Scores of lawsuits have pushed retirement plan sponsors to shorter, easier-to-navigate menus, but – as Ian Ayres and Quinn Curtis argue in this work – we’ve only scratched the surface of retirement plan design. Using participant-level plan data and straightforward tests, Ayres and Curtis show how plan sponsors can monitor plans for likely allocation mistakes and adapt menus to encourage success. Beginning with an overview of the problem of high costs and the first empirical evidence on retirement plan fee lawsuits, they offer an overview of the current plan landscape. They then show, based on reforms to a real plan, how streamlining menus, eliminating pitfalls, and adopting static and dynamic limits on participant allocations to certain risky assets or “guardrails” can reduce mistakes and lead to better retirement outcomes. Focusing on plausible, easy-to-implement interventions, Retirement Guardrails shows that fiduciaries need not be limited to screening out funds but can design menus to actively promote good choices.

Buy from Amazon . Barnes & Noble

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Studies in Contract Law (University Casebook Series) (10th edition, Foundation Press, 2023) with (Gregory Klass & Rebecca Stone). Buy a copy.

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Weapon of Choice: Fighting Gun Violence While Respecting Gun Rights (Harvard University Press, 2020).

Buy The Book from: Amazon • Barnes & Noble  Walmart • HUP • Waterstones

How ordinary Americans, frustrated by the legal and political wrangling over the Second Amendment, can fight for reforms that will both respect gun owners’ rights and reduce gun violence. 

Efforts to reduce gun violence in the United States face formidable political and constitutional barriers. Legislation that would ban or broadly restrict firearms runs afoul of the Supreme Court’s current interpretation of the Second Amendment. And gun rights advocates have joined a politically savvy firearms industry in a powerful coalition that stymies reform.

Ian Ayres and Fredrick Vars suggest a new way forward. We can decrease the number of gun deaths, they argue, by empowering individual citizens to choose common-sense gun reforms for themselves. Rather than ask politicians to impose one-size-fits-all rules, we can harness a libertarian approach―one that respects and expands individual freedom and personal choice―to combat the scourge of gun violence.

Ayres and Vars identify ten policies that can be immediately adopted at the state level to reduce the number of gun-related deaths without affecting the rights of gun owners. For example, Donna’s Law, a voluntary program whereby individuals can choose to restrict their ability to purchase or possess firearms, can significantly decrease suicide rates. Amending red flag statutes, which allow judges to restrict access to guns when an individual has shown evidence of dangerousness, can give police flexible and effective tools to keep people safe. Encouraging the use of unlawful possession petitions can help communities remove guns from more than a million Americans who are legally disqualified from owning them. By embracing these and other new forms of decentralized gun control, the United States can move past partisan gridlock and save lives now.

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Studies in Contract Law (6th edition, Foundation Press, 2003) (with Edward J. Murphy & Richard E. Speidel). Buy a copy.

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Pervasive Prejudice?: Non-Traditional Evidence of Race and Gender Discrimination (University of Chicago Press 2001). Buy a copy. Is Discrimination Elusive?, 55 Stanford Law Review 2419 (2003) (response to book review symposium on Ian Ayres, Pervasive Prejudice?: Unconventional Evidence of Race And Gender Discrimination (2002) and Crossroads, Directions, And a New Critical Race Theory (2002, Francisco Valdes, Jerome Culp & Angela P. Harris, eds.)).

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Voting with Dollars: A New Paradigm for Campaign Finance (with Bruce Ackerman) (Yale University Press 2002). Buy a copy. The New Paradigm Revisited, 91 California Law Review 743 (2003) (with Bruce Ackerman) (response to The Brennan Center Jorde Symposium Issue on Bruce Ackerman & Ian Ayres, Voting With Dollars: A New Paradigm for Campaign Finance Reform, 91 California Law Review 641 (2003)). Why a New Paradigm?, 37 University of Richmond Law Review 1147 (2003) (with Bruce Ackerman) (response to book review symposium on Bruce Ackerman and Ian Ayres’s Voting With Dollars: A New Paradigm for Campaign Finance Reform, 37 University of Richmond Law Review 935 (2003)).

