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Who Is Cass Sunstein and Why Should You Care? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Steve Dittmer   
Tuesday, 07 July 2009
AFF Sentinel Vol.6#21

1) President Obama has nominated Sunstein as his regulatory czar -- Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs -- to review and shape all major federal regulations; 2) Sunstein believes the way to fix many things is to impose the "right thing" by government regulation, supplemented by private lawsuits to go where government prosecutors haven't the budget or time and 3) He has written extensively about animal "rights," believing animals are underrepresented in our legal system and their circumstances are not well enough known by consumers.

If as a regulatory czar wouldn't be frightening enough, Sunstein has also been mentioned as a Supreme Court candidate, given his legal background and Obama association at the University of Chicago.

In ruing the lack of time and money in most prosecutors' offices to deal with animal welfare, Sunstein suggests citizens should be able to file lawsuits "directly against those who have violated [anticruelty] law, in "The Rights of Animals: A Very Short Primer."" " ...representatives of animals should be able to bring private suits to ensure that anticruelty and related laws are actually enforced," (emphasis his). "Of course, any animals would be represented by human beings, just like any other litigant who lacks ordinary (human) competence; for example, the interests of children are protected by prosecutors, and also by trustees and guardians in private litigation brought on children's behalf."

His concession: since some, "because of some kind of ideological commitment to improving animal welfare... might go well beyond what the law actually says," if such was a "genuine risk," it might be advisable to force those , "who bring frivolous [lawsuits] to pay the defendants' attorneys fees." Wow, bet that would draw HSUS up short - for a nanosecond.

That's just about better enforcement of current laws.

"But I think that we should go further," Sunstein said. The law should impose further regulation on hunting, scientific experiments, entertainment, and (above all) farming to ensure against unnecessary animal suffering (italics his)." He goes on to suggest committees or boards to approve management practices, noting European's example.

Of course, that's partially why Europe is now importing meat not exporting.

Sunstein discusses the issue of animals as property:

"If getting rid of the idea that animals are property is helpful in reducing suffering, then we should get rid of the idea that animals are property."

"The cruel and abusive practices generally involved in contemporary farming are largely unregulated at the state level," Sunstein said.

He discusses the concept of animal "autonomy," that is, animals freed from human control, based on an animal's ability to "think," and concludes, " ... sometimes, [human] interests will outweigh those of other animals."

Sunstein co-edited a book called "Animal Rights: Current Debates and New Directions," a collection of essays that drew a recommendation from the infamous Laurence Tribe, another advocate for animal legal "rights."

Sunstein's other writings are equally alarming. Big Brother government is not good enough for Sunstein. He prefers authoritarian father figures. Written with Richard H. Thaler, "Libertarian Paternalism Is Not An Oxymoron," holds that, "Often people's preferences are ill-formed" and "paternalism cannot be avoided," and "libertarian paternalists should attempt to steer people's choices."

Their libertarian paternalism example involves a "cafeteria at some organization," where the director has noticed customers choosing more of the items presented earlier in the line. How to order the lineup?

The paper posits four possibilities, with #4 being the cafeteria director putting items earlier in the line she thinks consumers would choose on their own. The authors' dislike that. Option #1 is Sunstein and Thaler's choice.

The director should "make the choices that she thinks would make the customers best off ... to promote their welfare, all things considered." Even under market pressures, they maintain the director would have "a great deal of room to maneuver." In other words, they believe it is the director's job to change customers' tastes and preferences! Lovely philosophy for a federal regulator, that!

Sunstein and co-writer Jeff Leslie in "Animal Rights Without Controversy," propose their back door way to getting consumers more active regarding animal treatment.

"Consumers should be permitted to express their commitments [to proper animal treatment] through their purchasing decisions." How?

A label on each package, indicating, for example, the percentage of animals hurt or injured or bones broken when raised by a particular husbandry method. Additional information could include natural daylight hours, bedding, cage or pen size, etc. We assume Sunstein's classifications would accommodate "things we know," like "piglets should have toys" and "cows should not be continuously bred."

So this is Obama's Big Papa?

1 "Liberty and Freedom," David Hackett Fischer, Oxford University Press, New York, 2005.
2 "Liberty and Tyranny," Mark R. Levin, Threshold Editions, New York, 2009.
3 "Common Sense," Glenn Beck, Mercury Radio Arts/Threshold Editions, New York, 2009.

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