How we became so burdened by red tape and unnecessary paperwork, and why we must do better.
We've all had to fight our way through administrative sludge--filling out complicated online forms, mailing in paperwork, standing in line at the motor vehicle registry. This kind of red tape is a nuisance, but, as Cass Sunstein shows in Sludge, it can also also impair health, reduce growth, entrench poverty, and exacerbate inequality. Confronted by sludge, people just give up--and lose a promised outcome: a visa, a job, a permit, an educational opportunity, necessary medical help. In this lively and entertaining look at the terribleness of sludge, Sunstein explains what we can do to reduce it.
Because of sludge, Sunstein, explains, too many people don't receive benefits to which they are entitled. Sludge even prevents many people from exercising their constitutional rights--when, for example, barriers to voting in an election are too high. (A Sludge Reduction Act would be a Voting Rights Act.) Sunstein takes readers on a tour of the not-so-wonderful world of sludge, describes justifications for certain kinds of sludge, and proposes "Sludge Audits" as a way to measure the effects of sludge. On balance, Sunstein argues, sludge infringes on human dignity, making people feel that their time and even their lives don't matter. We must do better.
About the Author
Cass R. Sunstein is Robert Walmsley University Professor at Harvard Law School and Chair of the Technical Advisory Group on Behavioral Insights and Sciences at the World Health Organization. He was Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Obama administration. He is the author of The Cost-Benefit Revolution, How Change Happens, Too Much Information (all three published by the MIT Press), Nudge (with Richard H. Thaler), and other books.
"If nudges have a mortal enemy, or perhaps the equivalent of antimatter to matter, it’s “sludge.” Sunstein uses this term to describe unnecessarily effortful processes, bureaucratic procedures, and other barriers to desirable outcomes. Sunstein has exposed this conflict head-on in his new book, Sludge: What Stops Us from Getting Things Done and What to Do about It. He shows how the most effective government programs, Medicare and Social Security, reach almost all eligible citizens because the government does the recordkeeping and offers simple enrollment processes to receive benefits." —Forbes
“Sludge, according to Cass Sunstein, is whatever frictions separate us from what we want. It comes in many forms...even sensible requirements that take more time than we can spare.” —The Christian Century
"In Sludge, Sunstein shines a light in the bureaucratic darkness, and, by calling for “sludge audits,” adds his moral authority to the growing demand to clear out the bureaucratic underbrush." —Education Next