Read Simpler: The Future of Government by Cass R. Sunstein Online


For nearly four years, Cass R. Sunstein, bestselling author and President Obama’s “Regulatory Czar,” helped to oversee a revolution in better government. He explains how and why—and what comes next.The future of government arrived four years ago. Government became simpler, it became smarter, and Cass Sunstein was at the center of it all. Drawing on state-of-the-art work inFor nearly four years, Cass R. Sunstein, bestselling author and President Obama’s “Regulatory Czar,” helped to oversee a revolution in better government. He explains how and why—and what comes next.The future of government arrived four years ago. Government became simpler, it became smarter, and Cass Sunstein was at the center of it all. Drawing on state-of-the-art work in behavioral psychology and economics, Sunstein, as administrator of the powerful White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), quietly helped save the nation billions of dollars while preventing thousands of deaths and countless illnesses and accidents. All this was accomplished in part through the extraordinary power of nudges—low-cost, seemingly modest policies that preserve freedom of choice. In combination with smart, disciplined cost-benefit analysis, nudges are simplifying government and making it far more effective.Twenty-first century insights now inform simplified mortgage and student loan applications, the labeling of food and energy-efficient cars, financial reform, and health care reform. New principles—democratizing data, presenting individuals and businesses with the most salient information, ensuring that the better outcome is the automatic outcome—are transforming government. Countless regulations are being streamlined or eliminated. Transparent review of which rules are working, and which aren’t, is becoming the norm. Citing numerous examples from his years in the first term of the Obama Administration, and projecting forward into a data-driven future, Simpler provides a new understanding of how government can work....

Title : Simpler: The Future of Government
Author :
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ISBN : 9781476726618
Format Type : ebook
Number of Pages : 272 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Simpler: The Future of Government Reviews

  • Vanessa
    2018-10-26 20:15

    A slim volume that is equal parts memoir of Sunstein's time at OIRA and encomiums to certain regulations promulgated during President Obama's first term in office. Sunstein basically takes the insights of Thinking, Fast and Slow and applies them to certain, high profile regulations. Other times, he explains how he applied his philosophy articulated in Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness when discharging his role at OIRA. As a result of this approach, if you have read Nudge, Thinking, Fast and Slow, and have knowledge of major regulations of the past four years this book will bore you silly (as it did me, alas). If, however, the application of insights from behavioral economics to regulations and the intellectual and political struggles over cost-benefit analysis are new to you, and you wish to have Gladwellian anecdotes about them from one of the field's premiere intellectuals, this book will be quite interesting and very illuminating. (I offer one warning: If you have trepidation about regulations promulgated under the current President, this book may be hard to take as it is an unabashed love letter to the regulatory state and its decisions of the past four years.)

  • Sean Goh
    2018-11-07 16:29

    Good read for those entering government, to aid their decision making process and focus on what is really important when making policy decisions. About 30% longer than necessary though, judging by my highlights. Perhaps a re-read a year from now would turn up different things.Quotable quotes:"I have no complaints that you want to hear about."____________The Obama administration strove for flexible performance standards, rather than rigid design standards. In government, you are accountable to your boss, the president of the United States. An idea that is lousy or not really feasible is not welcome, even if it is thought-provoking. You cannot speak publicly without authorisation, and whatever you initiate or proceed with has to be consistent with the judgement and goals of the team. Official documents have to go through a clearance process, which can be long and frustrating, but which is a crucial means of ensuring the team is committed to it.Trusting your gut works best when you are familiar with the subject at hand, and it is non-complex. Shortsighted decision-making occurs in part because people fail to consider their future interests as belonging to the self." Some of us envision our future selves in the same way that we envision other peoplePeople respond to information about benefits or risks of engaging in certain actions if they are simultaneously presented with clear, explicit information about how to do so.No society with democratic elections and a free press has ever experienced a famine (Amartya Sen's research)The crippled epistemology of extremism: extreme views arising as a consequence of the narrow set of people from whom they learn.

  • Daniel Frank
    2018-11-14 15:30

    I read this book with a giant smile on my face the entire time. I cannot stress how important this book/thesis/material is and how much I hope the concepts and ideas spread to other countries. THANK YOU CASS!If you couldn't tell from the first sentence, im a big fan of Sunstein's regulatory philosophy. I've read almost all of his books and this one was probably written the best. There wasn't really any new information in this book, but a good compilation of some important texts. This book was written as Nudge part 2 but I hope the audience is much broader than that.I wish Simpler had more anecdotes and stories from the inside, but other than that, a very satisfying read.

