Advice to Presidential Hopefuls: Tell the Truth
November 19, 2018
An op-ed by Cass Sunstein. I can’t tell a lie, Pa; you know I can’t tell a lie.” Those words, attributed to George Washington at the age of 6, appeared in the fifth edition of Mason Locke Weems’s “The Life of Washington,” published in 1806. In case you’ve forgotten the details of the story: Young George cut down a cherry tree, and when confronted by his father, he confessed, “I did cut it with my hatchet.” Even as a kid, the nation’s first president knew that lying was wrong. He told the truth. It doesn’t matter that the story was a myth. What matters is that it resonated: Lying was taboo.
Federal Paperwork Costs as Much as the Deficit
November 13, 2018
An op-ed by Cass Sunstein. Can the Republican-controlled Senate and the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives agree on anything? Here is a candidate: reduce paperwork mandates from the U.S. government. Before you laugh, please consider a number: 9.78 billion. That is the number of annual hours of paperwork burdens that the government imposes on its citizens.
The Simplest Way to Kill Trump’s Birthright-Citizenship Ban
November 1, 2018
An op-ed by Cass Sunstein. If President Donald Trump carries through on his promise to end birthright citizenship for the children of illegal aliens, he will probably lose in court. But don’t be surprised if the ultimate ruling is narrow: To do what he wants, the president needs unambiguous authorization from Congress — and he hasn’t got it. The governing principle is called the “canon of constitutional avoidance” — for short, the Avoidance Canon. It’s a technical idea, but it has immense importance. It links individual rights with the safeguards of checks and balances. It puts the genius of the U.S. constitutional system on fine display.
How Trump’s Hateful Speech Raises the Risks of Violence
October 29, 2018
An op-ed by Cass Sunstein. Is President Donald Trump responsible, in some sense, for the mailing of bombs to Hillary Clinton and other Democratic leaders? Is he responsible, in some sense, for the slaughter at the Pittsburgh synagogue? If we are speaking in terms of causation, the most reasonable answer to both questions, and the safest, is: We don’t really know. More specifically, we don’t know whether these particular crimes would have occurred in the absence of Trump’s hateful and vicious rhetoric (including his enthusiasm for the despicable cry, “Lock her up!”). But it’s also safe, and plenty reasonable, to insist that across the American population, hateful and vicious rhetoric from the president of the United States is bound to increase risks of violence.
The Party, Not the Tribe, Enforces Political Divisions
October 25, 2018
An op-ed by Cass Sunstein. With respect to politics, ours is an age of Manichaeism. Many people think and act as if the forces of light are assembled against the forces of darkness, and the only serious question is this: What side are you on? “Hidden Tribes: A Study of America’s Polarized Landscape” offers an optimistic perspective on how the U.S. might get past that question. Produced by More in Common, an international initiative seeking to reduce social divisions, the report describes seven American “tribes.”
A Quiet Revolution Has Given the U.S. Smarter Regulations
October 22, 2018
An op-ed by Cass Sunstein. The U.S. has experienced a quiet revolution in the past 40 years. It began under Ronald Reagan but has been embraced by all of his successors, most notably Barack Obama, who doubled down on the basic idea: Before imposing new regulations, federal agencies must perform a cost-benefit analysis and demonstrate that the benefits justify the costs. In areas from highway safety to occupational health and from energy to homeland security, agencies are now required to develop a detailed, quantitative account of the likely effects of their proposals—and to offer that account to the American public.
Can technocracy be saved? An interview with Cass Sunstein.
October 22, 2018
Harvard law professor Cass Sunstein writes a lot of books, but he says his latest, The Cost-Benefit Revolution, is special. It’s the culmination of decades of writing and research Sunstein has done in administrative law, with particular attention to the way that agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency or the Food and Drug Administration translate laws into rules and regulation. Sunstein has been a vocal advocate of having agencies quantitatively compare the benefits of those rules and regulations to their costs, junking rules that don’t pass the bar and speeding through ones that do.
