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Simpler: The Future of Government

3.52  ·  Rating details ·  309 Ratings  ·  40 Reviews
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 in ...more
ebook, 272 pages
Published April 9th 2013 by Simon Schuster (first published April 1st 2013)
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Apr 12, 2013 rated it liked it
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 N
Sean Goh
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 yo
Daniel Frank
Feb 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
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 wr
Apr 16, 2013 rated it liked it
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.
Oct 30, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016-reads, school
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.
Jun 28, 2013 rated it liked it
If you've read Nudge, then you've read this book.
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 ...more
Jim Davis
Apr 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics
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 ...more
Ian Smith
Aug 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-non-fiction
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 ov ...more
Jason Furman
Apr 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 ma ...more
Sep 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
"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 t
Kent Winward
Feb 10, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Fred Kohn
Jun 16, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: political, economics
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 gov ...more
Malin Friess
Nov 07, 2013 rated it it was ok
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 prac
Greg Stoll
Aug 05, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 decidin
Jayar Fontaine
Nov 10, 2013 rated it liked it
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 betwe ...more
Zoe Xiuha
Jul 16, 2014 rated it it was ok
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 li ...more
Sep 11, 2013 rated it it was ok
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 th
Aaron Ng
Aug 30, 2013 rated it liked it
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, th
Oct 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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 se ...more
Daniel Pereira
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
May 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics
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.
Dec 03, 2013 rated it liked it
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"
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.
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
Sep 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics, economics, food
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
May 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
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.
Dennis Diehl
May 07, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Built for readers looking for a primer on behavioral economics and its application in the real world (in this case: governance). Although 'Simpler' rarely breaks new ground, it remains an entertaining, easily digestible and highly readable addition to the canon.
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Cass R. Sunstein is an American legal scholar, particularly in the fields of constitutional law, administrative law, environmental law, and law and behavioral economics, who currently is the Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Obama administration. For 27 years, Sunstein taught at the University of Chicago Law School, where he continues to teach as ...more
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“In the United States both plates and portions have increased dramatically over time. A really good nudge would be to make them smaller.” 0 likes
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