Sunday, January 11, 2009

Cass Sunstein Post in Obama Administration

As The Chicago Tribune reported here, Obama is expected to name Cass Sunstein to head the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.  The Chicago Tribune story continues:

Sunstein brings a measure of star power to the post, as a leading constitutional scholar and the Felix Frankfurter professor of law at Harvard. He joined the Harvard faculty this year after many years at the University of Chicago, where he is still a visiting professor. He and Obama taught there.

Along with economist Richard Thaler, Sunstein is co-author of "Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness." It examines how setting up thoughtful "choice architecture" can encourage people to make beneficial choices without restricting their freedom to choose.

One of the better posts I've seen on the subject is by Ezra Klein at The American Prospect blog here.  Klein has a nice discussion of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, including its history,  arguing that " OIRA is important! It's just also boring."  He concludes:

Sunstein can do real good there [at OIRA].  But why would he want it? He's shown a taste for celebrity, and OIRA very much does not provide that.

It's worth remembering that Sunstein has recently achieved great fame for Nudge, a book which basically argues that we need to apply the insights of behavioral economics to the construction of regulation. And Director of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs is the ultimate staging ground for those ideas. Reagan understood that OIRA was the central clearinghouse where you could affect the whole of the regulatory state all at once. He wanted to virtually shut it down. Sunstein wants to "nudge" it.


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