Star Wars: Redemption, authoritarianism, and the appeal of darkness

Nobody foresaw that a science-fiction story about a moisture farmer's adventure with a rag-tag group of interstellar ne'er-do-wells would break box-office records for 40 years and redefine American storytelling. But this Harvard Law professor has a few ideas why it's stuck around.

Culture & Religion

George Lucas probably had no idea that Star Wars, his story about a moisture farmer going on an adventure, would change the course of storytelling. Memorable characters sure help set it apart from other science fiction, but Harvard Law professor Cass Sunstein has good idea as to why it's such a global phenomenon. The original trilogy, he states, has something in it for everyone in that it tackles some very human problems: redemption, authoritarianism, and the appeal of darkness. Cass Sunstein’s research is cited in The Influential Mind: What the Brain Reveals about Our Power to Change Others by Tali Sharot.

Impeachment 101: Why, When, and How the People Can Fire the President

Getting rid of the President is a popular subject these days. And Sunstein's advice on the subject can show us the protocol — and the history — behind firing the most powerful man in the free world.

Politics & Current Affairs

It's hard not to write about the laws of impeachment without invoking the current POTUS, Mr Donald J. Trump. A former reality-star with no governing experience, Trump has set foreign relations into a panic with his rage-fueled Tweeting habit. In almost every public moment since the election (and before it) — from his talk about grabbing women by the genitals to mocking a disabled reporter to suggesting the 2017 Puerto Rico hurricane wasn't a "real" disaster — he's offended the majority of Americans. But with a House and Senate both solidly inhabited by the Republicans (for now), today's politicians are having a hard time getting the ball rolling on impeachment. Cass Sunstein walks us through how it could come to be. And it's a lot easier than you might think. Cass Sunstein’s research is cited in The Influential Mind: What the Brain Reveals about Our Power to Change Others byTali Sharot.

Libertarian Paternalism: Eat Well, Retire Rich, and Feel the Freedom

Here's how the government improves your life without you knowing it.

Technology & Innovation

One of the best policies in America might just have the worst name: libertarian paternalism. Fortunately it's better known as 'nudge theory', and it has saved billions of dollars, huge numbers of lives, and subtly increased the nation's standard of living. How does it do all that? Harvard Law School professor Cass Sunstein explains that libertarian paternalism uses tested behavioral science to present people with choices that could improve their lives. It's why your credit card statement has clear information about how to avoid interest charges, it's why savings plans are opt-out rather than opt-in, and it's why 11 million U.S. kids below the poverty line get free school meals without even having to ask. These nudges and automatic enrollments give Americans all the help, with none of the treading on me (hence the 'libertarian' paternalism). They are, as Sunstein explains, liberty preserving and perhaps best of all, considering the current political climate, nudge theory is met with bipartisan enthusiasm. Cass Sunstein’s research is cited in The Influential Mind: What the Brain Reveals about Our Power to Change Others byTali Sharot.

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Politics & Current Affairs

Cass Sunstein presents his "nudge" approach to regulation at the 2012 Nantucket Project.