May 31, 2016 Print

Ich Brauch Kein Kindermädchen! (“I Need No Nanny!”)

In recent years, advocates of social engineering have promoted a new form of paternalism, called “nudging” — but there’s a short and slippery slope from gentle nudges to forceful shoving when zealous regulators are involved. Prometheus – Das Freiheitsinstitut (the Liberty Institute), an Atlas Network partner based in Germany, has launched a new campaign to oppose the nanny state in all its forms, helping return power over personal life decisions to individuals.

“The government has adopted the image of the mature consumer,” the institute explains on its new campaign website, (translated from German). “Instead, it intends to take citizens by the hand and lead them to the ‘right’ decisions. This is done by means of prohibitions, regulations, and, most recently becoming more common, the so-called gentle ‘nudging.’ Whether in matters of nutrition, leisure, media consumption, or investment behavior — all involve government agencies that try to lead citizens to the ‘right thing’ to do. We say: We do not need a nanny! ... We want to decide how we live our lives, what is important and what is good for us!”

The campaign website includes a blog that chronicles how the regulatory state makes life more difficult for people to live and work on their own terms. Examples include a ban on short-term apartment rentals in Berlin, which makes it difficult for homeowners to participate in home-sharing business models; the prospects of a penalty tax on soda; an ecological program that pushes people to eat less meat, drive less, stop watching television at night; and much more.

“Nudging is not as harmless as it seems at first glance,” wrote Frank Schäffler, managing director of Prometheus (translated from German). “It's a mind manipulation, the abuse of individuals and society. It pretends a higher moral goal. It subverts self-thinking and replaces it with a collective government opinion.”

“Freedom includes not only the freedom of dissenters, but also always the freedom of other actors,” Schäffler wrote (translated from German). “The policy in a free and democratic state of law must have respect for the citizens. It is essential to accept that people will make decisions that do not fit your preferences. Trying to stop them is not legitimate — especially not when the regulations are designed for citizens not to notice them.”