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Cass R. Sunstein

Thaler Changed My Life (and Everybody Else's)

The Nobel winner's collaborator remembers the thrill of first encountering his ideas.
The economics of real life.

The economics of real life.

Photographer: Scott Olson/Getty Images

I first heard about Richard Thaler in the 1980s, in a locker room at the University of Chicago.

I had run into Steve Shavell, an economist at Harvard Law School, who asked me what I was working on. I mumbled some question I had, about whether people really behaved as rationally as economists said they do. Shavell responded without a lot of enthusiasm: “Oh, you should be reading Thaler, that guy from Cornell.”