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The common influence on Obama and the Tories

  • July 25th, 2008

The latest Economist gives waspish attention to the influence of  "Nudge" and it’s authors on current UK Tory policy. Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein are also said to be Obama’s favourite economist and legal thinker respectively.

It is hard to think that book has actually been read by the author of the Economist’s concluding words:

"Mr Cameron has talked moralistically and hyperbolically about Britain’s “broken society”, which he says is riven by welfare dependency, violence and family breakdown. By so doing he may come to seem both unappealingly gloomy and—unless he comes up with credible ways to mend the alleged tears—impotent. He does not, to be fair, claim that “social norms” and the rest can fix it all. But the Tories’ talk of nudge-nudge risks looking like a wink-wink admission that there is nothing they can do."

Nudging does not purport to be a substitute for coercion where coercion is needed. It is much more a prescription for influence where coercion is often urged, but opt-out freedom should be preserved.

A far more interesting summary of the ideaological shift in Britain at the moment, seen as a cross party convergence, is in the Spectator.

Fraser Nelson sees signs of the kind of consensus between UK Labour and Tory thinking that Clinton engineered when he adopted much of Newt Gingrich’s policy in criminal justice and welfare.




The UK Labour welfare reforms are hardly worth the energy and I expect the Conservatives to adopt them. Ditto in the NZ setting. They won’t come within a gnats whisker of what the US did (where some states were more radical and successful than others).

The UK is relabelling benefits for the incapacitated and making new rules about, for instance, sole parents having to get a job when there youngest turns 12 (from Nov this year.) Big deal. Just keep on having kids and you need never be self-supporting.


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