Cass Sunstein

Cass R. Sunstein is the Karl N. Llewellyn Distinguished Service Professor of Jurisprudence at the University of Chicago Law School and the author of more than a dozen books, including After the Rights Revolution, Designing Democracy and most recently, The Cost-Benefit State.

Recent Articles

Does the Supreme Court Matter?

An exchange on the significance of the courts in the achievement of civil rights.

How important is the Supreme Court to the advancement of individual rights? Very important, many would contend, when the people whose rights are being advanced lack political power. Our constitutional democracy rests, after all, on the notion that people disdained and disfavored by the majority can still find justice before an independent Supreme Court. Some critics and historians, however, have always downplayed the Court's role. They argue that progress apparently flowing from Court decisions would have come eventually, or even sooner, through the political process, and that reform might been more effective or better crafted if the elected branches had brought it about. Much of this criticism has come from those on the right who condemn the Supreme Court protections of individual rights as "judicial activism." In a different vein, some on the left see the Court as an elitist institution and view grass-roots politics as the true source of social progress. In "Constitutional Politics...

Remaking Regulation

Regulation of the air, the water, and the workplace has made things much better. But we could achieve even better results by regulating with incentives.

The sudden collapse of communism has produced a nearly worldwide outburst of enthusiasm for private property; free markets, and electoral democracy. In the United States, and perhaps in the West as a whole, the collapse has also led to an understandable but disquieting degree of self-congratulation and complacency. Understandable, and in a way even justified, because the events of the past year have dispelled any lingering doubts about the risks of collectivism to both liberty and prosperity; disquieting, because the failure of communism is hardly a reason for unquestioning satisfaction with all our own institutions, let alone for a belief in laissez faire. To free-market conservatives, however, communism's failure seems to validate their own arguments for the irredeemable failure of the more limited government regulation adopted in the West. For the last decade and longer in the United States, they have been particularly critical of the new "social" regulation concerned with health,...

Ideas, Yes; Assaults, No

The First Amendment protects the exchange of ideas, not verbal assaults.

Universities committed to the value of learning must be committed, above all, to the free exchange of ideas. But it does not follow that they are obliged to accept any and all forms of speech. Under a system of free expression, universities -- and, indeed, the government -- can legitimately distinguish between verbal assaults and speech that forms part of the exchange of ideas. Those who deny this distinction will, I think, have trouble making sense of their own deepest beliefs about the kinds of speech that enjoy full protection of the First Amendment and those that do not. In opposing restrictions on speech, First Amendment absolutists cite the exact Ianguage of the First Amendment: "Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech." But the bare words will not help us to decide what amounts to an "abridgement" and what falls within the category of "freedom of speech." The history of the amendment shows that the text was not thought to protect all speech under all...

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