Governmental “Nudges” Undermine Freedom

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EPA Grading scheme for vehicles distorts our ability to act on our own judgment

The Environmental Protection Agency recently proposed a scheme by which vehicles would be “graded” based on fuel efficiency. According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal:

“Under the system, the only cars that would receive an A-plus, A or A-minus would be electrics and plug-in hybrids, the government said.

Many compact and midsize vehicles would get Bs, while bigger and more powerful models such as sport-utility vehicles and pickup trucks would get Cs or C-minuses because they burn more petroleum and pump out more carbon dioxide, officials said.”

The basic idea seems reasonable enough at first glance: consumers should be made aware of the cost of fueling their car in addition to other factors. By providing an “automobile grade” to consumers the government is offering up its official judgment in an attempt to engineer social choices viewed as desirable by bureaucrats.

Despite its seemingly benign appearance, this kind of government intrusion represents a subtle assault on freedom. As Dr. Paul Hsieh observes “it undermines man’s basic tool of survival — his mind.” These nudges present us, as consumers, with choices that have gone through a government filter such that we will make the “right decision” as determined by our regulatory overlords. But we as individuals are the only ones that can determine what the “right choice” is according to our own particular values and lives. As always, we must remember that the role of government is to protect our freedom, not direct our actions and choices however gently it may appear to do so.

Posted by on September 12, 2010. Filed under Fall 2010, Government & Law. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry