Simpler: The Future of Government

Cass R. Sunstein. Simon & Schuster, $26 (240p) ISBN 978-1-4767-2659-5
Not bigger or smaller government, but cheaper, smarter, better government is the message of this modest yet far-reaching manifesto on regulatory policy. Bestselling Harvard law professor Sunstein (coauthor of Nudge) recounts his stint as the Obama administration’s chief of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), where he helped implement regulations that cut power-plant pollution, mandated disclosure of airline and credit card fees, and improved auto fuel mileage standards while abolishing ill-considered or absurd rules. (Industrial milk spills, he notes, are no longer treated like toxic oil spills.) He elaborates an astonishingly straightforward regulatory philosophy: keep regulations simple and clear; let citizens choose while giving them information and encouragement to choose well; make sure regulations don’t impose disproportionate burdens—he champions the much-maligned cost-benefit analysis—and keep track of how well they are working. Naturally, the author’s common-sense approach outraged both liberals and conservatives—Glenn Beck branded him “‘the most dangerous man in America’”—and his tragicomic account of his confirmation process emerges as the byzantine, partisan, dysfunctional antithesis of good governance. Sunstein grounds his ideas in a lucid, engaging treatment of behavioral economics that sees a role for the state in nudging humans towards rationality and responsibility. The result is a forthright, compelling vision of technocratic government that’s both efficient and humane. Agent: Sarah Chalfant, the Wiley Agency. (Apr. 9)
Reviewed on: 02/25/2013
Release date: 04/09/2013
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