Monday, May 4, 2009

Obama "Nudges" Regulatory Czar

Cass Sunstein, the most cited law professor in the US (some say world) was "nudged" by Obama on April 20, 2009 to be the new "regulatory czar," formally, the Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), Office of Management and Budget.

There are a few hot topics of critique about Sunstein's appointment.  One includes his backing of a "senior health discount," an economic method of valuing younger lives more than the elderly.  Secondly, he questions the constitutionality of workplace safety laws and the Clean Air Act.  Third, some consumer groups are afraid he is going to push his animal-rights ideas in the White House (re: Sunstein's 2004 book, "Animal Rights: Current Debates and New Directions").  His appointment is pending Senate approval.

Sunstein is the author of over 400 publications, his most recent book titled, "Nudge:  Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness," coauthored with Richard Thaler.  The book expands Econ 101's notion of individuals making rational choices and taps into the true psyche of humans and how we can design environments to help people make better decisions--behavioral economics.  The authors use examples of things like 401(k) plans, marriage, and organ donations to explain their view of libertarian paternalism (not bigger government, but better governance).  I have yet to read this book, but it is definitely on my to-read list.

More of Sunstein's books include:  "After the Rights Revolution" (1990), "Risk and Reason" (2002), and "Laws of Fear: Beyond the Precautionary Principle" (2005).  He taught for 27 years at University of Chicago Law School, until last year, when he left to become the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard.  He is also the Samuel Rubin Visiting Professor of Law at Columbia.  His expertise lies in constitutional law, administrative law, and risk policies.

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