Maccabaean Lecture in Jurisprudence, delivered by Professor Cass Sunstein, on 21 March 2013 (venue: The British Academy).
This lecture explored why many of our most important decisions are made by default. Whether or not we notice them, default rules are omnipresent; they nudge us every day. They establish settings for mobile phones, rental car agreements, computers and much more. They also establish our legal rights because the law frequently says what happens if no one does anything. Less intrusive than a command or a mandate, default rules have a large impact on our lives, even though they allow us to go our own way. The best way to select default rules is generally to ask what informed people would choose. Personalized default rules might reduce the problems with one-size-fits-all defaults and thus provide big benefits in the face of inertia or complexity.
About the Speaker:
Cass Sunstein is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. From September 2009 to August 2012, he was Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairss. He is the author of many articles and books, including The Second Bill of Rights (2004), Laws of Fear: Beyond the Precautionary Principle (2005) and Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness (with Richard H. Thaler, 2008). He is now working on various projects involving the relationship between law and human behaviour.