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Dan Gilmore / September 16, 2015

Government to Hire Psychologists to Study Americans

“I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

Ronald Reagan once said one of the most terrifying phrases in the English language is, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” That phrase got a bit more terrifying this week, as Barack Obama issued an executive order mandating government agencies use psychology to “yield substantial improvements in public welfare.” On a certain level, the field of political science touches psychology, as both have to deal with human nature. But the assumption is that people cannot act in their own self-interest. The government thinks you can’t stop smoking, save for retirement or find a job on your own. So agencies ranging from the Post Office to the Department of Health and Human Services are ordered to hire psychologists, study human behavior and institute nudge theory. Obama ordered, “A growing body of evidence demonstrates that behavioral science insights — research findings from fields such as behavioral economics and psychology about how people make decisions and act on them — can be used to design government policies to better serve the American people.” Obama got the idea for this executive order from the United Kingdom. The country, not exactly known for its freedom-loving initiatives, instituted the policy in 2010 that “nudges” people toward decisions the government wants. No longer will the government rule with an iron scepter. Instead, it will be inside your head.

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