Simpler: The Future of Government

Overview

Governments everywhere are undergoing a quiet and profound revolution: they’re getting simpler, more cost-effective, and focused on improved outcomes not politics. For four years one of the leading lights of that revolution, Cass Sunstein, as President Obama’s “Regulatory Czar,” oversaw the brilliant and successful effort to give every American better government. In “a remarkably fun, engaging read” (Fortune.com), he explains how, why, and what should come next.

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Simpler: The Future of Government

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Overview

Governments everywhere are undergoing a quiet and profound revolution: they’re getting simpler, more cost-effective, and focused on improved outcomes not politics. For four years one of the leading lights of that revolution, Cass Sunstein, as President Obama’s “Regulatory Czar,” oversaw the brilliant and successful effort to give every American better government. In “a remarkably fun, engaging read” (Fortune.com), he explains how, why, and what should come next.

For Americans, the future of government arrived in 2009. Government became simpler, it became smarter. It worked better. Cass Sunstein, America’s “regulatory czar” under President Barack Obama, was at the center of it all. Drawing on state-of-the-art work in behavioral psychology and economics, Sunstein helped save the country more than $91 billion and an unknown number of lives. This was accomplished through the extraordinary power of nudges—seemingly modest policies that preserve freedom of choice, better lives, and fundamentally improve government. In combination with cost-benefit analysis, nudges are already saving money, saving lives, and improving, by simplifying, government. In Simpler, Sunstein speaks for the first time about what he encountered and accomplished in the Obama Administration and what the lessons are for everyone going forward.

We don’t need big government or small government; we need better government. Simpler is 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” (Publishers Weekly, starred review). And it just may be “the most important book to come out of President Obama’s first term” (Walter Isaacson).

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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)
Daniel Kahneman
"This inspiring book has a tale and a lesson. In the tale, a thinker with a passion for reason moves from the ivory tower to the White House and becomes a doer. The lesson is that regulation is not a dirty word and that thoughtful government works."
Walter Isaacson
"This may be the most important book to come out of President Obama's first term. Contrary to conservative perception, the administration, guided by Cass Sunstein, launched a brilliant effort to simplify and reduce regulations. Sunstein found ingenious ways to protect citizens and nudge corporate behavior while maximizing freedom and business opportunity. Simpler is a fascinating guide to how behavioral economics is improving government, and none too soon."
Chip Heath
"Everyone complains that government regulations are often dumb, but how could you make them smarter? Here's a guidebook by someone who did it. It should be read by everyone who sets policies for government, nonprofits, education, or business."
Dr. Esther Duflo
"Tucked away from the sound and fury of politics, there is the quiet world of policy making. This fantastic book, from a magnificent scholar turned a master of this world, restored my faith in what governments really do, and more importantly in what a smart government could do to help citizens live better, more fulfilled lives."
Dr. Austan Goolsbee
"Cass Sunstein: scholar, public servant, choice architect. This lays out a new vision for how research from academics and attention from the public can be used to make regulations and government work better and simpler—to protect the public at the lowest possible cost and hassle. No wonder Glenn Beck said Sunstein was the most dangerous man in America."
Dan Ariely
"We typically don't associate the idea of simple systems with government and large corporations. But in this fine book, Sunstein provides a glimpse into how we can tame the complexity beast and why it is important, even necessary if we want to improve our collective welfare."
Doctor - Esther Duflo
"Tucked away from the sound and fury of politics, there is the quiet world of policy making. This fantastic book, from a magnificent scholar turned a master of this world, restored my faith in what governments really do, and more importantly in what a smart government could do to help citizens live better, more fulfilled lives."
Doctor - Austan Goolsbee
"Cass Sunstein: scholar, public servant, choice architect. This lays out a new vision for how research from academics and attention from the public can be used to make regulations and government work better and simpler—to protect the public at the lowest possible cost and hassle. No wonder Glenn Beck said Sunstein was the most dangerous man in America."
Michael Greenstone
"Federal regulations determine the quality of the air we breathe and water we drink, the safety of our workplaces, the kinds of cars we can buy, and much more. In this book, Cass Sunstein shows how he helped President Obama use the smartest academic ideas to undertake the most important reform of our regulatory system in more than three decades. This revolution in regulation relies on using evidence, rather than ideology, to guide regulatory decisions and by making regulations simpler and easier to understand. Simple is a must (and fun) read for anyone who wants a deeper understanding of how government—and the people in it—are using the insights from the seminal research by Sunstein and others to make our lives healthier, safer, and more prosperous."
From the Publisher
"This inspiring book has a tale and a lesson. In the tale, a thinker with a passion for reason moves from the ivory tower to the White House and becomes a doer. The lesson is that regulation is not a dirty word and that thoughtful government works."

"This may be the most important book to come out of President Obama's first term. Contrary to conservative perception, the administration, guided by Cass Sunstein, launched a brilliant effort to simplify and reduce regulations. Sunstein found ingenious ways to protect citizens and nudge corporate behavior while maximizing freedom and business opportunity. Simpler is a fascinating guide to how behavioral economics is improving government, and none too soon."

