The UK Government has started down the track to Chinese Communist Party style social credits – but it is pretending that all it is doing is providing free, wrist worn, fitbits.
The Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) or otherwise known as the ‘Nudge Unit’, is possibly the shine on the honed blade that will cut us from our liberty. It is the classic technocratic organisation, spun out of a Government department, privatised yet maintaining its close relations with Government.
Founded in 2010 as part of former UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair’s, Cabinet office to apply nudge theory to Government policy. It was then privatised and has since set up offices all over the globe, specifically in New York and Washington, in Singapore, in Australia, New Zealand, France, Canada and so on. Its work is the model for a number of Governments – President Obama was a particular fan of this approach.
Its prime purpose is to use non-legislative methods to encourage compliance with government objectives. The popularisers of Nudge theory, in particular American Nobel laureate, Richard Thaler and his colleague Harvard Law Professor, Cass Sunstein through their best seller “Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness” were clear about the limits of their theories. To them nudging is, “any aspect of the choice architecture that alters people’s behavior in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives. To count as a mere nudge, the intervention must be easy and cheap to avoid. Nudges are not mandates. Putting the fruit at eye level counts as a nudge. Banning junk food does not.”
However this relatively benign form of social engineering isn’t enough for our Government. It is messy, it is so slow, and it can be ignored. So learning from the nudge and now working with the now private company Behavioural Insights Ltd (whose turnover in 2020 was £21m and whose salary costs were £12m) it has perhaps moved towards a more coercive approach. One aspect of the company’s global reach is the fact that its director (since inception) is a fully paid up associate at the World Economic Forum.
The most recent and perhaps the most worrying instance of this was launched by the UK Government in late October. With a cuddly and anodyne name, the “Health Incentives Scheme” is designed to motivate people to improve their lifestyle. Using what is called the “HeadUp” app for which they are paying £m to the Australian HeadUp labs. According to the Government, “Users will collect points for these healthy behaviours which will unlock rewards, which could include gym passes, clothes or food vouchers and discounts for shops, cinema or theme park tickets”.
This program is being run in direct collaboration with the Behavioural Insights Team.
However, at a time when Austria is now making vaccination compulsory for the public (with a $3000 fine for non compliance which if refused will end up in prison time) and with the UK Government stretching its own approach from a three week lockdown to “flatten the curve” and nearly two year later making dark predictions about another Christmas lockdown (despite Covid figures showing that hospitalisations, intensive care unit and deaths coming down) there can be no faith in the way that the Government is preparing to use such technology.
There is a continuous, inexorable, push for the general population to comply with having digital covid passports. And once they are instituted the possibility of the data collection on individuals will become just too tempting. Already the Government health app lists not just vaccine status, but other private healthcare issues. If the system can be set up to provide and deliver treats, then it can also be programmed to deliver punishments.Those who refuse to eat the prescribed amount of vegetables, or run the proscribed distance, what happens to them.
All this is taking place while there is a simultaneous drive for a cashless society with Government controlled digital currency, and citizen’s income.
Is it possible that a government could decide that if it can record good behaviour, it can also punish bad behaviour, you know, for our own good?
China has provided a model for supposedly liberal western governments on how to apply the lockdown to their populations. This system is already in force and a Chinese government document from 2014, states that it allows “the trustworthy to roam everywhere under heaven while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step”.
Impossible here? Not really all you have to do is to listen to those great democrats in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and yes in the US and the UK to see that many in power are already doing this, and planning to do more.