Realist, not conformist analysis of the latest financial, business and political news

How Stupid Are These People In Government?

There seems to be a certain lack of knowledge here., An absence of having met any actual human beings. Which isn’t, in fact, all that useful an attribute when considering how a group – a nation – of human beings might be ruled.

Boris Johnson is to launch a government-backed rewards programme for families switching to healthier food and exercising under radical plans to tackle Britain’s obesity crisis.

The scheme will monitor family supermarket spending, rewarding those who reduce their calorie intake and buy more fruit and vegetables. People increasing their exercise by taking part in organised events or walking to school will also accumulate extra “points” in a new app.

On Friday night, Lord Stevens, the outgoing head of the NHS, warned that the health service would struggle struggle to cope in future if there were not radical moves to tackle obesity.

Under the new plan, “loyalty points” accumulated would be exchanged for discounts, free tickets or other incentives.

OK, the usual sort of “nudge” tossery.

Now consider how it has to work. You go shopping, you present your DimbleCard and gain points for the healthiness of that shopping basket. Lettuce and carrots galore, super, free ticket to London on the choo choo.

So, where are the chocco biccies? If you buy them when presenting your card then no choo choo for you. What happens?

The lettuce and the carrots are bought on the card, the chocco biccies are not. Everyone simply does two transactions, with DimbleCard and sans. Lots of free choo choo and no change, whatsoever, in diet.

Yes, of course people will do this. For that’s what people do. Survey the landscape of incentives in front of them then maximise their utility, the outcome, in the face of them. It’s a restricted rationality, restricted by knowledge, but it is there. Everyone will fiddle the system because that’s what it is to be human. Collecting the fire from the lightning strike is fiddling the universe, that’s just what we do.

This being why so many clever schemes to encourage or deter this or that just don’t work. This being why those detailed plans for men, if not mice, gang aft into idiocy. Because we out here, hom sap, will play whatever system there is to our benefit.

No, this will not work out like supermarket loyalty cards. Yes, it’s true, most of us do use them. But the incentive is for us to do so. The more we do use them then the more discounts we gain, the better off we are, even at the cost of that data. How does this new government one work? The less we buy of certain things the better off we are. So, less of those things will be bought using the cards.

It is not possible to insist that people must use the card to buy things. Well, not unless we’re about to descend into the dyspotia desired by Caroline Lucas it’s not. There might be a card reader at the point of purchase but the supermarkets will not demand that a sale can only happen when a card is read.

Therefore there will be those sales which gain points which make prizes. There will also be those DimbleCardless sales which do not gain points, or even demerits, and are done without their being registered in the system.

It’s not even possible to insist that those trying to gain points make all their purchases with the DimbleCard. Not without a lot more military presence on the streets it’s not.

The people who designed this system seem not to have met actual human beings. Which makes it a pretty sad implementation of the nudge thesis, which relies upon exploiting oddities in human motivations and actions. But to spot the oddities you’ve got to know the subjects, no?

Policy’s being designed by idiot tossers. On fat salaries at our expense too.

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Snarkus
Snarkus
4 months ago

No suprise. The policydroids in all government common disdain for the average citizen often means policies assume submissive compliance is the norm, instead of the occasional miracle.

Glyn
Glyn
4 months ago

I’ve begun to describe these people as ‘the Martians’.

Esteban
Esteban
4 months ago

It’s also quite possible that even if it works (in part or whole) it’ll increase costs. Smokers & land whales do have health problems but they are less likely to end up in care homes with dementia or Alzheimer’s, they collect less in pensions, etc.

Spike
Spike
4 months ago
Reply to  Esteban

In short, part of the problem is that some of the negative consequences of obesity have been socialized. Rather than promoting shorter lives for fatties (or culling them from the Herd outright), might we instead take aim at that?

Michael van der Riet
Michael van der Riet
4 months ago
Reply to  Spike

If you’re coming for me, make sure you’ve had a refresher course on infantry tactics recently.

Spike
Spike
4 months ago

Exactly how it works already in the US; the fattie ahead of you in the check-out line pays with the “stigma-free” Electronic Benefit Transfer card, then starts a separate transaction for the wine and bon-bons, peeling from that fat wad of $100s. The system steals your money, wastes time, and doesn’t achieve its goal nor help the beneficiary. But it also reinforces the hacks who think they can help by controlling our most personal decisions.

