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Sunstein as Regulatory Czar:

I agree with Todd and Eugene that President-elect Obama has made a good choice to pick Harvard law professor Cass Sunstein to head the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (and not just because Cass has beena guest blogger). Cass's work on some issues (such as the Supreme Court and judicial nominations) can be frustrating, but his work on regulatory policy and risk is first rate. Agree or not, Cass has been an important thinker and synthesizer of research in this area, and I expect he will help maintain (if not increase) a solid level of analytical rigor at OIRA.

I do wonder, however, whether Sunstein will be the first person to head OIRA who was willing to ask whether OSHA is unconstitutional.

R Nebblesworth:
What's frustrating about his work on judicial nominations?
1.8.2009 12:40pm
Cornellian (mail):
and not just because Cass has beena guest blogger

I thought the well known tradition of VC blogger courtesy (analogous to
Senatorial courtesy) guaranteed Sunstein the support of VC (or at least its
non-opposition) in the event of his nomination.
1.8.2009 12:57pm
Jon Roland (mail) (www):
Perhaps most relevant for how he might perform his new job are what he has written on "libertarian paternalism", in which he advocates not direct regulatory coercion, but indirect coercion to create incentives for more rational decisionmaking. This idea has been criticized by economist Daniel B. Klein.
1.8.2009 1:36pm
Crust (mail):
Jon Roland, how does changing incentives constitute "coercion" ("indirect coercion" as you put it)? Where the tax alcohol to be raised as Philip Cook advocates would you consider that coercing people not to drink (if indirectly rather than in a regulatory fashion as in Prohibition)?
1.8.2009 1:50pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Jon Roland, how does changing incentives constitute "coercion" ("indirect coercion" as you put it)?
When the "incentive changing" is done by force.
Where the tax alcohol to be raised as Philip Cook advocates would you consider that coercing people not to drink (if indirectly rather than in a regulatory fashion as in Prohibition)?
Of course.
1.8.2009 4:10pm
Jon Roland (mail) (www):
Crust:

Jon Roland, how does changing incentives constitute "coercion" ("indirect coercion" as you put it)?

David M. Nieporent somewhat beat me to it, but what Sunstein is mainly proposing involves coercing someone else to create the incentives. Thus, to encourage people to save in a 401K plan, coerce the employer to contribute a matching amount. It is not coercing the employee directly as FICA withholding does, but somewhere in the picture someone is being induced to do something he wouldn't otherwise do by a threat of a government agent with a gun.

A more insidious example, although not one used by Sunstein, is issuing social security numbers and allowing them to become a de facto national identification number that then allows the federal government to guide people in all kinds of ways that impair their liberty and exceed government authority, and that allows corporate interests to enslave us in subtle and not so subtle ways.
1.8.2009 5:42pm

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