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August 8, 2012

Cass Sunstein Returns to Harvard


Cass Sunstein, the controversial administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the White House Office of Management and Budget, will return later this month to his position as professor at Harvard Law School.

To say that Prof. Sunstein was far outside of the mainstream of American public opinion is hardly an overstatement. He espoused “behavioral economics” to promote what he and his allies saw as desired financial and environmental activity, taking extreme anti-hunting and anti-2nd Amendment positions. Among his most outrageous viewpoints, he advocated for legal standing for animals in a court of law.

More specifically, the professor argued that state animal cruelty laws should be applied to hunting and that organizations could file suit on behalf of animals. He also wrote that the 2nd Amendment did not support individual gun ownership rights, but only applied to the state militias or today’s National Guard. The Supreme Court has ruled otherwise – twice – in recent years.

NSSF opposed Prof. Sunstein’s nomination a “regulatory czar” because of his potential impact as head of an office that usually gets little attention but is, in fact, a powerful arm of the executive branch of government. Fortunately, despite his radical views, his impact on federal rules that protect hunting and conservation were inconsequential in the end. Congressional friends and several large-membership organizations kept a close eye on his office and were quite prepared to go to the court of public opinion to do battle, if and as needed.

At NSSF, we are relieved that Cass Sunstein is headed for his old academic chair near the Charles River as opposed to a policy-making chair on the Potomac River. We don’t expect that any of his out-of-the-mainstream views have been moderated by his Washington experience, but at least he will no longer be in a position to put them into action.

As a line that old song from the Sound of Music goes, “So long, farewell, auf widersehen, good bye…” or at least so we can hope.