Nonsectarian Welfare Statements

Regulation & Governance, Forthcoming

Harvard Public Law Working Paper No. 13-33

12 Pages Posted: 30 Aug 2013 Last revised: 1 Nov 2013

See all articles by Cass R. Sunstein

Cass R. Sunstein

Harvard Law School; Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Date Written: August 28, 2013

Abstract

How can we measure whether national institutions in general, and regulatory institutions in particular, are dysfunctional? A central question is whether they are helping a nation’s citizens to live good lives. A full answer to that question would require a great deal of philosophical work, but it should be possible to achieve an incompletely theorized agreement on a kind of nonsectarian welfarism, emphasizing the importance of five variables: subjective well-being, longevity, health, educational attainment, and per capita income. In principle, it would be valuable to identify the effects of new initiatives (including regulations) on all of these variables. In practice, it is not feasible to do so; assessments of subjective well-being present particular challenges. In their ideal form, Regulatory Impact Statements should be seen as Nonsectarian Welfare Statements, seeking to identify the consequences of regulatory initiatives for various components of welfare. So understood, they provide reasonable measures of regulatory success or failure, and hence a plausible test of dysfunction. There is a pressing need for improved evaluations, including both randomized controlled trials and ex post assessments.

Keywords: subjective well-being, welfarism, cost-benefit analysis, randomized controlled trials, retrospective analysis

JEL Classification: D02, D73, D78, I18, K23

Suggested Citation

Sunstein, Cass R., Nonsectarian Welfare Statements (August 28, 2013). Regulation & Governance, Forthcoming; Harvard Public Law Working Paper No. 13-33. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2317909

Cass R. Sunstein (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

1575 Massachusetts Ave
Areeda Hall 225
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-496-2291 (Phone)

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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