Supposedly controversial essays from an allegedly dangerous man.
Harvard Law School professor Sunstein (Simpler: The Future of Government, 2013, etc.) is one of America’s premier public intellectuals, a prolific writer of scholarly works as well as books and essays for a broader engaged public. His legal and political writing and his embrace of behavioral economics drew the attention of the Obama administration, which appointed him administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. It was this perch and Sunstein’s visible record of publications that caused Glenn Beck to call Sunstein “the most dangerous man in America,” a title that the author not only does not declaim, but embraces. This collection gathers 11 of his essays, many of which originated as articles in legal journals. Sunstein addresses a wide range of topics, including conspiracy theories (“Why do people accept conspiracy theories that turn out to be false and for which the evidence is weak or even nonexistent?”), the rights of animals, marriage rights, climate change, and legal and political theories such as minimalism and the idea of trimming, which effectively involves trying to steer clear of extremes in the shaping of policy and law. Even when the author addresses putatively liberal causes—climate change or the establishment of “a new progressivism”—he writes nothing that could be construed as dangerous. He is a careful thinker and clear writer, and even if one disagrees with his conclusions, it is difficult to categorize his writing as particularly extreme; indeed, most of his conclusions fall near the center. In another generation he would probably fit into the "Vital Center" of American history and politics.
Sunstein seemingly never runs out of ideas. Many of them are solid, some of them are debatable and a few are even provocative, but calling them “dangerous” says more about the bankrupt state of our current civic dialogue than it does about the author and his ideas.