Maybe you can remember your parents hollering at you to “SIT STILL!!” I sure can. As kids, we were in constant motion. Whirring about even if seated.
No time to waste, we got to move!
It took a massive amount of energy just to hold all the body parts in place. And if the body was mostly stationary, then our mouths were constantly running. And our minds.
. . . pause or gap in a sequence, series, or process, pause, break, interval, interruption, suspension, intermission, interlude, gap, lacuna, lull, respite, breathing space, time out, recess . . .
As he was pulled backward, I saw my chance. Even through my half-swollen eyes.
I fired off two right punches, as hard as I could, and they found their mark on his left jaw. The look on his face turned from anger to full-blown rage as I turned and bolted down the stairs . . .
What’s in your normal daily routine?
My day started out with my head under a water spigot at a campsite in southern Arizona.
If you were stuck with only one food item to eat for a week, what would you choose? And what would you not pick?
I think I was about six years old when one of my brothers and I decided to run away from home.
Was this foreshadowing?
I have two brothers, and the one closest in age to me had gotten into some spat with my mom. Dad, the Lieutenant Colonel, was at the Air Base working, and I’ve no doubt that it was my brother who had misbehaved. He wasn’t taking the motherly admonishment too well. And there is always that dreaded, “Wait until your father gets home” threat.
Dad was the enforcer.
I don’t remember where I heard this expression. Or perhaps I never did. It may have sprung into the recesses of my mind. From a dream. A whisper from the wind. An echo from the stars. But I use it sparingly. With depth of heart. For it holds several meanings to me.
“You’re always welcome at my campfire.”
One of the things I like about Word Press is that our posts can generate some great discussion. Unlike many other social media pages where, on occasion (ok, all too frequently) I see many hateful exchanges.
A couple of days ago a post of mine generated some great discussion on how governments and local communities attempt to shape social behavior. The idea behind this is to favor what is usually considered the betterment of the whole community or the country at large.
Of course, this begs the questions, “Who gets to decide what’s best for everybody?” And “Just because it’s best for everybody (if it really is), why should I be compelled to do it.”
It’s a balancing of interests.
So, I’m back to some of my favorite ramblings – terminology. Only this time with a little bit of a political twist.
While I do have a political section on my blog, I have elected not to fill it with much. Just too much divisiveness out there right now. But I don’t consider this piece to really be the subject of irrational argument. I’m merely puzzling over societal manipulation in one of its many forms, and how it is branded and sold.
That “form” is called “social policy.” And you may not really realize just how pervasive this is used to shift behavior or the reasoning behind the social engineering in all cases. But how does one brand this stuff to make it more socially acceptable?
You call it something like “Libertarian Paternalism.” And then invent the definition for it. To make it palatable.
For starters, here’s an example of social policy. The government places a high tax on cigarettes and tobacco. This has a two-fold goal. It is hoped that by making tobacco products expensive that some people will stop smoking and get healthier. The other side of the coin is that if they don’t stop smoking then revenue has been generated with the tax to help pay for the negative health effects created that the government ultimately has to pay to treat. And to pay for the other societal costs as well, like lost productivity.
I have no idea what the numbers are now, but last I checked, someone died a smoking-related death in this country every ten seconds.
Well, that tax on tobacco is a very direct social policy means at addressing a problem when it’s understood that people don’t always make rational choices. Nor do they make choices that are good for society as a whole. Perhaps because we’ve really emphasized the individual in this country. And, of course, in this particular case, addiction can certainly override rational choice.
And that particular tax (social policy) doesn’t require a fancy label to disguise it in any way. Nor does a tax on gasoline. We all know what these taxes are for. Although people will probably scream if a tax is placed on cheeseburgers tomorrow.
Which brings us back to the label at the heart of today’s discussion, what the hell is Libertarian Paternalism?
In a sense, all social policies are a form of paternalism with the government, either local or national, or even with private interests, trying to elicit certain behavior. Paternalism, however, runs completely counter to the idea of being libertarian, a philosophy embracing total freedom of choice, the right to live one’s life anyway one sees fit, with only one exception. That exception is that any given persons’ choice or action cannot impede on the equal right of another. “In the libertarian view, all human relationships should be voluntary; the only actions that should be forbidden by law are those that involve the initiation of force against those who have themselves used force – actions like murder, rape, robbery, kidnapping, and fraud.”
Libertarian Paternalism is the idea (or fiction, depending on how you view it) “that it is both possible and legitimate for private and public institutions to affect behavior while also respecting freedom of choice, . . .”
So, what’s an example of a social policy hiding behind the label of libertarian paternalism? Retirement.
Yes, it seems people do not put enough money away for retirement. And society, or at least a portion of our society, is concerned with this for a couple of reasons. First society (or government and private interest groups) wants to minimize the number of people it has to help support through government action, and secondly, businesses need people to have buying power. It does no good for a business to produce goods, if a large sector of society (retirees) has no money to buy them.
It’s about them dollars.
Under libertarian paternalism, people are given a “nudge” to shape their behavioral economics.
So in this case, an employer would automatically enroll it’s employees in a 401K plan like a good parent would. But in order to claim that a libertarian freedom of choice of action is still present, the employer provides an “opt out” provision. Of course, the employee is strongly discouraged from exercising that provision, or may not be told about it.
The so-called “nudge” is supposed to push people towards choices they would make had they not been afflicted with “cognitive and volitional frailties.” In other not so pleasant terms, this form of paternalism, as most all are, operates under the assumption that we individuals are too stupid to do what is best for us.
So what do you think? Are we really too stupid to make rational economic decisions? Should government and private employers step in to make them for us? Are such types of societal manipulation truly maintaining a libertarian view of independent choice? Or should the government and private entities simply bug off and let the chips fall where they may?
Postscript: I bring up the topic of social policy (or manipulation) at this juncture in time because of the current crisis facing us with the global pandemic. You might find it interesting to observe what policies and actions are put in place by the government and by the private sector to influence behavior, and think about what the motives are for shaping particular changes in behavior. There may be things going on that are much deeper than just the appearance of an interest in promoting public health.
Photo: The US Capitol with a bit of photo fun. I took this pic back in 1995 when I joined a protest march for safe nursing staffing.
A wonderful Mary Oliver quote.
Photo: Wandering the Southwest
I’ve been writing about that urge to roam. To travel freely. Unencumbered. To experience the world through the lens of constant motion.
My first post in this series introduced the terms “Dromomania” and “Drapetomania,” which placed this desire squarely in the medical model for disease. The word “disease” itself has been defined as: “a condition of the living animal or plant body, or of one of its parts, that impairs normal functioning and is typically manifested by distinguishing signs and symptoms” that is “not simply a direct result of physical injury.” A disease has also been said to be “a particular quality, habit, or disposition regarded as adversely affecting a person or group of people.”*
And there are four main types of disease: infectious, deficiency, hereditary, and physiological diseases. Diseases can be communicable or non-communicable, and when we have absolutely no idea what causes one, we call it “idiopathic.”
And let’s not forget mental or psychogenic diseases.
In fact, the suffix “mania,” in dromomania and drapetomania, arguably places the old terminology squarely in that category of mental illness.
So, is the compulsion to flee, to explore, to wander the world, a mental disorder? And what are those so-afflicted fleeing from?
Picking up where I left off yesterday . . .
We’ve all heard the stories of Cortez conquering the Aztecs and Pizzaro conquering the Incas, but we often only hear the stories of those who are regarded as conquerors. The victors. Even if their acts were entirely atrocious and inhumane.
History is distorted that way.