  • Rich
    2018-11-16 16:17

    This is a short and easy to read book that describe Cass Sunstein's experience in applying behavioral economics to the world of regulation at the federal level. The book has several very interesting examples of the applications. I'm a little bit disappointed that the book is mostly a rehash of nudge as well as a few older materials from other books. But for the first time reader of behavioral economics - an excellent read.

  • Kaleb
    2018-11-09 18:42

    This was surprisingly enjoyable. Sure, I never would've touched this had it not been required for my Poli Sci class, but if we had to read anything, I'd choose this in a heartbeat. I appreciated how Sunstein eloquently broke things down, making the concepts easy to understand while treating the reader like a competent human being. This book is exactly what it set out be: simple.

  • Jen
    2018-10-22 22:24

    If you've read Nudge, then you've read this book.

  • Julie Shuff
    2018-10-18 16:15

    2.5/5 StarsI had to read this for my Business and Politics class, as I had to read Nudge for my policy analysis course. It becomes repetitive quickly and is very dry. I think the points are (somewhat) valid, but it basically reads as an older establishment man humble-bragging about his time at the OIRA.

  • Jacob
    2018-10-25 17:27

    An interesting look at the author's attempts to make the US government serve its people better. Sunstein preaches the benefits of cost-benefit analysis to provide a check on dogmatic values and opinions. It's valuable as a window into what the first Obama administration was doing in terms of government regulations, and the different ways regulations can be structured. He also argues strongly for "nudges", which are regulations that make it easier to choose a certain way although they still allow people to choose diferently. Although I agree strongly with many of Sunstein's points (cost-benefit analysis and the value of preserving people's ability to choose), there are a few things that really could have been fleshed out more:- He relies on Esther Duflo's work that for the poor, doing nothing is often harmful, while for those who are well off, doing nothing is often helpful. I really don't see either side of that and maybe there's a context that is missing here (such as what kind of choices fit this situation).- Cost-benefit analysis has certain weaknesses when it comes to predicting benefits derived from human behavior. I wish Sunstein had shown awareness of second-order effects. For example, I believe neither the seatbelt law nor the airbag requirements ended up providing the benefits they were predicted to, in large part because making driving safer for people tends to make them drive less safely and "compensates" for the increased safety (this is discussed in Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do among other places). Sunstein does talk about reviewing rules that already exist to see if they are providing the predicted benefits at the predicted costs, which is helpful to identify situations where second-order effects occurred, although it would have been nice to see more significant examples.- Sunstein talks about how blind and randomized studies are the gold standard for investigating the effects of regulations and that it's hard for government to do that with regulations. He doesn't mention part of that is because it's the government's job to treat people fairly, so you can't force some people to follow a new regulation and not others, but maybe that's assumed. He also doesn't mention that nudges can make a key difference here in terms of providing a way to see if people are choosing in favor of the nudge or not and figuring out why to resolve whether a "nudgy" regulation is a good idea. I would think that is a major strength of the nudge approach.

  • Jim Davis
    2018-11-15 23:38

    While working as the head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) under President Obama, Cass Sunstein worked to promote clarity, salience, and simplicity to make government programs more accessible to the public and hence more effective. Some of the changes he highlights include: the substitution of the "food plate" over the "food pyramid", the new fuel economy labels and other disclosure requirements, automatic enrollment in savings and health care plans (requiring people to have to opt-out of the plan rather than opt-into plans increased enrollment and provided better services). He makes continued references to the book "Moneyball" by Michael Lewis which details how a baseball general manager used statistical analysis to build a winning team rather than listening to the gut instincts of his scouts. Sunstein refers to the work of OIRA as playing "regulatory Moneyball." "In sports there has been a growing effort to downplay intuition, anecdotes, dogmas, and impressions; and to rely instead on evidence and data... With the help of statistical analysis we are increasingly able to make projections about athletic performance. To see how much different players and different strategies are likely to contribute to winning. For regulatory choices intuitions, anecdotes, dogmas, and impressions are also inadequate, and there is a pressing need for evidence and data." Sunstein encourages the idea of moving public policy forward with a series of nudges, as opposed to paternalistic mandates that the public often rejects. This is a fascinating book that does an exceptional job of explaining how we can move the social dial in a direction without burdening the public with unnecessary and unpopular rules.

