Cass R. Sunstein (for Info only, not official)

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Cass R. Sunstein

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    ...I had run into Steve Shavell, an economist at Harvard Law School, who asked me what I was working on. I mumbled some question I had, about whether people really behaved as rationally as economists said they do. Shavell responded without a lot of enthusiasm: “Oh, you should be reading Thaler, that guy from Cornell.” That afternoon, I looked up Thaler’s work. It was like a burst of sunlight, or the first chord of the Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night. Focusing on what he called “mental illusions”, Thaler explained that human beings make a lot of blunders. With clear examples, a sense of play and a little math, he showed that people just don’t act in the way predicted by standard economic theory. If you give people a mug or a lottery ticket, they will demand a lot more to give it up than they would pay to get it in the first place. People are planners as well as doers, and their decisions can be radically different, depending on whether they are planning or doing. ...

    Live Mint on Oct. 9, 2017, 9:02 p.m.

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    ...Governments have taken notice—and so has the private sector. There are terrific opportunities here, but also real risks. Behavioural scientists have established, for example, that people are greatly affected by “default rules”, which establish what happens if they do nothing at all. If employers automatically enrol employees in savings plans (while allowing them to opt out), participation rates will be far higher than if employers ask employees whether they want to opt in. Behavioural science has also shown that people have a limited attention span, that they dislike losses far more than they like equivalent gains, and that unless information is made salient, they might ignore it, even if it is quite important. In these circumstances, simple reminders significantly increase the likelihood that people will take the necessary medicines, save money, and teach their children to read. In cases of this kind, behaviourally informed nudges deserve a big round of applause. ...

    Live Mint on May 2, 2017, 4:33 a.m.

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    ...More clearly than anyone else, Hayek elaborated the case against government planning and collectivism, and mounted a vigorous argument for free markets. As it turns out, Hayek simultaneously identified a serious problem with the political creed of president-elect Donald Trump. One of Hayek’s most important arguments in his great classic, The Road To Serfdom, involves the Rule of Law, which he defined to mean “that government in all its actions is bound by rules fixed and announced beforehand.” Because of the Rule of Law, “the government is prevented from stultifying individual efforts by ad hoc action.” In The Road To Serfdom and (at greater length) in The Constitution Of Liberty, Hayek distinguished between formal rules, which are indispensable, and mere “commands”, which create a world of trouble because they are a recipe for arbitrariness. ...

    Live Mint on Jan. 19, 2017, 4:18 a.m.