Donald Trump Is Amazing. Here’s the Science to Prove It.
October 18, 2018
An op-ed by Cass Sunstein. This column is really good. Actually it’s amazing. In less than 650 words, it will explain the success of President Donald Trump -- and also show how to beat him...One of the least well-known rules of thumb is called the “confidence heuristic,” which was initially explored in 1995. The central idea is simple. When people express beliefs to one another, their level of confidence usually reflects how certain they are. It tells us how much information they have. When we are listening to others, we are more likely to be persuaded by people who seem really confident.
Weaken Mercury Regulations? It’s Scarier Than It Sounds
October 3, 2018
An op-ed by Cass Sunstein. The Environmental Protection Agency is reportedly planning to propose a significant weakening of its mercury regulation, which is designed to protect public health. The agency’s plan includes an idea that would be simultaneously stupid and cruel — and that could lead to thousands of premature deaths.
Kavanaugh Confirmation Won’t Affect Supreme Court’s Legitimacy
October 1, 2018
An op-ed by Cass Sunstein. These are not the best of times for the U.S. Supreme Court. But whether or not Judge Brett Kavanaugh is ultimately confirmed, and despite the intense heat of the moment, the court’s fundamental legitimacy need not be, and should not be, put in question. For well over two hundred years, the Supreme Court has helped commit the nation to the supremacy of law. That commitment is a precious achievement. It safeguards liberty, and it holds off authoritarianism.
Nudge Turns 10: A Q&A With Cass Sunstein
October 1, 2018
In 2007, a year before Cass Sunstein published Nudge with Richard Thaler, two law professors from Vanderbilt coined a term meant to bring attention to Sunstein’s astonishingly prolific nature: the Sunstein number. Modeled after the Erdos number, which gave anyone who collaborated directly with the famously productive mathematician Paul Erdos an Erdos number of 1 and anyone who wrote with one of his co-authors a number of 2, the Vanderbilt authors found 57 scholars with a Sunstein number of 1, and 768 with a 2. Though we at the Behavioral Scientist haven’t counted again ourselves, we bet those numbers have since skyrocketed—especially since Sunstein has written 22 (!) books since Nudge. Sunstein is a potent blend of scholar and scientist—an intellectual who is perpetually testing and sharpening his own theories through the collaborative process. And that includes his theories around nudging and behavioral science in policy. This fact made him the ideal person to talk to about nudging then, now, and in the future. Plus, he just wrote another book, called The Cost-Benefit Revolution. Below is our edited email exchange.
Beto O’Rourke, the Reaganesque Anti-Trump
September 25, 2018
An op-ed by Cass Sunstein. In the U.S., voters are often drawn to candidates who seem to be the opposite of the incumbent president — the anti-Obama, the anti-Bush, the anti-Clinton. Beto O’Rourke, now running for the Senate in Texas against Republican incumbent Ted Cruz, is the anti-Trump.
Senators Are Asking the Wrong Question on Kavanaugh
September 19, 2018
An op-ed by Cass Sunstein. The scheduled testimony by Judge Brett Kavanaugh, responding to Christine Blasey Ford’s accusation of sexual assault in the early 1980s, raises a central question: With respect to that accusation, who has the burden of proof? In the coming weeks, the answer to that question might turn out to be decisive to Kavanaugh’s prospects for confirmation. Invoking the standard used in criminal law, some people have said that Judge Kavanaugh should be presumed innocent. Others say that senators should avoid any presumption and ask instead: Who is more credible? Who is the most likely to be telling the truth? It’s not so simple.
The Problem With All Those Liberal Professors
September 18, 2018
An op-ed by Cass Sunstein. Suppose that you start college with a keen interest in physics, and you quickly discover that almost all members of the physics department are Democrats. Would you think that something is wrong? Would your answer be different if your favorite subject is music, chemistry, computer science, anthropology or sociology? In recent years, concern has grown over what many people see as a left-of-center political bias at colleges and universities. A few months ago, Mitchell Langbert, an associate professor of business at Brooklyn College, published a study of the political affiliations of faculty members at 51 of the 66 liberal-arts colleges ranked highest by U.S. News in 2017. The findings are eye-popping (even if they do not come as a great surprise to many people in academia).