  • Ian Smith
    2018-11-09 22:35

    My only quibble with this excellent little book is its extraordinary subtitle; 'The Future of Government'. Delusions of grandeur, methinks. No, a far better subtitle would be something on the lines of 'The Three Habits of Highly Effective Regulators' (and that's regulators of the government rather than the mechanical variety).Three enormously helpful habits for those involved in policy development, which I would paraphrase as 'MEASURE-KISS-CONSULT'. MEASURE; base your rules on evidence, notably a robust cost-benefit analysis. KISS, which as we all know, means 'Keep it simple, stupid.' Perhaps better 'keep it short and simple' in this context. CONSULT; wisdom and ideas are widely dispersed. It always helps to consult with those who will be affected by a new set of rules or regulations.Much of the book explores the role of 'behavioural economics' and is based on Sunstein's earlier book 'Nudge'. In 'Simpler' he describes how this influenced his work as head of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs under Obama from 2009 to 2012.Shortcomings? OK - I have another quibble. The book could be much shorter. Another similarity to Steven Covey's 'Seven Habits.." - great book, but too much padding. So somewhat worrying to learn in the acknowledgements that Sunstein decided to forgive his editor for slashing 30,000 words from the original manuscript! And do read the acknowledgements - if only for the most delightful dedication I have ever read. A dedication to his wife, Samantha Power, who happens to be the fiery US ambassador to the UN in New York!

  • Samara
    2018-11-08 16:42

    I gave this book a 4 star rating mostly because I think it's something people should read. Cass Sunstein has been at the forefront of modern regulatory theory, and his recent stint in the Obama administration gave him the power to put a lot of those theories into action. The book reiterates many of the "choice architecture" / semi-economics theories that he wrote about in Nudge as well as numerous academic works, but he discusses it in the context of his work for OIRA, the federal office that oversees all regulation issued and rescinded by federal agencies. The general ideas are: 1) The set up of the world around you, including government, affects your behavior without you noticing it (eg. your default retirement plan will affect how much you save for retirement), so government can help create a "choice architecture" that is actually beneficial for people. 2) Any government regulation should be subject to rigorous cost-benefit analysis. Anything, new or old, that doesn't provide more benefit than it costs should be tossed. 3) Government regulation should be designed to make your life simpler.Not everyone agrees with these regulatory theories, but I think Sunstein does a reasonably good job of presenting the weaknesses and criticisms. And whether you like them or not, it's a good idea to know where things are headed and why. The book is easy to understand, even to the point of being repetitive at times. I listened to it as an audio book, but I suspect that some of it is skimmable.

  • Jason Furman
    2018-10-30 18:33

    Buy this book, then read the beginning of Chapter 4 which provides a hilarious send-up of how ineffective the government's food pyramid was (it is funnier when you can actually see the figure): "Now ask yourself what you should be eating if you care about nutrition. Maybe the shoeless person climbing (away from the food? toward the top?) holds a clue. But wait. What is so good about the top? What is that white apex supposed to represent? Is it heaven? Is it thinness? At the bottom, why are so many foods crowded into each other? Are you supposed to eat all of those things? At once? What’s that large stripe between “fruits” and “meat and beans”? And what is that brown thing at the lower right? Is it a shoe? Did it belong to that climbing person? Are you supposed to eat it?"Then go back to the beginning of the book from beginning to end. And then start thinking about how you can apply the many lessons that Cass Sunstein imparts with brilliance, wit, insight, compassion, and endless energy and initiative--tying together a large amount of material into a coherent, consistent intellectual framework that is focused but also flexible.

