on 20 October 2013
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!