The Echo Chamber Is the Enemy of Democracy
September 10, 2018
An op-ed by Cass Sunstein. The decision of David Remnick, editor of the New Yorker, to rescind Steve Bannon’s invitation to speak at the magazine’s festival next month has created a storm of protest. Those who abhor Remnick’s decision point to similar controversies on university campuses, where a pervasive question has been whether to host people whose statements or actions seem abhorrent to many people. Disturbingly, most of the controversies involve people whose views are to the right of center.
The Truth About Trump’s Record on Regulation
September 4, 2018
An op-ed by Cass Sunstein. Is President Donald Trump dismantling the regulatory state? Not close.
The Clinton Impeachment Is Not a Precedent for Trump
August 28, 2018
An op-ed by Cass Sunstein. On both sides of the political spectrum, a new argument is gaining traction: The impeachment of Bill Clinton is a strong precedent for the impeachment of Donald Trump. It’s a bad argument, unfair to both presidents.
But legal scholars said that committing crimes aimed at undermining the integrity of an election could well satisfy the constitutional standard for impeachment, which is set out in Article II, Section 4: “The president, vice president and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”...“If the president bribes members of the Electoral College in order to obtain office, it was clear from the debates that that was thought to be an impeachable offense,” said Cass R. Sunstein, a law professor at Harvard and the author of “Impeachment: A Citizen’s Guide.” “That’s an exception to the general proposition that it has to be abuse of the authority you have by virtue of being president,” he said. “It was an effort to protect the sanctity — and I think sanctity is the right word — of the process by which someone becomes president.”...Of course, bribery is not the same thing as depriving voters of information by paying hush money. But both interfere with the democratic process, said Laurence H. Tribe, a law professor at Harvard, the other author of “To End a Presidency” and a frequent critic of Mr. Trump. “The felonies of which Cohen, in statements that were self-incriminating and thus particularly trustworthy, accused his former client, the president, didn’t literally involve bribery,” he said, referring to Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former lawyer, “but certainly involved criminal conduct designed to reduce the risk that disclosure of his extramarital affairs and dalliances on the eve of the election would cost him the votes he ended up needing in places like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.”
Two Small Nudges Help Cut Back on Opioid Prescriptions
August 21, 2018
An op-ed by Cass Sunstein. A major source of the opioid crisis is overprescribing by well-meaning doctors who want to relieve patients’ pain, but are insufficiently focused on the risks. Could behavioral economics help change that — and save lives?...What can be done? Led by the University of Southern California’s Jason Doctor, a team of researchers found a dramatic way to nudge doctors to reduce opioid prescriptions. Their starting point was simple: When patients die, clinicians often don’t find out.
Twitter’s CEO doesn’t get how conspiracy theories work
August 14, 2018
...In 2008, Harvard Law professors Cass Sunstein and Adrian Vermeule penned an article on conspiracy theories and how they work. They argued that conspiracy theories — which they define as “an effort to explain some event or practice by reference to the machinations of powerful people, who have also managed to conceal their role” — are, in their own way, quite rational. “Most people are not able to know, on the basis of personal or direct knowledge, why an airplane crashed, or why a leader was assassinated, or why a terrorist attack succeeded,” they wrote. As a result, they search for information that fits what they already believe about the world and is confirmed by people they trust. Conspiracy theories, Sunstein and Vermeule argued, spread in a variety of ways. One of these pathways, called an “availability cascade,” happens when a group of people accept a conspiracy theory because their preexisting beliefs about the world make them likely to believe it.
