Now that Cass Sunstein (Harvard) has departed the Obama Administration (and OIRA) and migrated back to academic life, in a recent paper published by the University of Chicago Law Review, Empirically Informed Regulation, Sunstein illustrates the central role data play (or, at least should play) in the development of regulations, with an emphasis on behavioral economics. The paper's abstract follows.
"In recent years, social scientists have been incorporating empirical findings about human behavior into economic models. These findings offer important insights for thinking about regulation and its likely consequences. They also offer some suggestions about the appropriate design of effective, low-cost, choice-preserving approaches to regulatory problems, including disclosure requirements, default rules, and simplification. A general lesson is that small, inexpensive policy initiatives can have large and highly beneficial effects. In the United States, a large number of recent practices and reforms reflect an appreciation of this lesson. They also reflect an understanding of the need to ensure that regulations have strong empirical foundations, both through careful analysis of costs and benefits in advance and through retrospective review of what works and what does not."