Cass R. Sunstein is currently the Robert Walmsley University Professor at Harvard. From 2009 to 2012, he was Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. He is the founder and director of the Program on Behavioral Economics and Public Policy at Harvard Law School. Mr. Sunstein has testified before congressional committees on many subjects, and he has been involved in constitution-making and law reform activities in a number of nations.
Mr. Sunstein is author of many articles and books, including Republic.com (2001), Risk and Reason (2002), Why Societies Need Dissent (2003), The Second Bill of Rights (2004), Laws of Fear: Beyond the Precautionary Principle (2005), Worst-Case Scenarios (2001), Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness (with Richard H. Thaler, 2008), Simpler: The Future of Government (2013) and most recently Why Nudge? (2014) and Conspiracy Theories and Other Dangerous Ideas (2014). He is now working on group decisionmaking and various projects on the idea of liberty.
In recent years, there has been a great deal of discussion of the welfare effects of digital goods, including social media. A national survey, designed to monetize the benefits of a variety of social media platforms (including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram), found a massive disparity between willingness to pay (WTP) and willingness to accept (WTA). The sheer magnitude of this disparity reflects a “superendowment effect.” Social media may be Wasting Time Goods (WTG) – goods on which people spend time, but for which they are not, on reflection, willing to pay much (if anything). It is also possible that in the context of the WTP question, people may be giving protest answers, signaling their intense opposition to being asked to pay for something that they had formerly enjoyed for free. Their answers may be expressive, rather than reflective of actual welfare effects. At the same time, the WTA measure may also be expressive, a different form of protest, telling us little about the actual effects of social media on people’s lives and experiences. It may greatly overstate those effects. In this context, there may well be a sharp disparity between conventional economic measures and actual effects on experienced well-being.
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