On the Bookshelf: HLS Library Book Talks, Spring 2018
August 9, 2018
The Harvard Law School Library hosted a series of book talks by HLS authors, with topics including Authoritarianism in America, the Supreme Court of India, and Legal Reasoning and Political Conflict. As part of this ongoing series, faculty authors from various disciplines shared their research and discussed their recently published books with a panel of colleagues and the Harvard Law community.
An op-ed by Cass Sunstein. During a presidential campaign, accepting help from Russia “to get information on an opponent” is an ugly and unpatriotic act. It casts contempt on the countless people who have put their lives on the line for our republic and the principles for which it stands.
The Benefit of Having the Same Name as a Police Officer
August 6, 2018
An op-ed by Anupam B. Jena, Cass R. Sunstein and Tanner R. Hicks. Justice is blind — or at least that’s the ideal. Across the United States, the law is administered by a million police officers and more than 30,000 state and federal judges. While these officials usually have good intentions, there’s increasing awareness of the role that racial and other biases often play in law enforcement decisions. What’s less well known is how idiosyncratic factors can shape how people are treated.
What If the Trump Era Represents the New Normal?
July 31, 2018
An op-ed by Cass Sunstein. Whether something seems bad, unethical or horrifying depends on what else is happening out there. That helps explain why we often fail to appreciate amazing social progress — and why we can miss it when things are falling apart. To understand these points, consider a stunning new paper by a team of psychologists, led by David Levari of Harvard University. Their central idea has an unlovely name: “prevalence-induced concept change.” Their findings, based on a series of experiments, are profoundly reassuring in some respects, but also ominous in light of current political developments in the U.S. and elsewhere.
It Can Happen Here
July 31, 2018
A book review by Cass Sunstein. Liberal democracy has enjoyed much better days. Vladimir Putin has entrenched authoritarian rule and is firmly in charge of a resurgent Russia. In global influence, China may have surpassed the United States, and Chinese president Xi Jinping is now empowered to remain in office indefinitely. In light of recent turns toward authoritarianism in Turkey, Poland, Hungary, and the Philippines, there is widespread talk of a “democratic recession.” In the United States, President Donald Trump may not be sufficiently committed to constitutional principles of democratic government. In such a time, we might be tempted to try to learn something from earlier turns toward authoritarianism, particularly the triumphant rise of the Nazis in Germany in the 1930s.
How to Tell If a President’s Words Are ‘Treasonous’
July 24, 2018
An op-ed by Cass Sunstein...The United States is not at war with Russia. People who are alarmed by President Trump’s statements in Helsinki are of course entitled to use the word “treasonous” in the colloquial sense — but not in the constitutional sense.
Soccer Makes Its Fans Unhappy. Here’s the Proof.
July 17, 2018
An op-ed by Cass Sunstein. Many people feel devastated after their favorite team loses. Sometimes they have trouble sleeping. (Yes, I speak from personal experience.) That raises some legitimate questions: Why suffer? Is it even rational to be a sports fan? Recent research suggests that it might not be. On average, soccer, the most popular sport on the planet, makes people a lot less happy. The lesson is that if you’re strongly attached to your local team, you might be better off if you decide to disengage — starting right now.
The Test for Judge Kavanaugh
July 10, 2018
An op-ed by Cass Sunstein. So it’s Judge Brett Kavanaugh. There will be time enough to explore the nominee’s views and record. Let’s step back a bit and get some perspective on the national debate that we are about to have.
The Left and the Right, Consistent on Free Speech
July 5, 2018
An op-ed by Cass Sunstein. With respect to free speech, people seem increasingly drawn to a simple narrative. Those on the left used to like freedom of speech — but now, not so much. Those on the right used not to like free speech — but now they’re all in. The narrative is mostly wrong. Actually, it’s a mess. To see why, we need to look at the arc of history.
