What should be done about airplane safety and terrorism, global warming, polluted water, nuclear power, and genetically engineered food? All over the globe, risks to safety, health, and the environment are a subject of intense interest. Too much of the time we fear the wrong things. Sometimes we make the situation even worse. Rather than investigating the facts, we respond to temporary fears. The result is a situation of hysteria and neglect - and unnecessary illness and death. Risk and Reason explains the sources of these problems and explores what can be done about them. It shows how individual thinking and social interactions lead us in foolish directions. Offering sound proposals for social reform, it explains how a more sensible system of risk regulation, embodied in the idea of a 'cost-benefit state', could save many thousands of lives and many billions of dollars too - and protect the environment in the process.
• General introduction to the problem of risk and how people and societies deal badly with it • Guide to how nations can do much better in controlling risks • Guide to the idea of cost-benefit analysis, with many concrete illustrations (eg clean air act)
1. Beyond 1970s environmentalism; 2. Thinking about risks; 3. Are the experts wrong?; 4. This month's risk (with Timur Kuran); 5. Reducing risks rationally; 6. Health-health tradeoffs; 7. The arithmetic of arsenic; 8. Of courts and law: cost-benefit default principles; 9. Cleaning the air; 10. Tools.
'Regulatory policy debates often fail to serve a constructive role. Advocates of risk and environmental regulation maintain that only with zero risk will we be safe. Economic critics seek to impose cost-benefit tests on these policies that many believe ignore the distinctive character of safety and the environment. In Risk and Reason, Cass Sunstein eliminates the impasse in the regulatory policy debate with a balanced policy perspective that recognizes the legitimacy of these competing concerns. Sunstein's carefully crafted analysis shows how the limits on society's resources can be reconciled with a vigorous effort to protect citizens and the environment.' W. Kip Viscusi, Harvard Law School
'Cass Sunstein is an outstanding scholar and I have been vastly impressed by almost everything I have read of his. This work explains and justifies the increasing use of cost-benefit analysis in American regulatory contexts. It reveals how the technique, when suitably adapted, can counteract 'irrationalities' in the perception of risks. I appreciate Sunstein's clarity of expression and fluidity of style; and he is able to draw on empirical and other studies while remaining reader-friendly in his approach.' Anthony Ogus, University of Manchester
'Professor Sunstein has contributed a masterly and multifaceted analysis of government policy towards the protection of the population from risks. The central theme, the use of rational methods, mainly cost-benefit analysis, but also more market-based forms of regulation, is analyzed from an extraordinary variety of viewpoints. The author has drawn, with deep knowledge and originality, on recent developments in cognitive psychology and in legal doctrine to complement rationalistic and economic viewpoints.' Kenneth J. Arrow, Stanford University
'In his fine book Risk and Reason, Cass R. Sunstein offers a wide-ranging analysis of the problem of managing environmental health risks.' Science
'Sunstein offers a sophisticated argument as to how we should reason about risk through cost-benefit analysis, and how this reasoning can improve risk regulation. This book is worth reading, both because of its comprehensive scholarship and because it exemplifies a particular approach to law and economics.' Journal of Law and Society