Follow-up seminar to discuss Cass Sunstein's work

Cass Sunstein is the Third Annual Donald S. Bernstein '75 Lecturer

Date: 
Fri, 04/04/2008
Location: 
2:30-4 PM, Kerstetter Room, Marx Hall

Please join us for a follow-up seminar to discuss the work of Cass Sunstein, 2008 Donald S. Bernstein '75 Lecturer. The seminar will have two agendas:

a) to discuss the Bernstein Lecture from the night before. A paper on which the Bernstein Lecture is based included above to give people a chance to read if they cannot attend the lecture.

b) to begin a discussion of Sunstein's new book, just published this week, called Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness, co-authored with Richard Thaler (Yale University Press, 2008). Sunstein will give us a preview at the seminar. Here is some information about Nudge:

Every day, we make decisions on topics ranging from personal investments to schools for our children to the meals we eat to the causes we champion. Unfortunately, we often choose poorly. The reason, the authors explain, is that, being human, we all are susceptible to various biases that can lead us to blunder. Our mistakes make us poorer and less healthy; we often make bad decisions involving education, personal finance, health care, mortgages and credit cards, the family, and even the planet itself.

Thaler and Sunstein invite us to enter an alternative world, one that takes our humanness as a given. They show that by knowing how people think, we can design choice environments that make it easier for people to choose what is best for themselves, their families, and their society. Using colorful examples from the most important aspects of life, Thaler and Sunstein demonstrate how thoughtful “choice architecture” can be established to nudge us in beneficial directions without restricting freedom of choice. Nudge offers a unique new take—from neither the left nor the right—on many hot-button issues, for individuals and governments alike.

At first glance, that might seem like two very different topics. But on second glance, the similarities appear. In both the Bernstein Lecture and in Nudge, Sunstein wrestles with how we understand the phenomenon of reasoned choice and how even the most important decisions are riddled with often unconscious bias. In both settings, Sunstein works out how we can design institutions around inevitable human flaws.

Cass R. Sunstein is the Karl N. Llewellyn Distinguished Service Professor of Jurisprudence, Law School, Department of Political Science and the College, at the University of Chicago Law School. He clerked for Justice Benjamin Kaplan of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and Justice Thurgood Marshall of the U.S. Supreme Court. Before joining the faculty of the University of Chicago Law School, Professor Sunstein worked as an attorney-advisor in the Office of the Legal Counsel of the U.S. Department of Justice. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Professor Sunstein is author of many articles and a number of books, including After the Rights Revolution: Reconceiving the Regulatory State (1990), Constitutional Law (co-authored with Geoffrey Stone, Louis M. Seidman, and Mark Tushnet) (1995), The Partial Constitution (1993), Democracy and the Problem of Free Speech (1993), Legal Reasoning and Political Conflict (1996), Free Markets and Social Justice (1997), Administrative Law and Regulatory Policy (1998) (with Justice Stephen Breyer and Professor Richard Stewart and Matthew Spitzer), One Case At A Time (1999), Behavioral Law and Economics (editor, 2000), Designing Democracy: What Constitutions Do (2001), Republic.com (2001), Risk and Reason (2002), The Cost-Benefit State (2002), Punitive Damages: How Juries Decide (2002), Why Societies Need Dissent (2003), The Second Bill of Rights (2004), and Laws of Fear: Beyond the Precautionary Principle (2005). His most recent book, Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness, co-authored with Richard Thaler (Yale University Press, 2008), examines the impact humans’ susceptibility to biases has on legal decision making in many areas and how thoughtful “choice architecture” can be established to nudge us in beneficial directions without restricting freedom of choice. It has just been published THIS WEEK! His next book, A Constitution of Many Minds, is forthcoming from Princeton University Press next year.