Constitutional Law Is About to Get an Overhaul
July 3, 2018
An op-ed by Cass Sunstein. At the outset of the most contentious Supreme Court confirmation battle in modern American history, Senator Ted Kennedy said the following: "Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens' doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists would be censored at the whim of government, and the doors of the federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens for whom the judiciary is often the only protector of the individual rights that are the heart of our democracy." That was hyperbolic, to say the least, but it was also effective; it signaled the magnitude of the stakes. Bork’s nomination in 1987 was defeated, and Anthony Kennedy — a far more moderate judge — was confirmed instead. Now Kennedy is retiring and the confirmation battle for his successor may well turn out to be the most contentious since Bork’s.
Courts Should Tread Lightly on College Admissions
June 26, 2018
An op-ed by Cass Sunstein. U.S. courts have long been reluctant to intervene in the admissions decisions of colleges and universities. In general, the law allows them to do whatever they want within this overarching framework: 1. Racial discrimination is forbidden. 2. An institution may not maintain a racial quota system, even if it is sincerely seeking to ensure the presence of adequate numbers of traditionally disadvantaged groups, including African-Americans. 3. An institution may consider race as a “plus,” at least if it is seeking to create a diverse educational environment.
Honoring ‘a Towering Intellect’ and ‘a Good Man’
June 26, 2018
Cass Sunstein ’78, the Robert Walmsley University Professor at Harvard University and renowned legal scholar and behavioral economist, received the prestigious Holberg Prize at the University of Bergen, Norway, on June 6.
A State of Danger?
June 25, 2018
"It Can't Happen Here," the novel by Sinclair Lewis written in the 1930s as fascism was rising in Europe, imagines an America overtaken by an authoritarian regime. The new book edited by Harvard Law Professor Cass Sunstein ’78, "Can It Happen Here?: Authoritarianism in America" (Dey Street Books), does not predict the same fate. Yet the contributors—several also affiliated with Harvard Law—take seriously the possibility that it could happen here, despite the safeguards built into the American system of government.
The USDA Is Right: Bioengineered Foods Don’t Need Labels
June 19, 2018
An op-ed by Cass Sunstein. Should a federal agency issue a regulation that will impose up to $3.5 billion in costs next year, and billions more in the coming decade – while delivering essentially no benefits? That sounds crazy. But a few weeks ago, the U.S. Department of Agriculture proposed to do exactly that. OK, not exactly – but pretty close. The proposal is the outgrowth of the longstanding national battle over whether to require labels for bioengineered (or genetically modified) foods.
The Perfect Way to Help Heal a Divided Country
June 12, 2018
An op-ed by Cass Sunstein. Might the World Cup, which starts this week, reduce ethnic divisions and political violence? Absolutely. To see why, we have to back up a bit. All over the world, many people closely identify with their religion, their race or their ethnicity – and much less with their country. That can be a serious problem. When people separate themselves from their fellow citizens, they tend to distrust each other. They become less able to address shared challenges. They regard each other as strangers – and, in extreme cases, as enemies.
Cass Sunstein ’78, the Robert Walmsley University Professor at Harvard University and renowned legal scholar and behavioral economist, received the prestigious Holberg Prize at the University of Bergen, Norway, on June 6.
Get Ready for a Future With a Genetic Crystal Ball
June 5, 2018
An op-ed by Cass Sunstein. Would you like your doctor to give you the results of genetic tests, informing you if you are susceptible to serious diseases, such as cancer and heart disease? Before long, that question is going to be relevant to millions of people. Primary-care doctors will increasingly be in a position to offer genetic testing as part of routine care – just as they check your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. In most contexts, it’s tempting to think: the more information, the better. But that’s much too simple.
Would You Go to a Republican Doctor?
May 25, 2018
An op-ed by Tali Sharot and Cass R. Sunstein. Suppose you need to see a dermatologist. Your friend recommends a doctor, explaining that “she trained at the best hospital in the country and is regarded as one of the top dermatologists in town.” You respond: “How wonderful. How do you know her?”Your friend’s answer: “We met at the Republican convention.” Knowing a person’s political leanings should not affect your assessment of how good a doctor she is — or whether she is likely to be a good accountant or a talented architect. But in practice, does it?
