I thought this article was excellent, and showed just how important the power of a understanding and using statistics could be. I’d love to have these folks working on all sorts of problems. In case that idea is of interest, I strongly recommend Ian Ayres’ book Supercrunchers which goes into great detail on how firms and individuals can make use of massive piles of microdata to accomplish all sorts of things.
But consider this. Doesn’t the improved data crunching ability of our government mean they’ll have a better chance of tracking your every last move? And of striking you down with a drone attack with little collateral damage?
Or consider what I think is the ultimate, and stomach-turning, irony. It is that the anti-advertising, anti-influence peddling movement began in Progressive America and is supposedly reviled to this day by Progressive America. Yet this is the exact tool “they” use to exert political power over the rest of us. I wonder why it is so bad for McDonalds to figure out how to best sell me inexpensive coffee (that I still have some choice about not consuming) and why it is not bad to use data crunching to jam a corporatist-elitist government down our throats? Or why it is OK to use data crunching to leverage the entrenched interests like the teachers-unions and other government employees who can indiscriminately pick the pocket of Americans without them so much as noticing?
It’s awkward. That’s today’s euphemism of course. I’d love to see a thoughtful response to this? How many “Progressives” would take the following trade: we ban any and all advertising by private corporations if we also ban any and all advertising (and use of data mining) in the political process? Ignore the tyranny that would result from this (after all, if I wear a blue shirt in class, am I advertising for the Democrats?). Do you think “they’d” take that deal? And how does the answer to that question inform you about the legitimacy of the “anti-advertising” sentiment and the anti-corporate sentiment that pervades?
Update: after I wrote the post I saw this article. The more I think about it the more creepy and disturbing it is – regardless of which candidate was employing it. So the behavioral economists were out in full-force not actually trying to get voters to do things that they really wanted to do, but spent their energy trying to persuade people to do what they wanted them to do. That is NOT the bill of goods the polite paternalists sell us. And to use the terms of the No Logo crowd, it seems, kind of … evil. I wonder what the competitive equilibrium looks like? I think whatever it looks like it will be a more expensive one.