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Published August 17, 2020
Notable Harvard University law Professor Cass Sunstein will give a research seminar on his recent work about how to make hard policy choices during uncertain times during a University of Wyoming virtual presentation.
Sunstein, the Robert Walmsley University Professor at Harvard -- one of the world’s most influential scholars in behavioral economics and public policy -- will present his work from noon-1 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 3. Those interested in participating can do so by joining via a Zoom link at https://uwyo.zoom.us/j/93985307269.
The UW Department of Economics hosts the seminar.
In his talk, Sunstein will discuss when policymakers focus on costs and benefits and, oftentimes, they find that hard questions become easy -- for example, when the benefits clearly exceed the costs or when the costs clearly exceed the benefits.
“In some cases, however, benefits or costs are difficult to quantify, perhaps because of limitations in scientific knowledge,” he says. “In extreme cases, policymakers are proceeding in circumstances of uncertainty rather than risk, in the sense that they cannot assign probabilities to various outcomes.”
In difficult cases, it is useful for policymakers to consider a concept from poker: “freerolls,” he says.
“A freeroll exists when choosers can lose nothing from selecting an option, but stand to gain something whose size may be unknown,” he explains.
Sunstein is the founder and director of the Program on Behavioral Economics and Public Policy at Harvard Law School. In 2018, he received Norway’s Holberg Prize, described as the equivalent of the Nobel Prize for law and the humanities.
From 2009-2012, he was administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. He also served on President Barack Obama’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies and on the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Board.
Sunstein has testified before congressional committees on many subjects. He also has advised officials at the United Nations, the European Commission, the World Bank and many nations on issues of law and public policy. He serves as an adviser to the Behavioural Insights Team in the United Kingdom.
He has written hundreds of highly influential scholarly articles and dozens of books. He is currently working on a variety of projects involving the regulatory state; “sludge,” defined to include paperwork and similar burdens; fake news; and freedom of speech.
For more information about Sunstein’s Zoom presentation, email UW economics Assistant Professor Linda Thunstrom at email@example.com.