Perhaps no kind of regulation is more common or less useful than mandated disclosure—requiring one party to a transaction to give the other information. It is the iTunes terms you assent to, the doctor’s consent form you sign, the pile of papers you get with your mortgage. Reading the terms, the form, and the papers is supposed to equip you to choose your purchase, your treatment, and your loan well. More Than You Wanted to Know surveys the evidence and finds that mandated disclosure rarely works. But how could it? Who reads these disclosures? Who understands them? Who uses them to make better choices?
Omri Ben-Shahar and Carl Schneider put the regulatory problem in human terms. Most people find disclosures complex, obscure, and dull. Most people make choices by stripping information away, not layering it on. Most people find they can safely ignore most disclosures and that they lack the literacy to analyze them anyway. And so many disclosures are mandated that nobody could heed them all. Nor can all this be changed by simpler forms in plainer English, since complex things cannot be made simple by better writing. Furthermore, disclosure is a lawmakers’ panacea, so they keep issuing new mandates and expanding old ones, often instead of taking on the hard work of writing regulations with bite.
Timely and provocative, More Than You Wanted to Know takes on the form of regulation we encounter daily and asks why we must encounter it at all.
Omri Ben-Shahar is the Leo and Eileen Herzel Professor of Law at the University of Chicago. His books include Boilerplate: The Foundation of Market Contracts. Carl E. Schneider is the Chauncey Stillman Professor of Law and professor of medicine at the University of Michigan. His books include The Practice of Autonomy: Patients, Doctors, and Medical Decisions.
"Because consumers continue to overlook mandated disclosures, opting instead to scroll quickly through screen after screen of seemingly irrelevant legalese, this book by Ben-Shahar and Schneider is especially pertinent."—Choice
"Ben-Shahar and Schneider have written what for a long time will be the definitive work on regulations that require sellers of goods and services to provide information about their products that sellers will not voluntarily provide but that the regulators believe will help the consumers to make intelligent choices. Apparently these 'mandated disclosures' are ignored by the vast majority of consumers. The authors are unrelievedly negative about the efficacy of mandated disclosures. They are right to be. Their analysis is clear, comprehensive, and convincing."—Judge Richard A. Posner, United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
"I read this book with rapt attention. It is magnificent. Ben-Shahar and Schneider have done a masterful job of setting out their case clearly, plainly, and persuasively."—Tom Baker, University of Pennsylvania
"Ben-Shahar and Schneider present a compelling argument. They contend that mandated disclosure is a policy failure that is not easily remedied."—Zev J. Eigen, Northwestern University
"Significant and original. The research is prodigious. I am not aware of another treatment of disclosure that crosses disciplinary lines to this extent, and the analysis is all the more worthwhile for it. Ben-Shahar and Schneider show how disclosures have become pervasive in our society yet are largely ignored and misunderstood."—Clayton Gillette, New York University