There is audio, video, and transcript at the link. I introduced Cass like this:
The Force is strong with this one. Cass is by far the most widely cited legal scholar of his generation. His older book, Nudge, and his new book on Star Wars are both best sellers, and he was head of OIRA [Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs] under President Obama from 2009 to 2013. Powerful, you have become.
So tonight I’d like to start with a survey of Cass’s thought. We’re going to look at legal theory and then go to Nudge and then consider Star Wars, how it all ties together, and then we’re going to talk about everything.
On every point Cass responded clearly and without evasion. We talked about judicial minimalism, Bob Dylan’s best album, the metaphysics of nudging, Possession, the ideal size of the Supreme Court, the wisdom of Yoda, Hayek, why people should choose their own path, the merits of a banned products store, James Joyce, why the prequels are underrated, and which of the first six movies is the worst of the lot. Here is one bit:
COWEN: Let’s take a concrete example from real life: Jedi mind tricks. Obi-Wan comes along and says, “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.” And what does the stormtroooper do? He goes away. Now, is that a nudge?
SUNSTEIN: No, it’s a form of manipulation. So — .
COWEN: OK, but how do you draw the metaphysical categories? It seems like a nudge that just happens to work all the time.
SUNSTEIN: OK. I’ll give you a quick and dirty way of getting at that…
Here is another:
COWEN: If you were to pick one character from Star Wars who would nudge you — you get to elect them; you’re the only vote. Even Samantha doesn’t get a vote, just Cass — not your children — which character would you pick? Whom would you trust with that nudge? It’s a universe full of Jedi here, right?
SUNSTEIN: I trust that guy.
COWEN: But I worry about Yoda.
SUNSTEIN: I trust him.
SUNSTEIN: Thank God for libertarian paternalism, that Luke has a choice. The Sith, by the way, like the Jedi, respect freedom of choice. In the crucial scene in Episode III where the question is whether Anakin is going to save the person who would be emperor, he says, “You must choose.” And so there’s full respect for freedom of choice. Nudgers have that. Good for them.
COWEN: Bad guys always tell you the deal, and then they say, “Choose evil.” It seems the good guys always mislead you.
There’s this funny tension. Star Wars makes me more nervous about nudge. I’m not like this huge anti-nudge guy, but when I look at Obi-Wan and Yoda lying to Luke — “Ben, Ben, Ben, why didn’t you tell me?” How many times have I heard that in these movies?
…SUNSTEIN: It’s fair to ask whether Obi-Wan and Yoda had it right.
There is much, more more…self-recommending!
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