Faculty Book Talk: Cass R. Sunstein’s “Choosing Not to Choose: Understanding the Value of Choice,” Wed., Nov. 18 at noon

Faculty Book Talk: Cass R. Sunstein’s “Choosing Not to Choose: Understanding the Value of Choice,” Wed., Nov. 18 at noon

The Harvard Law School Library staff invites you to attend a book talk and panel discussion in celebration of Cass R. Sunstein’s recently published book, Choosing Not to Choose:  Understanding the Value of Choice (Oxford University Press).

Wednesday, November 18, 2015 at 12:00 noon, with lunch
Harvard Law School Room WCC 2019 Milstein West A  (Directions)
1585 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge

sunstein -- choosing not to choose

Cass R. Sunstein is currently the Robert Walmsley University Professor at Harvard. From 2009 to 2012, he was Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. He is the founder and director of the Program on Behavioral Economics and Public Policy at Harvard Law School. Mr. Sunstein has testified before congressional committees on many subjects, and he has been involved in constitution-making and law reform activities in a number of nations.

Mr. Sunstein is author of many articles and books, including Republic.com (2001), Risk and Reason (2002), Why Societies Need Dissent (2003), The Second Bill of Rights (2004), Laws of Fear: Beyond the Precautionary Principle (2005), Worst-Case Scenarios (2001), Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness (with Richard H. Thaler, 2008), Simpler: The Future of Government (2013) and most recently Why Nudge? (2014) and Conspiracy Theories and Other Dangerous Ideas (2014). He is now working on group decisionmaking and various projects on the idea of liberty

Panelists:

David Laibson

 

 

David Laibson, Robert I. Goldman Professor of Economics, Harvard University

 

 

Mark Tushnet

 

 

 

Mark Tushnet, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law

 

 

“Our ability to make choices is fundamental to our sense of ourselves as human beings, and essential to the political values of freedom-protecting nations. Whom we love; where we work; how we spend our time; what we buy; such choices define us in the eyes of ourselves and others, and much blood and ink has been spilt to establish and protect our rights to make them freely.

Choice can also be a burden. Our cognitive capacity to research and make the best decisions is limited, so every active choice comes at a cost. In modern life the requirement to make active choices can often be overwhelming. So, across broad areas of our lives, from health plans to energy suppliers, many of us choose not to choose. By following our default options, we save ourselves the costs of making active choices. By setting those options, governments and corporations dictate the outcomes for when we decide by default. This is among the most significant ways in which they effect social change, yet we are just beginning to understand the power and impact of default rules. Many central questions remain unanswered: When should governments set such defaults, and when should they insist on active choices? How should such defaults be made? What makes some defaults successful while others fail?

Cass R. Sunstein has long been at the forefront of developing public policy and regulation to use government power to encourage people to make better decisions. In this major new book, Choosing Not to Choose, he presents his most complete argument yet for how we should understand the value of choice, and when and how we should enable people to choose not to choose.

The onset of big data gives corporations and governments the power to make ever more sophisticated decisions on our behalf, defaulting us to buy the goods we predictably want, or vote for the parties and policies we predictably support. As consumers we are starting to embrace the benefits this can bring. But should we? What will be the long-term effects of limiting our active choices on our agency? And can such personalized defaults be imported from the marketplace to politics and the law? Confronting the challenging future of data-driven decision-making, Sunstein presents a manifesto for how personalized defaults should be used to enhance, rather than restrict, our freedom and well-being.” — Oxford University Press

Recent Reviews:  

“This book will profoundly alter the way you think about choices; the choices you make for yourself, the choices you make for others and the choices you allow others to make for you. With talent and ease Sunstein draws from politics, psychology, economics to help us understand ourselves and the world we live in, and how we may improve both. A delightful, thought provoking, read.” — Tali Sharot, Associate Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College, London

“From health care, education, and privacy, to travel, food, and finance, we face increasing arrays of choices. Occasionally, we have the knowledge and the bandwidth to choose well. Often, we do not. When are choices liberating, and bound to improve well-being? And when is it better not to choose? Should we worry about paternalism when others choose for us? And when we prefer not to choose, might it be paternalistic to require that we do so? Sunstein masterfully blends economic, legal, philosophical, and behavioral considerations to illuminate a topic of tremendous importance to policy making and to everyday life. Anyone who cares about the choices that they make should choose to read this book!” — Eldar Shafir, Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs, Princeton University

“There is no-one better placed than Cass Sunstein to make the case for Choosing Not to Choose. Drawing on the author’s own influential research and that of other experts, this book provides a deeply insightful exploration of both the value of choice and of not choosing. It is a must read for anyone interested in personal freedom and human wellbeing.” — Paul Dolan, Professor of Behavioral Science, The London School of Economics and Political Science

“In Choosing Not to Choose, Cass Sunstein provides the best analysis to date of the pros and cons of decision by default, making a strong case for personalized default rules in many domains. Readers will particularly appreciate the near-encyclopedic survey of empirical findings to help them identify the arenas of social life in which they will be better off or worse off by delegating decisions.” — Jon Elster, Robert K. Merton Professor of Social Science, Columbia University

“This monumental volume is the authoritative source on the subject. As anthropogenic climate change puts a deeper stamp on the planet, this book’s significance is certain to rise.” –– Jim Chen, Jurisdynamics Blog

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