In the Objective Room
The King's Cough

Assistant Professor Conly Speaks Again

You remember her, right? The author of Against Autonomy: Justifiying Coercive Paternalism? Here she is again, making her case in the New York Times apropos the almost-universally-scoffed-at ban on 64-ounce "sodas" (sorry, the term is still a little foreign to me). I continue to be astounded by her serene confidence that social science and government--armed social scientists, in short--will lead us to a much better world, in which our capacity to harm ourselves is extremely limited.

But has it not occurred to her and those of similar mind that the same logic could be used to proscribe a great deal of sexual behavior which is clearly harmful not only to the individuals involved but to society at large? That's hard to imagine, but perhaps she has an answer to that in her book, which I certainly don't propose to read. "What a staggering copout," says James Taranto in the Wall Street Journal, and I agree.

By the way, just for the record I find the idea of a 64-ounce cup of some extremely sweet drink both absurd and a bit sickening. I remember when the 16-ounce RC was introduced and people thought it was excessive. Which it was.


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Can't believe the mileage Conly is getting out of that book.

But, you know, I'm almost grateful to her for putting her case so bluntly. Unlike others who are very influential among the movers and shakers in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere, who prefer to call it "nudging."

None of that for her -- it's plain old "coercion." Sort of hard to make stealth moves that way.

Maybe that's why the review in the NY Review of Books by Cass Sunstein (author of Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness and former head of Obama's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs) was, at least in my reading, rather lukewarm.

Ah, well, I don't have the patience to read Sunstein's entire review, but skimming it seems to indicate he's basically on the same side. "Nudge" indeed. With a sharp stick, in time.

"Giving up a little liberty is something we agree to when we agree to live in a democratic society that is governed by laws."

There's the problem right there: thinking the law is already a limitation on liberty, rather than what makes liberty possible.

Good point. The disordered thinking goes very deep.

"The disordered thinking goes very deep."

J.J. Rousseau, call your office.

I don't think he's going to cooperate at this point, but the reality police are catching up to him.

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