  • Liam
    2018-11-13 19:32

    "One of my major claims has been that we need to go beyond sterile, tired, and rhetorical debates about 'more' or 'less' government and focus instead on identifying the best tools and on learning, with close attention to evidence, what really works." (15)"In the Obama administration, we placed a great deal of emphasis both on cost-benefit analysis and on maximizing net benefits. Indeed the net benefits of our regulations, through the first three years, were more than twenty-five times those in the comparable period in the Bush administration, and more than six times more that those in the comparable period in the Clinton administration." (33)"Let us understand nudges as approaches that influence decisions while preserving freedom of choice." (38)"People stop making some important mistakes when they speak in a foreign language. If we are using a language with which we are not familiar, System 1 retreats and System 2 is activated. We slow down. We think more deliberatively." (215)

  • Kent Winward
    2018-10-21 20:39

    Sunstein's book prompted me to write an Article for my local paper. Sunstein's practical view of law and regulation has always highly appealed to me. I completely understand why a chunk of this book seems bent on defending himself and his work with OIRA, but it actually detracted a little bit from his powerful message on regulation.One thing that was missing from Sunstein's book was more on how legislation could be drafted to require empirical and retrospective review of required regulations and funding those reviews, which in the end will save money. Time the legislative branch took some responsibility in making sure regulation is efficient and cost effective. But then again, maybe after hanging out in D.C. Sunstein realized that getting production out of the legislature is a hopeless game at this point.

  • Fred Kohn
    2018-10-27 23:22

    Rush Limbaugh has said that there are four corners of deceit: government, science, academia, and the media. The problem is that when we don't trust our traditional sources of evidence, then folks like Rush and whoever is our favorite blogger of the moment become our sources. Fortunately, enough popular books have been written about the methods of science and academia that Rush's views of those "corners of deceit" are pretty ludicrous to most people. Unfortunately, when people in the media or government write books, they tend to be memoirs rather than explanations of the methods used by these other two "corners of deceit". That is what makes this book so timely. Sunstein lifts the curtain and gives us a first hand view of the highest regulatory agency in the land. My main complaint about the book is that it is long on Sunstein's personal regulatory philosophy, but short on practical examples about how that philosophy was applied during his time in the Obama administration.

  • Malin Friess
    2018-10-28 15:16

    Sunstein argues that the Obama administration in the last 3 years has restructured America to a place with fewer regulations, improved children's diets, and lenthened life spans and benefited small business....a more efficient, smarter, SIMPLER government. I don't see it. Every year the tax code gets longer, ACA (I'll have to sign the bill into law, so then I can read it to figure out what is in it..Nancy Pelosi) and small business have more regulations. Ask most any physican with a private practice. A few improvements that have been made in the last few years are better labeling of food and more accurate MPG lists of new cars.Just 2 stars. I don't buy into this premise and Sunstein did not lay out the evidence to change my mind. Government gets bigger and more complicated..not SIMPLER.

  • Greg Stoll
    2018-10-31 20:22

    A quick summary: under his tenure, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs did a few things:- Focused on nudging (see the book Nudge) people to do the right thing - one example is automatically enrolling people in 401(k) programs. People can opt-out, but many people will just go with the default option. (perhaps unconsciously assuming that if it's the default, someone must have thought it was a good idea) It's a kind of benevolent paternalism.- Doing a cost-benefit analysis when deciding whether to enact new regulations. (or get rid of old ones) Apparently this is a crazy idea that no one had thought of, or something?It's a pretty quick and light read, so I'd generally recommend it. Glenn Beck called the author the most dangerous man in America, so it's got that going for it too!

  • Jayar La Fontaine
    2018-11-11 23:37

    I'm a fan of Cass Sunstein, and this book is certainly interesting for its insider's look at regulatory practices during Obama's first term in office, the frothy mouthed ravings denouncing Sunstein from both sides of the political spectrum, and fear-mongering tactics aimed at blocking his nomination to the position of Obama's "regulatory czar". That said, a lot of the actual material in the book feels like ground Sunstein already covered in Nudge. I do appreciate his adding the distinction between System 1 and System 2 processes, rightly popularized by Kahneman and Stanovich. And I still think that Sunstein's approach to regulation is the right one. But Simpler isn't quite as illuminating as books like Nudge and Going to Extremes.

  • Zoe Xiuha
    2018-10-28 17:25

    The content of this book is interesting, it really is. Great use of data and examples to illustrate a lot of truly fascinating points about choice architecture and behavioral economics. The writing, on the other hand, is terrible - circuitous, repetitive, self-congratulatory, and poorly organized. This made finishing it take much longer than it should have, and it's the reason for my low rating. If you're able to look past that and focus purely on content you will likely enjoy this. If you're like me and would rather read a bullet-point manuscript than a badly written final draft, however, mining the relevant information out of this book is going to be a serious struggle.