Michael van der Riet
Michael van der Riet
4 months ago
Reply to  Spike

Fear not, some bright spark at HQ has earned a promotion, an increase, a Mercedes and a shot at a knight/damehood out of this.

Michael van der Riet
Michael van der Riet
4 months ago

It had better be a bloody huge incentive. Life without chocolate is life not worth living.

Mrveryangry
Mrveryangry
4 months ago

You more evidence. Read FCA CP 13/21. Just the 4.5 page intro will be enough

james morgan
james morgan
4 months ago

Ha! Tim – you’re so right – again!!

This from somebody whose closest Sainsburys is the one that sells the most wine out of all the Sainburys in the whole country: Godalming! Yup. Here in leafy Surrey we drink. And give us one of them cards and we will find a way to NOT put our purchases of the aforementioned wine – on them.

Boris you’re a fucking idiot! A fat one too.

Steve Fleischer
Steve Fleischer
4 months ago

This is not a serious effort.

Mr. Johnson is just virtue signaling.

Paul, Somerset
Paul, Somerset
4 months ago

It is not possible to insist that people must use the card to buy things.”
Are you sure about that? Everything, from Rishi’s Britcoin to Fatty’s Vaccine Pass, is about securing a future in which a state-approved card, app or digital record is required for every aspect of life.
The fault you’ve identified with this latest wheeze is more likely to be its very purpose.

john77
john77
4 months ago

If people get bonus points for buying healthy food then there will be some, perhaps trivial benefit. But I prefer to buy my fruit and vegetables in the market in the next town (our local market has lost its fruit&Veg stall ‘cos nice guy got problem with knees, sold it and the new guy ruined it) rather than Tesco 300 yards away – if my market stall-holder can’t take cards how is he/she going to record that I’ve bought my fruit/veg/mushrooms on a card? There are worse initiatives and the “Nudge” is certainly better than the Diktat. Walking to school… Read more »

Spike
Spike
4 months ago
Reply to  john77

That an activity is worthwhile (after you make assumptions about how distant school is, and on the value of one’s own time) does not mean the Gunpoint Sector should “promote” it. It’s outrageous to oppose government diet tracking by putting forward another personal decision government should dictate instead!

john77
john77
4 months ago
Reply to  Spike

This side of the pond there is no Gunpoint Sector.

I think you do not understand what I was saying – the healthy diet encouragement (not tracking) proposal is well-meaning but futile. [It’s not “tracking” because it would not actually check what we eat.]

The only way is personal responsibility and i have *NEVER* advocated government dictation.

Spike
Spike
4 months ago
Reply to  john77

You might be disarmed but your gov’t is not, and Boris could not propose this lunacy (nor raise the money to fund it) if it were unarmed.

I concede that, during a discussion of coercive busybodyism, you brought up walking but didn’t technically say it should be dictated.

john77
john77
4 months ago
Reply to  Spike

Unlike the trigger-happy US cops, the British Police are unarmed except in exceptional circumstances and I cannot imagine a JP licensing the use of firearms by the police to enforce the use of a diet-tracking card. Any suggestion would be laughed out of court.

*I* did not “bring up” walking to school – it’s right there in the quote (paragraph 2 line 4) that Tim was discussing.

You normally think before writing – are you ill?

Paul, Somerset
Paul, Somerset
4 months ago
Reply to  john77

The response to that problem would be to ban independent market stalls, and channel all spending towards Tesco.
Again, what are being identified as faults are the very reason for these surveillance initiatives.

john77
john77
4 months ago
Reply to  Paul, Somerset

They cannot ban independent market stalls – most market charters date back centuries (my home town was granted a charter to hold a market by King John). There are some things that the bureaucrats will not try to do because the uproar would cost them their jobs. Harold Wilson’s adoption of the pseudoscientific metric system to show what a “good European” he was chickened out of ordering pubs to sell beer in litre and half-litre glasses. As market stalls *almost* invariably provide fresher British food than the supermarkets, a “healthy eating” campaign that tried to ban market stalls would get… Read more »

Paul, Somerset
Paul, Somerset
4 months ago
Reply to  john77

I hope you’re right! I go out of my way to use the fruit stall in Taunton’s town centre for the reasons you state, plus I just like the whole business of exchanging goods for cash with no receipt.

Michael van der Riet
Michael van der Riet
4 months ago

But we do vote on who does what, how, at what price, billions of times a day, through a voting mechanism known as a wallet.

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