Archive for June, 2008

Links gone wild!

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

You may know a little about the New York Times’ pro-Stalin guy in Moscow back in the 1930s, or its pro-Castro guy in Havana in the late 1950s. You may even know something about the Times’ well-documented effort to not make too big a deal of the Holocaust as it was unfolding. Bruce Bawer connects those dots, and adds a fourth — the Times’ mild approach to radical Islam — to make the case that the newspaper’s tendency to put the fabled journalistic ideal of “objectivity” above the calling out of tyrants and despots is repeating itself once again. As Bawer notes, ” … the Times is not a liberal newspaper at all, but deeply conservative, determined above all to provide its largely comfortable and affluent readers with a consistent, predictable picture of the world that doesn’t challenge their own worldview in any significant way or make them feel obliged to deal with things they’d prefer not to deal with.”

I’d never heard the phrase “choice architecture” until I read this yesterday, but I’m already in love with the concept. Simply put, it’s the science of arranging things so that when people make a choice — whether to enroll in their company’s 401(K) plan instance — they choose the wise and socially beneficial path. When practiced by government, it’s the difference between mandating that people do things, and nudging them to do so. With mandates, of course, come the extra cost of enforcement and bureaucracy. With nudges come … well, not much else. You remain free to choose as you wish, and the government takes less of your money in taxes. What’s not to like?

I washed my car this weekend. I don’t know if it was legal, what with the water restrictions and all, but it seemed to make more sense than going to a commercial car wash, where water consumption would have been much greater than at home. In any event, it made me think of the greatest movie car wash scene ever. Ever wonder what happened to Lucille? She runs a cake-making business in California now.