Holy Wars, American Style
May 23, 2018
An op-ed by Cass Sunstein. There has been a great deal of discussion of social division and polarization in recent times, but those terms are inadequate. What besets the United States is much worse. Both the right and the left are increasingly defined by a form of Manichaeism, in which the forces of light are taken to be in a death struggle with the forces of darkness. We are in a Manichaean moment.
...Today, the impeachment of Donald Trump exists on the brink of plausibility. The sine qua non of an impeachment investigation, to say nothing of actual votes to charge and remove the President, is a Democratic takeover of the House in the November elections. Such a change now looks better than possible, maybe even probable...Ultimately, every consideration of impeachment returns to the standard established in the Constitution...As in the nineteen-seventies and the nineteen-nineties, the prospect of a Presidential impeachment has spurred renewed academic interest in the subject, resulting in two recent volumes by well-known Harvard law professors. Last year, Cass Sunstein, who served in the Obama Administration, released “Impeachment: A Citizen’s Guide,” and Laurence Tribe, the noted liberal academic and litigator, has just published “To End a Presidency: The Power of Impeachment,” written with Joshua Matz...Laurence Tribe told me that he would regard some forms of misbehavior as impeachable, such as “a pattern of abusing the bully pulpit of the Presidency, one of its most potent if informal powers—especially when amplified by social media—to stir division within the electorate to the point of violence, to give permission to white supremacists to weaponize their hatred, and otherwise to undermine the foundations of our republic.”
A New View of Antitrust Law That Favors Workers
May 15, 2018
An op-ed by Cass Sunstein. In the last half-century, the most innovative work in antitrust law came from the University of Chicago. According to the Chicago School, led by the legendary economist Aaron Director and promoted by law professor Robert Bork, the goal of antitrust law should be to increase consumer welfare, not to combat bigness as such. Chicago School proponents often argued in favor of government restraint. In their view, uses of the antitrust law to prevent mergers, or to break up large companies, often do more harm than good. Their arguments have had a major influence on both regulators and courts, frequently promoting a “hands off” attitude in the face of growing concentrations of economic power.
SC initiative to promote behavioural economics
May 10, 2018
The Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC), in partnership with Qatar Foundation (QF), has launched an initiative to promote and share knowledge about behavioural economics in Qatar. Devised by the SC’s Qatar Behavioural Insights Unit (QBIU) and QF, the ‘Community of Practice for Behavioural Economics in Qatar’ hosted a discussion with Professor Cass Sunstein, the founder and director of the Programme on Behavioural Economics and Public Policy at Harvard Law School, at the SC’s Legacy Pavilion in Al Bidda Tower...Sunstein said he is impressed with Qatar’s commitment to behavioural economics and praised the work of the QBIU. “What I’ve noticed is that the World Cup is being seen by many as an opportunity to do something great in connection with football, and also things in relation to the type of challenges faced by many of the world’s nations, such as health issues and the promotion of entrepreneurship,” said Sunstein.
May 9, 2018
A new interdisciplinary project at Harvard will explore how behavioral science and behavioral economics can help improve health outcomes for patients and decisions made by doctors. It also has the potential to increase cost-effectiveness. The project, Behavioral Insights Health Project at Harvard, is a University-wide partnership between faculty members at Harvard Medical School, Harvard Law School and other Harvard schools...The Project’s board of advisers, which is expected to grow, includes a wide range of faculty from the Harvard community, including Harvard Medical School, Harvard Law School, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Harvard Kennedy School. [Cass] Sunstein said he expects the project to attract students and faculty from schools across the University, and, in particular, to draw on the research and expertise of the Behavioral Insights Group based at the Harvard Kennedy School. “We intend to share best practices, explore which interventions work and which do not, and find ways to reduce illness, suffering and premature mortality,” said Sunstein.
