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  • Writer's pictureKirk T. Hartley

Voluntary Agreements - Cass Sunstein

Yet another interesting looking law review is now on SSRI. It is "Voluntary Agreements" by Cass Sunstein. In 2008, the Sunstein and Thaler book, Nudge, was a great thought provoking read that fully occupied a flight back from London. Hopefully this new article is as good as it sounds, and will provide good reading on a flight this week.

The article is at this page at SSRI; the abstract states:

Voluntary Agreements

  1. Forthcoming, Journal of Economic Methodology

9 Pages Posted: 28 Feb 2020

  1. Cass R. Sunstein Harvard Law School; Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Date Written: February 21, 2020

  1. Abstract In philosophy, economics, and law, the idea of voluntary agreements plays a central role. It orients contractarian approaches to political legitimacy. It also helps support the claim that outsiders, and especially the state, should not interfere with private contracts. But contractarianism in political philosophy stands (or falls) on altogether different grounds from enthusiasm for contractual ordering in economics and law. When participants in voluntary agreements lack information or suffer from behavioral biases (including adaptive preferences), there is reason to help them, potentially through mandates and bans. In philosophy, the idea of contractarianism can help lead to instructive thought experiments about what justice requires, as with John Rawls’ use of the veil of ignorance and the original position; it should not be taken as a basis for theories of legitimacy that rest on actual agreements among actual groups, in which some people have more information and power than others, and in which malice and self-interest may lead to distortions.

Suggested Citation:

  1. Sunstein, Cass R., Voluntary Agreements (February 21, 2020). Forthcoming, Journal of Economic Methodology. Available at SSRN:

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