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Synopses & Reviews
Listen to a short interview with Cass Sunstein Host: Chris Gondek | Producer: Heron and Crane Nuclear bombs in suitcases, anthrax bacilli in ventilators, tsunamis and meteors, avian flu, scorchingly hot temperatures: nightmares that were once the plot of Hollywood movies are now frighteningly real possibilities. How can we steer a path between willful inaction and reckless overreaction?
Cass Sunstein explores these and other worst-case scenarios and how we might best prevent them in this vivid, illuminating, and highly original analysis. Singling out the problems of terrorism and climate change, Sunstein explores our susceptibility to two opposite and unhelpful reactions: panic and utter neglect. He shows how private individuals and public officials might best respond to low-probability risks of disaster--emphasizing the need to know what we will lose from precautions as well as from inaction. Finally, he offers an understanding of the uses and limits of cost-benefit analysis, especially when current generations are imposing risks on future generations.
Throughout, Sunstein uses climate change as a defining case, because it dramatically illustrates the underlying principles. But he also discusses terrorism, depletion of the ozone layer, genetic modification of food, hurricanes, and worst-case scenarios faced in our ordinary lives. Sunstein concludes that if we can avoid the twin dangers of over-reaction and apathy, we will be able to ameliorate if not avoid future catastrophes, retaining our sanity as well as scarce resources that can be devoted to more constructive ends.
"Sunstein, a University of Chicago law professor, often writes about government regulation. Here he focuses specifically on cost-benefit analysis (CBA) of actions that governments (as well as the private sector and individuals) can take to ward off potential crises. CBA has been used, most famously by George W. Bush's administration, to guide national policy; Bush critics believe the numbers are often fudged to get the results the White House wants. Oddly, Sunstein fails to investigate the science and politics of the Bush administration's chief cost-benefit guru, John D. Graham, but he does explore the uses and potential misuses of CBA, often in sufficient detail to challenge readers not well grounded in economics and statistics. Global warming serves as the narrative thread throughout the book, but Sunstein also looks at appropriate reactions to terrorist threats, genetic modification of food, hurricanes and avian flu, among other issues. Within the complex explanations, Sunstein does a reasonable job of achieving his three goals: to understand individual responses to worst-case scenarios (usually to 'plan far too much [or] far too little'); to suggest more sensible public policy regarding low-probability risks of disaster; and to dispassionately evaluate CBA as a tool, especially as it pertains to policy making in the future" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Nuclear bombs in suitcases, anthrax bacilli in ventilators, tsunamis and meteors, avian flu, scorchingly hot temperatures: nightmares that were once the plot of Hollywood movies are now frighteningly real possibilities. Sunstein explores these and other worst-case scenarios and how we might best prevent them in this vivid, illuminating, and highly original analysis.
About the Author
Cass R. Sunstein is Robert Walmsley University Professor and Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard University.
Table of Contents
1. Of Terrorism and Climate Change
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