Igor Yopsvoyomatsky

Answers readers’ questions.

Dear Igor,

My plumber Fritz went berserk when he saw the Obama posters on my lawn. He says Obama is the front man for a secret organization known as “the Intelligentsia”, who plan to infiltrate our minds and turn us all into robots. Is this paranoia or fact?


Fort Prion, Miss.

Dear Scared,

This is fact. But not robots. The Obama branch of the “Intelligentsia”, or “nudge nazis” as we call them, want to turn you into docile sheep who will get plumper and happier under their benevolent herding.

But first, a little background. There was a moment in prehistory when a burly Neanderthal felt an irresistible urge to bang somebody–anybody– on the head with his thorny club. An undersized cave man, fearing for his ovoid pate, piped up:

“Hit the hairy fat guy by the fire and I will sing a song in praise of your bloodlust.”

And the Intelligentsia was born.

It flourished in authoritarian societies –tribes, monarchies, empires, dictatorships, capitalist oligarchies, anyplace where a greedy, brutal bully needed an explainer. Aristotle, tutor to Alexander the Great, was an early member. As was Machiavelli, who glorified the murderous intrigues of the Borgias;Thomas Hobbes, extoller of sovereign power; the propagandists of the American, French and Russian Revolutions, who wrote eloquent rationales for slavery, mass executions and forced starvation; the “philosophers” who bent logic and morality to the whims of the Ruler– Heidegger for Hitler, Sartre for Mao. It now consists of intellectuals trained in the soft sciences–sociology,economics, psychology, history, political philosophy, soothsaying. Its function is to validate and expand the power of bourgeois democracy.

Members of Obama’s intelligentsia have used sycophancy and elitist-skewed research to advance in the Academe. They now believe that their success qualifies them to tell the rest of the benighted world how to live.

The best-selling policy document of the Obama intelligentsia is Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness, by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein. The authors, professors at the Obama Think Tank, the University of Chicago, believe that the world is populated by “Homer Simpsons” who “have trouble with long division, forget their spouse’s birthday and have a hangover on New Year’s day.” These people suffer from “inertia”, the “status quo bias” and the “yeah, whatever heuristic.” They are not capable of managing their lives. Given freedom of choice they inevitably make the wrong decisions, which lead to poverty, ignorance and unhappiness. In Thaler/Sunstein’s words they need “choice architects” to “nudge” them down the right path.

The authors describe themselves as “libertarian paternalists.” Their method is simply to make free choices more difficult to make.. They suggest automatically enrolling workers in pension plans and medical insurance, on the theory that they will be too lazy to opt out. They might suggest automatic deductions from bank accounts for civil violations like traffic tickets, failure to recycle, etc., gently forcing people into good citizenship. Or increasing the payroll tax on the theory that the dummies won’t know how to file returns and get refunds.

They never question their core beliefs: that people might be wary of pension plans after Enron; that they might not want to spend hard-earned money on health insurance when they are constantly denied coverage and reimbursement.

They nominate “policy makers and business leaders” to be their “choice architects.” It never occurs to them that we might not want to be guided by the people who brought who us Iraq, or seek to solve the Social Security problem by increasing the eligibility age; or have so confused the financial system that even the rich are going broke. They never think that we might not trust the business leaders who sell us overpriced adulterated products that we don’t need, hire us for slave wages and then fire us to bolster their bottom lines.

It never occurs to them that the “policy makers and business leaders” might need some nudging themselves in the form of impeachment for incompetence, higher corporate taxes for offshore operations and increased unemployment contributions for profit-motivated layoffs.

But tell your plumber Fritz not to worry. Obama may love his “nudgers,” but we’ll see who he calls when his toilet overflows.


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