In a piece that dates back to May of last year, Sunstein writes:
Suppose that an authoritarian government decides to embark on a program of curricular reform, with the explicit goal of indoctrinating the nation’s high school students. Suppose that it wants to change the curriculum to teach students that their government is good and trustworthy, that their system is democratic and committed to the rule of law, and that free markets are a big problem.
Will such a government succeed? Or will high school students simply roll their eyes?
Questions of this kind have long been debated, but without the benefit of reliable evidence. New research, from Davide Cantoni of the University of Munich and several co-authors, shows that recent curricular reforms in China, explicitly designed to transform students’ political views, have mostly worked….
…[G]overnment planners were able to succeed in altering students’ views on fundamental questions about their nation. As Cantoni and his co-authors summarize their various findings, “the state can effectively indoctrinate students.” To be sure, families and friends matter, as do economic incentives, but if an authoritarian government is determined to move students in major ways, it may well be able to do so.
Is this conclusion limited to authoritarian nations? In a democratic country with a flourishing civil society, a high degree of pluralism, and ample room for disagreement and dissent — like the U.S. — it may well be harder to use the curriculum to change the political views of young people. But even in such societies, high schools probably have a significant ability to move students toward what they consider “a correct worldview, a correct view on life, and a correct value system.” That’s an opportunity, to be sure, but it is also a warning. [“Open Brain, Insert Ideology,” Bloomberg View, May 20, 2014]
Where has Sunstein been? He seems unaware of the left-wing ethos that has long prevailed in most of America’s so-called institutions of learning. It doesn’t take an authoritarian government (well, not one as authoritarian as China’s) to indoctrinate students in “a correct worldview, a correct view on life, and a correct value system.” All it takes is the spread of left-wing “values” by the media and legions of pedagogues, most of them financed (directly and indirectly) by a thoroughly subverted government. It’s almost a miracle — and something of a moral victory — that there are still tens of millions of Americans who resist and oppose left-wing “values.”
Moving on, we find Sunstein arguing circularly in his contribution to a collection of papers entitled “Economists on the Welfare State and the Regulatory State: Why Don’t Any Argue in Favor of One and Against the Other?” (Econ Journal Watch, Volume 12, Issue 1, January 2015):
…[I]t seems unhelpful, even a recipe for confusion, to puzzle over the question whether economists (or others) ‘like,’ or ‘lean toward,’ both the regulatory state and the welfare state, or neither, or one but not the other. But there is a more fine-grained position on something like that question, and I believe that many (not all) economists would support it. The position is this: The regulatory state should restrict itself to the correction of market failures, and redistributive goals are best achieved through the tax system. Let’s call this (somewhat tendentiously) the Standard View….
My conclusion is that it is not fruitful to puzzle over the question whether economists and others ‘favor’ or ‘lean’ toward the regulatory or welfare state, and that it is better to begin by emphasizing that the first should be designed to handle market failures, and that the second should be designed to respond to economic deprivation and unjustified inequality…. [Sunstein, “Unhelpful Abstractions and the Standard View,” op cit.]
“Market failures” and “unjustified inequality” are the foundation stones of what passes for economic and social thought on the left. Every market outcome that falls short of the left’s controlling agenda is a “failure.” And market and social outcomes that fall short of the left’s illusory egalitarianism are “unjustified.” Sunstein, in other words, can’t see that he is a typical leftist who (implicitly) favors both the regulatory state and the welfare state. He is like a fish in water.
It remains a mystery to me why Sunstein has been called a “legal Olympian.” Then, again, if there were a legal Olympics, its main events would be Obfuscation and Casuistry. Sunstein would be a formidable contestant in both events.
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Sunstein at the Volokh Conspiracy
More from Sunstein
Cass Sunstein’s Truly Dangerous Mind
An (Imaginary) Interview with Cass Sunstein
A Libertarian Paternalist’s Dream World
The Short Answer to Libertarian Paternalism
Second-Guessing, Paternalism, Parentalism, and Choice
Another Thought about Libertarian Paternalism
Another Voice Against the New Paternalism
Sunstein and Executive Power
The Feds and “Libertarian Paternalism”
A Further Note about “Libertarian” Paternalism
FDR and Fascism
Are We All Fascists Now?
Fascism with a “Friendly” Face
Fascism and the Future of America
Discounting and Libertarian Paternalism
The Mind of a Paternalist
Another Entry in the Sunstein Saga
The Sunstein Effect Is Alive and Well in the White House
Not-So-Random Thoughts (XII) (seventh item)