The FT reports that a new ‘nudge unit’ has been created inside of Downing Street. Unsurprisingly, Steve Hilton is a ‘co-chair’. Steve is the man responsible for, among other things, a lack of user testing on the ‘big society’ concept that ultimately lead to an indecisive Tory victory. But no matter now that he is in Downing Street. He is back waving the favourite book of both the Obama administration and the Coalition Government – Nudge by Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler.
The basic premise of the book, in case you have been hiding under a rock during both the presidential and UK government elections, is that people or society can be nudged into behaviour that is beneficial to the common good. This is nothing new as marketing folks have been using the basic concept for ages. Products in stores that are in need of shifting, for example, take a more visible and prominent position than other ones which may be placed higher up or lower down or in the back of the store. Capitalist approaches to nudging does not bother me one bit, but when the government gets involved, I do start to panic that yet again the government is overstepping its bounds. What is most insulting and completely arrogant is the very fact that the government assumes that they know best and that people or society can’t take care of themselves. How truly shocking for a Coalition Government who are promoting their ideas of local activism and the big society. Quite contradictory it seems to me.