  • Efox
    2018-10-19 20:27

    Following the advice in Happier at Home I am abandoning trying to finish this book because it really isn't adding to my enjoyment of the world. I really liked Cass Sunstein when he was head of OIRA. All of my work interactions with that office were really positive and I was excited for this book. Unfortunately if just isn't that well written and the ideas presented are similar to other books I have read like Nudge, and continuing to trudge through it isn't going to make it any better. I think there are a lot if good ideas on here about how to make government work better and smarter but the presentation has so distracted from the message I just can't keep reading it.

  • Aaron Ng
    2018-10-31 21:35

    This book is about how government can use cognitive science as "nudges" into policies to help people make better choices. The general point to push people in making decisions and discourage behaviors. This can be done by understanding the brain - system 1 and 2 or automatic system and reflective system. Government can implement policies that may be subtle in the background but often is a deliberate move to push people in making better choices. One example is on the default rule. For instance, the magazine company gave you free 6 months subscription and had a default opt in rule after that. You need to write in and cancel the subscription.

  • Rob
    2018-11-15 16:31

    As former Director of OIRA Sunstein argues for the increased use of behavioral economics research to promote a new regulatory regime in government based on a preference for "nudges" over mandates, penalties, and fines. Nudges are approaches that encourage decisions while preserving freedom of choice. Examples include defaults (e.g., automatic enrollment with opt-out provisions), and disclosure requirements. The question is not whether bureaucracy is needed, but how it can be used to encourage self-government. The future of government is Simpler.

  • Daniel Pereira
    2018-10-22 15:12

    Recuento de su experiencia con la Oficina de Información y Asuntos Regulatorio (OIRA) con Obama. Conocido ser un Behavioral Economist, Sunstein cuenta cómo aplicaron bajo su dirección muchas de las teorías del campo para hacer la regulación más eficiente. Interesante desde un punto de vista de gerencia en cualquier sector. También ayuda a ver cómo aplicar behavioral en cosas de políticas públicas.

  • Andy Oram
    2018-11-14 17:27

    Sunstein opens up an area of government little noticed by most of the public, and the book is valuable in helping the average citizen understand the value of this obscure area, the review of agency rule-making. Despite the one-word title, Sunstein actually covers a number of principles, including the simplifications indicated by the title, public involvement, and the idea of "nudging" explored in other works by him.

  • Wilte
    2018-11-16 18:24

    Some good parts, but also uninteresting asides (e.g. Political opposition and voting against his appointment at OIRA). Best part was on when to choose which choice architecture: general default, personalized default or active choice. Sunstein also has a paper on that topic: "Impersonal Default Rules vs. Active Choices vs. Personalized Default Rules: A Triptych"

  • Genie
    2018-11-03 22:33

    Interesting book for the public on the application of behavioral economics concepts to government. Some applications seem obvious, some ingenious. Lots of examples. Due to Sumstein's background as an attorney and head of Obama Administration's paperwork reduction agency, the book is mostly oriented towards regulatory actions; it could have benefitted from a broadening out to other government examples. Sunstein has several other books on other aspects of behavioral economics.

  • Louis
    2018-10-28 17:27

    Too simple and repetitive. Part autobiographical, part theoretical, it never goes into specifics. It is always more or less general. There were some examples, but never analyzed thoroughly. However, you should absolutely read "Nudge", which was excellent! I thought "Simpler" was going to be about "Nudge" applications and examples, but it's not really.

  • Arjun Mishra
    2018-10-30 21:35

    I'm using this as a vehicle to explore Nudges in school lunches and restaurants offerings. I know there are a plethora of objections and viscerally poignant reactions to the kind of choice architecture and nudges that Sunstein and Thaler promote, but as social psychology makes very clear, we are prone to all sorts of biases that are nearly insurmountable. These seem to provide the best defenses.

  • Inbal Hakman
    2018-11-07 23:19

    This is a great book to read for those who interesting in the connections between psychology and behavioral economics and public policy. As a non-American, it sometimes felt uncomfortable to read so much about the Obama administration, but even those examples introduced in a very interesting way. Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book and found it very insightful as well

  • Jeremy
    2018-10-29 21:33

    Is it worth it?I liked what I learned about the effort the federal government is putting in to understanding the impact proposed regulation has on the recipients. As well as streamlining or even removing existing regulation.