"Everyone complains that government regulations are often dumb, but how could you make them smarter? Here's a guidebook by someone who did it. It should be read by everyone who sets policies for government, nonprofits, education, or business."

"Tucked away from the sound and fury of politics, there is the quiet world of policy making. This fantastic book, from a magnificent scholar turned a master of this world, restored my faith in what governments really do, and more importantly in what a smart government could do to help citizens live better, more fulfilled lives."

"Cass Sunstein: scholar, public servant, choice architect. This lays out a new vision for how research from academics and attention from the public can be used to make regulations and government work better and simpler—to protect the public at the lowest possible cost and hassle. No wonder Glenn Beck said Sunstein was the most dangerous man in America."

"We typically don't associate the idea of simple systems with government and large corporations. But in this fine book, Sunstein provides a glimpse into how we can tame the complexity beast and why it is important, even necessary if we want to improve our collective welfare."

"Federal regulations determine the quality of the air we breathe and water we drink, the safety of our workplaces, the kinds of cars we can buy, and much more. In this book, Cass Sunstein shows how he helped President Obama use the smartest academic ideas to undertake the most important reform of our regulatory system in more than three decades. This revolution in regulation relies on using evidence, rather than ideology, to guide regulatory decisions and by making regulations simpler and easier to understand. Simple is a must (and fun) read for anyone who wants a deeper understanding of how government—and the people in it—are using the insights from the seminal research by Sunstein and others to make our lives healthier, safer, and more prosperous."

"Sunstein’s firsthand knowledge and distinct humor give his account a real dynamism."

"[Simpler is] ...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."

“A remarkably fun, engaging read.”

bestselling author of Steve Jobs WalterIsaacson
"This may be the most important book to come out of President Obama's first term. Contrary to conservative perception, the administration, guided by Cass Sunstein, launched a brilliant effort to simplify and reduce regulations. Sunstein found ingenious ways to protect citizens and nudge corporate behavior while maximizing freedom and business opportunity. Simpler is a fascinating guide to how behavioral economics is improving government, and none too soon."
Dr.Esther Duflo
"Tucked away from the sound and fury of politics, there is the quiet world of policy making. This fantastic book, from a magnificent scholar turned a master of this world, restored my faith in what governments really do, and more importantlyin what a smart government could do to help citizens live better, more fulfilled lives."
WashingtonPost.com
“This book should be on every federal leader’s reading list…common-sense tips leaders at any level can use to be more effective.”
InTheCapital.Streetwise.com
“Optimistic in its vision of a government that can do good, a positive message in a year that seems to be filled with signs pointing to the opposite…a great read for any aspiring economist or individual on the fence on what to think about the state of regulatory affairs in America today.”
Wall Street Journal
"Mr. Sunstein is a long-standing champion of the cost-benefit analysis of regulation, and his criticisms are often spot-on. The idea is simple and sensible. . . . deeply informed by the insights of behavioral economics—a field of research that reveals several psychological quirks that affect human decision-making."
The New York Times - Michiko Kakutani
A more detailed, more nuanced look at how rules and regulations can be made simpler, and how the social environment in which we make decisions can be "nudged" in ways that help us to make more rational, sensible choices.
Fortune.com
“A remarkably fun, engaging read.”
Library Journal
A manifesto from Sunstein, who radically streamlined regulations as administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (he even flattened the food pyramid) and caused no little controversy.
Kirkus Reviews
Obama's former "regulatory czar" examines the reforms that are beginning to transform the government and what they portend for the future. In 2009, Harvard Law School professor Sunstein (A Constitution of Many Minds: Why the Founding Document Doesn't Mean What It Meant Before, 2009, etc.) became administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, "the cockpit of the regulatory state," where he worked for the next three years. Sunstein was present during the first Reagan administration, when the office was established and its purposes defined. He writes about using the office to find ways to save lives and money and attempt to improve the quality of life. Sunstein is a partisan of behavioral economics and uses its methods in what he calls "nudges…approaches that influence decisions while preserving freedom of choice." His mission, he writes, has been largely one of simplification: "fewer rules and more common sense." Disclosure, whether in summary or fuller form, helps the process along, as does involvement of the public. For example, changes to the presentation of automobile fuel economy make the costs clearer over time, and the presentation of daily food requirements through the image of a plate, rather than a pyramid, makes for better understanding. Sunstein is a vigorous defender of the methods of cost-benefit analysis, both to determine what the costs really are and to figure out whether proposed changes or improvements will bring about net benefits. He has interesting insights about features of current partisan conflicts and the contradictory positions protagonists can find themselves in. Sunstein's firsthand knowledge and distinct humor give his account a real dynamism.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781476726601
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 12/2/2014
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 869,070

Meet the Author

Cass R. Sunstein is the nation’s most-cited legal scholar who, for the past fifteen years, also has been at the forefront of behavioral economics. From 2009 to 2012, he served as the administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. He is the Robert Walmsley University Professor at Harvard Law School. His book, Nudge, coauthored with Richard Thaler, was a national bestseller.

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