Learning that your favorite food is bad for you will upset you, but might prolong your life; present mood versus future utility has to be considered somehow. Unfortunately, Sunstein’s own data on willingness to pay is more evocative than convincing. This is a bit stats-geeky, but the median answers versus average answers from his survey vary wildly, a variation that does not show up in nationally representative data later in the book. The lack of consensus among his respondents makes Sunstein’s survey watery concrete for the foundation he is trying to pour. This is a distraction but not a fatal one; the book actually delivers something stranger and more interesting than the announced thesis: a tour of human biases that end up creating 'behavioral market failures' ... While Sunstein’s analysis of consumer psychology is illuminating, his examples are sometimes oversimplified ... To want Sunstein to account for regulatory capture, secondary harms and data journalism, though, is to want more of what he is already offering. Though it presents itself as a new solution to a host of current problems, Too Much Information ends up presenting a host of new problems to one current solution: transparency. Among government reformers and progressive regulators (like Sunstein himself, a decade ago), increasing access to information has been regarded as an obvious goal since Watergate. The book doesn’t replace that generational certainty with a new one, but it does make it impossible to continue regarding information disclosure as an uncomplicated good.
Despite the use of jargon such as 'hedonic loss' and 'availability heuristics,' the narrative is clear and relatable. Sunstein even delivers a few zingers ... An accessible treatise on the need to ensure that information improves citizens’ well-being.
Readers with a background in the social sciences and moral philosophy will have an easier time engaging than generalists, though Sunstein writes in clear, accessible language throughout. This balanced and well-informed take illuminates an obscure but significant corner of government policy making.