“Why Nudge?: The Politics of Libertarian Paternalism” (Yale) and “Conspiracy Theories and Other Dangerous Ideas” (Simon & Schuster), by Professor Cass R. Sunstein ’78
In two new books, Sunstein, former administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, addresses human behavior and how government should best respond to it. As a follow-up to his best-selling “Nudge,” “Why Nudge?” makes the case that oft-maligned government paternalism in many circumstances would make people’s lives better. As behavioral economics affirms, people sometimes make decisions not in their best interests. While protecting freedom of choice, government can—and indeed is morally obligated to—steer them toward the right path for their health, safety and welfare, he argues. In his own experience in government, Sunstein faced blistering criticism for his ideas, including being dubbed “the most dangerous man in America.” Those “dangerous ideas” are compiled in “Conspiracy Theories,” a book of essays covering his views on topics such as same-sex marriage, climate change and animal rights. He points out that in government, a combination of feasibility and common sense constrains what can be accomplished. But in the academic realm, “today’s common sense is yesterday’s wild academic speculation.”
“The Religion of the Future,” by Professor Roberto M. Unger LL.M. ’70 S.J.D. ’76 (Harvard)
In this philosophical treatise, Unger proposes a “turn in the religious consciousness of humanity” that would move beyond existing religions’ impulse to console us in the face of human reality. That reality, he writes, lies in the irreparable flaws of the human condition: our mortality, our groundlessness and our insatiability. He calls for a religious revolution that would confront these flaws and ultimately awaken us to a greater life. While past religions focused on the divine, a new religion would turn to the prophetic powers of all living people. He also explores a concept called “deep freedom”—a reshaping of the economy, the state, and civil society in service of “the greatness of the ordinary man and woman.”
In addition to having their scholarship published in traditional fashion, faculty members are increasingly turning to the Web to convey their ideas on a more immediate basis and to work with students who contribute as writers and editors. Below are two recent additions to the HLS faculty blogosphere.
OnLabor, launched by Professors Benjamin Sachs and Jack Goldsmith, examines workers, unions, and their politics. (Goldsmith is also one of the editors of the national security blog Lawfare).
GAB/The Global Anticorruption Blog, started by Professor Matthew Stephenson ’03, looks at the causes of, consequences of, and possible remedies for corruption around the world, and provides links to many resources on the subject.