Sunday 17 July 2011

The Nudge To Nothing

Ever since her appointment a year ago to head the House of Lords inquiry into behavioural change, Baroness (Julia) Neuberger has noticed that her grocery shopping habits have altered. "I've been looking at the labels very closely," she says. "Takes much longer. The usual thing of throwing it all into the trolley – no!"

The labels that Neuberger has been examining with such intent are designed to provide customers with colour-coded guidance on the amounts of salt, sugar and fat within each product. It is hoped that by using the "traffic light" system to highlight the more harmful ingredients, in say, a chocolate Hobnob, members of the public will be persuaded to eat more healthily.

It is an example of "nudge", the belief, promulgated by two American professors in a 2008 book, that human beings can be encouraged to make life-improving choices through incentives and social cues rather than through regulation and government legislation.

The theory – outlined by Richard Thaler, professor of economics and behavioural science at Chicago Graduate School of Business, and by Harvard law professor Cass Sunstein – has been eagerly adopted by David Cameron, who set up a behavioural insight team last October. The unit was charged with introducing nudge to the "big society" or, as the coalition agreement puts it, "finding intelligent ways to encourage people to make better choices for themselves".

It was hoped issues such as the obesity crisis could be tackled by nudges – clearer food labelling, placing fruit not chocolate near supermarket checkouts – rather than by heavy-handed (and expensive) state intervention.

The problem, as Neuberger saw it, was that there was "precious little" evidence to show that nudge worked beyond a purely individual basis. So the Lords set up a subgroup of its respected science and technology committee to examine the issues. After 12 months of research, 148 written submissions and evidence from 70 witnesses, the report will be published on Tuesday. It will make uncomfortable reading for Cameron because, according to Neuberger, nudging people is not normally enough.

"Basically you need more than just nudge," she says, when we meet in the Lords. "Behavioural change interventions appear to work best when they're part of a package of regulation and fiscal measures," she adds, putting down her papers and a large canvas bag from Daunt Books in Hampstead. She notices me looking at the bag. "I use it for everything! I don't like briefcases."

The difficulty with nudge theory, she says, is that "all politicians love quick fixes. I mean, they look at very short time frames. I think one of the problems with all of this is if you really want to change people's behaviour it takes a very long time … you have to look at a 20- to 25-year span before you get a full change of behaviour."

As an example, Neuberger points to the efforts to persuade people to wear seat belts in the 1970s, which incorporated an advertising campaign and legislation. "So it was a whole series of measures that did eventually change the climate." Later, she adds: "I think politicians would be well advised to use these sorts of behavioural interventions as part of an armoury."

"Politicians all have a split personality," she adds. "On one level, they engage their brains and they know perfectly well that things do take quite a long time to happen. On the other, they've got a very short time frame: they want to get re-elected, they need to make a mark. They have been, I think, very persuaded by the work of Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein. I think they found that very appealing because, broadly, they prefer the idea of using behavioural change interventions to legislating or using fiscal measures."

Presumably, part of the appeal is also that, in a time of austerity, nudging costs much less than legislating? Neuberger nods. "There needs to be a huge amount of work, which I think the government will eventually have to pay for."

Did she enjoy Nudge when she read it? "It's quite engaging," she replies, not entirely enthusiastically. "It's quite compelling as a book but, like all of those sorts of book – like The Tipping Point, like Bowling Alone, those books that have made quite an impact on politicians – I would say, you want to stand back for a few minutes and say: 'But, but, but'."

From September, Neuberger will become a full-time rabbi at the West London Synagogue and going on to the crossbenches. "Because I've got members of the congregation of all religious faiths and none, I don't want people to think I'm preaching Lib Dem politics from the pulpit."

She has clearly enjoyed heading the select committee – "it's been a fantastically good experience" – but there is one thing she won't miss. "There was a huge amount of written evidence," she says, holding her hands at least 10 inches apart. "I mean, it's like that – absolutely vast. It's been with me backwards and forwards to Leamington Spa [where she lives with her husband, Anthony], but it always has to go in the car because it's just too much to lug about." She pauses, then adds with an impish grin: "Even in my Daunts bag."

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Anonymous said...

These pricks dont want to nudge people they want full on GBH, just look at cigarette prices and speed cameras. Fucking hypocritical wankers to a man.

gatesofvienna said...

What I watch out for on the labels is the Rabinical Kosher Taxes on our food and cleaning products- bad enough their bankers fleece us without our food stuff too!

Zionist Kosher Tax and the symbols on YOUR food supporting Israel

Major food companies throughout America/UK actually pay a Jewish Tax amounting to hundreds of million of dollars per year in order to receive protection. This hidden tax gets passed, of course, to all non-Jewish consumers of the products. The scam is to coerce the companies to pay up or suffer the consequences of a Jewish boycott. Jewish consumers have learned not to buy any kitchen product that does not have the (U) the (K) and other similar markings.
The perpetrators of these elaborate extortion schemes are actually Rabbinical Councils that are set up, not just in the U.S. but in other western countries as well. For example, the largest payola operation in the U.S. is run by those who license the (U) symbol. The (U) symbol provides protection for many products sold here in Aztlan and in the United States. This symbol is managed by the The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations with headquarters at 333 Seventh Avenue in New York City.

The scam works like a well oiled machine and is now generating vast amounts of funds, some of which are being utilized by the Union of Orthodox Rabbis to support the Zionist government in Israel. The website of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations is full of pro-Israel and anti-Palestinian propaganda.

The "Kosher Nostra" protection racket starts when an Orthodox Rabbi approaches a company to warn the owners that unless their product is certified as kosher, or "fit for a Jew to eat", they will face a boycott by every Jew in America. Most, if not all of the food companies, succumb to the blackmail because of fear of the Jewish dominated media and a boycott that may eventually culminate in bankruptcy. Also, the food companies know that the cost can be passed on to the consumer anyway. The food companies have kept secret from the general consumer the meaning of the (U) and the amount of money they have to pay the Jewish Rabbis.

It is estimated that the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations, which manages the (U) symbol protection racket, controls about 85% of the "Kosher Nostra " certification business. They now employ about 1200 Rabbi agents that are spread through out the U.S. Food companies must first pay an exorbitant application fee and than a large annual fee for the use of the (U) copyright symbol. Secondly, the companies must pay separate fees each time a team of Rabbis shows up to "inspect" the company's operations. Certain food companies are required to hire Rabbis full time at very lucrative salaries.

The amount of money that the non-Jewish consumer has paid the food companies to make up for the hidden Jewish Tax is unknown, but it is estimated to be in the billions since the scam first started. The Orthodox Jewish Councils as well as the food companies keep the amount of the fees very secret. The Jewish owned Wall Street Journal wrote about the problem many years ago, but they have stopped writing about it now.

Only public awareness concerning the "Kosher Nostra Scam" will eventually help stop this swindle of the American consumer. Public education of the scam may lead to an eventual non-Jewish boycott of all products with the (U), (K) or other Jewish protection symbols. I certainly do not need to pay extra for "kosher water", "kosher coffee" or "kosher plastic sandwich bags". In fact, I demand my money back for all I had to pay over the years for the hidden and illegal Jewish Tax. Are there any bright attorneys out there that could bring a class action suit against the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations on behalf of the citizens of Aztlan and other non-Jewish people?

Why don't you ring the companies like these people did-