perhaps he would like to inquire into the results?

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