Cass Sunstein: Are You of the Body?

Cass Sunstein’s ambitions to control what you think and say and read is quite remarkable:

In his 2001 book Designing Democracy, Sunstein wrote that “deliberative democrats” (like Sunstein) “seek constitutional structures” and “to create institutions to ensure that people will be exposed to many topics and ideas, including ideas they reject.” A deliberative approach to a constitution, Sunstein says, is “closely attuned to the problems, even the pathologies, associated with deliberation among like-minded people.”

Now, what he is describing – without knowing it – are New York Times readers. Liberals have gotten stupider and stupider as they years have worn on. Mostly, this is because they all congregate around the perversions of the news found in the Times. But you can tell he does not have Times readers in mind. You can tell that he does not have people at the Universities in mind, either, even though they are some of the most isolated people in the world. No, because their ideas are liberal, he thinks they are prima facie exempt from his desire to remake the information that goes into your head.

But look how dangerous that paragraph is:  he wants “Constitutional structures” that insure you get exposed to all ideas? The Constitution forces us to read certain things? The highly totalitarian nature of that sentence is remarkable.

And think about how radically misplaced the whole idea is. Let’s say you only read right wing blogs for your information. (and imagine you never see a network news broadcast, or read the Times or the Post). The second you step out your door and go to work, you encounter people with other ideas, people who will argue with you. So why does the government need to expose you to other ideas?

One of Sunstein’s “principal themes is the danger posed by group polarization – a process by which groups of like-minded people” (perhaps on a 1980s Princeton university campus?) might “move one another to increasingly extreme positions.”

Sunstein isn’t just propounding regulatory policy in his book – he’s talking to judges: “Against those who identify the contents of a good constitution with the requirements of justice, I suggest that constitutions are pragmatic instruments, not outlines of a just society.” An “appreciation of group polarization suggests” that policymakers should design and judges should affirm what Sunstein calls “creative approaches…to ensure that people do not simply read their ‘Daily Me.’”

This is America. You read what you want to read. Judges do not affirm or condemn what individuals read or do not read, period.

Cass Sunstein is in the Obama administration.  


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