A President’s Guide to ‘Obstruction of Justice’
May 8, 2018
An op-ed by Cass Sunstein. There is talk these days about a complex and somewhat arcane legal concept: obstruction of justice. The term refers, broadly speaking, to willful efforts to interfere with the operations of the legal process, including criminal investigations. Let’s bracket the hardest definitional puzzles for now, and ask a question that could become pressing before long: What happens if special counsel Robert Mueller concludes that President Donald Trump has, in fact, obstructed justice? In answering, we should take a vow of neutrality. We should not allow our views about any particular president — negative or positive — to color our understanding of the meaning of the Constitution.
Harvard project will use behavioral insights to improve health care decisions and delivery
May 7, 2018
Harvard has announced the creation of a new, interdisciplinary project called the Behavioral Insights Health Project—a partnership between faculty members at Harvard Law School, Harvard Medical School, and other schools at Harvard that will explore how behavioral science and behavioral economics can help improve health outcomes for patients, and decisions made by doctors.
How Much Is It Worth to Use Facebook? It Depends
May 3, 2018
An op-ed by Cass Sunstein. People do not, of course, have to pay to use Facebook. It’s free. The company’s revenues come mostly from advertising. But in light of recent controversies, there have been discussions, at least outside of Facebook, about changing the business model. What if people had to pay to use it? How much would they be willing to spend? Any answers would tell us something important about the value of social media in general. I recently conducted a pilot experiment to obtain some preliminary answers. Using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, I tried to find out, from 400 Facebook users, exactly how much the platform is worth.
Trump’s Promising Plan to Link Welfare to Work
April 24, 2018
An op-ed by Cass Sunstein. President Donald Trump’s “Executive Order on Reducing Poverty in America” has produced the expected political reactions. Because it focuses on saving taxpayer money and strengthening work requirements for federal programs, many conservatives are celebrating it, while many progressives have attacked it as punitive and dehumanizing. As it turns out, it’s a lot more interesting and subtle than either side has seen – and potentially more constructive.
Put Our Divisions Aside on Patriots’ Day
April 16, 2018
An op-ed by Cass Sunstein. Americans think of July Fourth as Independence Day – the anniversary of their nation’s birth, signaled by the signing of the Declaration of Independence. But if you really want to celebrate the country’s birthday, you might do that today. It’s Patriots’ Day. In a time of national tumult and division, let’s all raise a toast, and shed some tears. Recognized in just four states, Patriots’ Day commemorates the Battles of Lexington and Concord, where the American Revolution began on April 19, 1775. Every American should know the tale.
How to Stop Trump From Crossing the Line
April 12, 2018
An op-ed by Cass Sunstein. According to numerous reports, President Donald Trump is giving serious thought to firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, special counsel Robert Mueller or both. His lawyers should be telling him something pointed and specific: If the dismissal is aimed at shutting down Mueller’s investigation, it would probably be an impeachable offense. In any administration, the president’s lawyers quickly learn that one of their most important jobs is to say “no” to their boss – and to tell him things he does not want to hear.
The ruse of ‘fake news’
April 6, 2018
As Americans increasingly turn to social media as their primary source for news and information, the dangers posed by the phenomenon of “fake news” are growing...In a recent study described in the journal Science, lead authors Matthew Baum, the Marvin Kalb Professor of Global Communications, David Lazer, a professor at Northeastern University and an associate of the Harvard Institute for Quantitative Social Science, and more than a dozen co-authors argue that a multidisciplinary effort is needed to understand better how the internet spreads content and how readers process the news and information they consume. Such broad-based efforts are necessary, the authors said, “to reduce the spread of fake news and to address the underlying pathologies it has revealed.”...In addition to Baum and Lazer, the paper was co-authored by Yochai Benkler, Adam J. Berinsky, Kelly M. Greenhill, Filippo Menczer, Miriam J. Metzger, Brendan Nyhan, Gordon Pennycook, David Rothschild, Michael Schudson, Steven A. Sloman, Cass R. Sunstein, Emily A. Thorson, Duncan J. Watts, and Jonathan L. Zittrain.