The Grand Inquisition

14+ A live look in on the morose and whiny Epsilon Theory crew.The rough idea for this note ha
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Jane VanFossen
Member
Jane VanFossen

Didya know the author of “Nudge – Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth and Happiness” (Cass Sunstein) just released his latest book “On Freedom”? First chapter: “What the Hell Is Water?” Pack members will recognize the allusion. Where, oh where, would we be without nudgers like this?

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Demonetized
Member
Demonetized

This is literally the first line of the Amazon product description, copy-pasted:

“From New York Times bestselling author Cass Sunstein, a brisk, provocative book that shows what freedom really means—and requires—today.”

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Rusty Guinn
Admin

Good Lord. That a nudger would say that in a pro-nudge book is just too painful to consider.

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Mark Kahn
Member
Mark Kahn

I assume that whatever date has been targeted for my death by the Almighty or Darwinism, if there is cosmic justice, several days will be added on before I am taken to account for (1) the eight years I lived in a high-rise with an excruciatingly slow elevator and (2) all the time I took flipping back pages to keep the names (and nicknames) straight of the characters in thousand-page Russian novels. So putting my tiny pique at Russian novels aside, I can say you developed a great freakin’ analogy between Dostoyevsky’s Grand Inquisitor and today’s Nudging State. Building on (stealing) your smart idea helps answer a question that always pings around in my head – how can socialism, with its history of murder and misery, still be popular? It’s popular because it promises freedom from freedom – all the fear, anxiety, burdens and, as you so well put it, “existential anxiety” that freedom brings is removed by socialism. Worried about paying for your kid’s college – free education / worried about paying your medical bills if you or someone in your family gets sick – free healthcare / worried that you haven’t saved enough for retirement – more robust social security / worried about making enough money – minimum wages, family leave, overtime. FDR gave the game away when he included the ludicrous “Freedom from Fear” in his Four Freedoms. Socialism on paper frees you from everything hard about freedom, but ultimately delivers you into a dystopia of mental… Read more »

Victor K
Member
Victor K

Thumbs up! Except it’s not the educational system. It’s the negative side effect of helicopter parenting and too little free-range. (I’ve been controlled since birth, so I can either escape by taking the nirvana short cut, or I can maintain (being controlled).)

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Scott
Member
Scott

Wow, I just read that passage from The Brother’s Karamazov last night. Either the simulation made that a little to obvious or we are all feeling morose enough to read Russian literature. As to your thoughts on Chuck from the North Shore, for me, this path of “piercing the veil of Narrative” I’ve gone down, thanks in large part to ET, has been incredibly empowering and came with direct financial benefits, but I’m pretty sure it is also the reason my co-worker lunch invites have fallen off a cliff.

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Michael Madonna
Member
Michael Madonna

Jane – great spot. Funny enough the initial lines of the parable brought to mind another part of the speech:

“Because here’s something else that’s weird but true: in the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship–be it JC or Allah, be it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles–is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive”

I think this also ties very much into Mark’s question – how is socialism still popular? I totally agree that part of it is the promise of freedom from freedom, but I think on another level, it provides an avenue for meaning – it takes on the characteristics of a religion – it’s something for people to worship.

Jonathan Haidt argues that a good deal of our politics (on both sides) are mimic religious movements – strident dogmatism and an incessant demand to follow the established orthodoxy – at the risk of being expelled as a heretic for saying the wrong words.

And speaking of the Nudging Oligarchy – Econ Talk had a fantastically scary episode on a possible future of AI powered nudging….

http://www.econtalk.org/amy-webb-on-artificial-intelligence-humanity-and-the-big-nine/

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