Posts Tagged ‘regulation’

OIRA’s goal: Regulation for humans, not econs

February 18, 2010

Type “OIRA dashboard” into Google. The first hit?, a new web site that demystifies the opaque subject of rules and regulation in Washington by enabling people to track their progress throughout a review process.

The site’s launch coincides with Nudge co-author Cass Sunstein’s first public remarks since taking over the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), the office in charge of reviewing, developing, and overseeing regulations across the federal government. Speaking at an American University law school conference, Sunstein emphasized that OIRA’s goal is to create regulatory policy for Humans, not Econs; “homo sapiens rather than homo economicus,” he explained.

As an example, he cited a set of recently released rules intended to discourage airlines from pulling away from the gate and sitting near a runway, essentially trapping people on planes for unknown periods of time.

The basic idea is if you’re flying domestically, and you can’t be kept on the tarmac for more than three hours, and you get food and water and medical care if you need it within two hours. That rule is accompanied by an extremely disciplined analysis of its cost and benefits. If we’re imposing financial burdens on airlines, we want to catalog them as best we can, and make sure the benefits justify the action.

You can listen to Sunstein’s remarks here.

Cass Sunstein goes to Washington

January 9, 2009

From Chicago to Cambridge and now to D.C.

Cass Sunstein is headed for Washington to lead the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. A well-deserved congratulations are in order. And now a plea to reporters: Please don’t call him the “regulation czar.”

The OIRA has been around officially since 1980, and unofficially as Presidential regulatory principles and centralized review since the Nixon administration. A trivia question for our readers: Who was the first OIRA administrator? Like Sunstein, this person graduated from Harvard and spent time at Chicago. The answer is here.

There was a lot of chatter in the media and the blogosphere about Sunstein’s appointment (here, here, here, here, here, and here), with frequent references to Nudge – which is great, of course. But it is worth mentioning that Sunstein started writing and thinking about regulation long before he turned to nudges and choice architecture. The behavioral bit may generate the big buzz, but Sunstein’s deep understanding of regulatory issues extends far and wide. At Chicago, Sunstein taught a number of regulatory courses, including Theoretical Foundations of the Regulatory State; Regulation: What Works and What Doesn’t; Employment and Labor Law; Environmental Law; Law, and Behavior and Regulation. And (surprise!) he’s written plenty about these subjects. Interested readers may want to check out some of the highlights below

1) The Cost-Benefit State. (paper)

2) Risk and Reason: Safety, Law, and the Environment. (Amazon link)

3) Beyond the Precautionary Principle (paper) and The Precautionary Principle as a Basis of Decision Making (paper). For a shorter version, see this op-ed in the Boston Globe.

4) Remaking Regulation. (American Prospect article)

5) A New Executive Order for Improving Federal Regulation? (paper)

5) Administrative Law and Regulatory Policy. (Amazon link to law school case study textbook)

6) Worst Case Scenarios. (Amazon link)

Addendum: Thanks to Matt Welch, Reason magazine’s editor in chief, for obliging the Nudge blog’s request, and for having a sense of humor about it.