June 20, 2015


When America Says Yes to Government (CASS R. SUNSTEIN, JUNE 19, 2015, NY Times)

Republicans and Democrats agree that soft interventions can help people meet their own goals with respect to health, safety and economic security. Americans might not like paternalism, but when they are asked about specific nudges, they tend to be supportive. And when they dislike some interventions -- as they definitely do -- Republicans and Democrats usually agree as well, suspecting that government has illegitimate goals, or that it is acting inconsistently with people's interests or values.

About 87 percent of those questioned in the survey approve of the federal government's requiring calorie labels at chain restaurants. Nearly 85 percent favor an aggressive public education campaign from the federal government, "consisting of vivid and sometimes graphic stories and images," to discourage distracted driving. About 80 percent want the federal government to encourage automatic enrollment in pension plans. Indeed, 71 percent would support a federal mandate requiring large employers to adopt automatic enrollment. In every one of these cases, majority support cuts across partisan divisions.

There are many more ways that choices can be informed or influenced, and Americans want some of them to happen. About 82 percent favor a public education campaign to reduce obesity, at least if it consists of "information that parents can use to make healthier choices for their children." Over 75 percent would like the federal government to engage in a public education campaign to encourage people not to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.

More than 72 percent would favor a warning label on products with unhealthily high levels of salt. About 70 percent would like state governments to require people to say, when they obtain their driver's license, whether they want to be organ donors. (Such a requirement could end up saving a lot of lives.)

More than 70 percent want the federal government to encourage electricity providers to enroll consumers automatically in a "green" energy source, while allowing consumers to opt out if they wish. Strikingly, 67 percent say that they would favor a federal law compelling large electricity providers to adopt such a system. In all of these cases as well, support comes from majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents.

Posted by at June 20, 2015 11:44 AM

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