Skip to content

Cass R. Sunstein, A Note on Human Welfare and the Administrative State (Jan. 15, 2020).

Abstract: The American administrative state has become, in important respects, a cost-benefit state. At least this is so in the sense that prevailing executive orders require agencies to proceed only if the benefits justify the costs. For defenders of the cost-benefit state, the antonym of their ideal is, alternately, regulation based on dogmas, intuitions, expressivism, or interest-group power. The focus on costs and benefits is an important effort to attend to the real-world consequences of regulations – and it casts a pragmatic, skeptical light on modern objections to the administrative state, invoking public-choice theory and the supposed self-serving decisions of unelected bureaucrats. In the future, however, there will be better ways to identify those consequences, by focusing directly on welfare, and not relying on imperfect proxies.