The PJ Tatler

Obama Administration Creating 'Behavioral Insights Team' to Alter Citizens' Behavior

Conservatives sometimes go overboard describing how government worms its way into every corner of our lives. But the Obama administration appears to be doing its best to validate that notion by creating what they’re calling a “Behavioral Insights Team” that is part of a government wide effort to change your behavior.

Why are we spending money on this crap?

Fox News:

The federal government is hiring what it calls a “Behavioral Insights Team” that will look for ways to subtly influence people’s behavior, according to a document describing the program obtained by Critics warn there could be unintended consequences to such policies, while supporters say the team could make government and society more efficient.

While the program is still in its early stages, the document shows the White House is already working on such projects with almost a dozen federal departments and agencies including the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture.

“Behavioral sciences can be used to help design public policies that work better, cost less, and help people to achieve their goals,” reads the government document describing the program, which goes on to call for applicants to apply for positions on the team.

The document was emailed by Maya Shankar, a White House senior adviser on social and behavioral sciences, to a university professor with the request that it be distributed to people interested in joining the team. The idea is that the team would “experiment” with various techniques, with the goal of tweaking behavior so people do everything from saving more for retirement to saving more in energy costs.

The document praises subtle policies to change behavior that have already been implemented in England, which already has a “Behavioral Insights Team.” One British policy concerns how to get late tax filers to pay up.

“Sending letters to late taxpayers that indicated a social norm — i.e., that ‘9 out of 10 people in Britain paid their taxes on time’ — resulted in a 15 percent increase in response rates over a three-month period, rolling out to £30 million of extra annual revenue,” the document reads.

Should a government in a free society be in the business of trying to alter people’s behavior — subtly or otherwise? I suppose if you interpret the “common good” to mean treating everyone like a robot to be programmed to behave in a certain way, then yes. But I doubt most Americans would see it that way and resent their government trying to make the behave in an “acceptable” manner.