Join and help support meaningful campaign finance reform.

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Why Not?: How to Use Everyday Ingenuity to Solve Problems Big and Small (Harvard Business School Press 2003) (with Barry Nalebuff). Buy a copy. Also published in Portugese as “Você Pode Tudo” (Negocio Editora), in Spanish as “¿Y por que NO” (Empresa Activa), in Korean (Sejong), in Japanese (Hankyu), in Chinese (The Commercial Press), in Bulgarian (Klasika and Still), in Chinese (China Times), in Estonian (Tanapaev), in Italian (Il Sole), in Korean (Sejong Books), in Russian (Williams Publishing), and in Thai (AR Business Press).

Read the New York Times review: “Daredevil Ideas from the ‘Anti-Dilberts’

Read my high school’s coverage of a Why Not talk: Finding Solutions in Search of Problems

Various Other Reviews

Book Excerpt: Ideas Waiting to Happen, Forbes 127 (Oct. 27 2003) (with Barry Nalebuff).

Book Excerpt: A Role on the Board for the ‘Loyal Opposition,’ Directors & Boards 32 (Fall 2003) (with Barry Nalebuff).

Book Excerpt: Problem Solving: What Would Croesus Do?, Darwin (Nov, 2003).

“Is Legal Creativity Possible,” Olin Lecutre, University of Michigan Law School (Sept. 11, 2003) (Video clip)

Bloomberg TV Interview (Oct. 25, 2003) (Video clip)

NPR Weekend Edition Interview (Nov. 1, 2003) (Audio clip)

Post Your Own “Why Not” Idea to our webboard for possible inclusion in our next column or see a list of other “Why Not” ideas at Forbes. Read a law school article about the Why Not? project.

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Insincere Promises: The Law of Misrepresented Intent (Yale University Press 2005) (with Gregory Klass).

Winner of the 2006 Scribes Book Award “for the best work of legal scholarship published during the previous year.”

Buy a copy.

Read the First Chapter.

More infomation.

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Straightforward: How to Mobilize Heterosexual Support for Gay Rights (Princeton University Press 2005) (with Jennifer Gerarda Brown), featured in New York Times Sunday Magazine The Year in Ideas (Dec. 11, 2005). Buy a copy.

License the Fair Employment Mark (and promise not to discriminate)

Sign the Vacation Pledge (and support equal marriage rights)

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Studies in Contract Law (7th edition, Foundation Press, 2008) (with Richard E. Speidel) (formerly Murphy, Speidel and Ayres).

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Carrots and Sticks: Unlock the Power of Incentives to Get Things Done (Bantam, 2010).

Buy The Book from: AmazonBarnes & NobleBordersIndieBound Others

Could you finally update your will if you put $1,000 at risk? If you’ve ever tried to meet a goal and came up short, the problem may not have been that the goal was too difficult or that you lacked the discipline to succeed. From giving up cigarettes to increasing your productivity at work, you may simply have neglected to give yourself the proper incentives.

In Carrot and Sticks, Ian Ayres, the New York Times bestselling author of Super Crunchers, applies the lessons learned from behavioral economics—the fascinating new science of rewards and punishments—to introduce readers to the concept of “commitment contracts”: an easy but high-powered strategy for setting and achieving goals already in use by successful companies and individuals across America. As co-founder of the website (where people have entered into their own “commitment contracts” and collectively put more than $3 million on the line), Ayres has developed contracts—including the one he honored with himself to lose more than twenty pounds in one year—that have already helped many find the best way to help themselves at work or home. Now he reveals the strategies that can give you the impetus to meet your personal and professional goals, including how to

• motivate your employees
• create a monthly budget
• set and meet deadlines
• improve your diet
• learn a foreign language
• finish a report or project you’ve been putting off
• clear your desk

Ayres shares engaging, often astounding, real-life stories that show the carrot-and-stick principle in action, from the compulsive sneezer who needed a “stick” (the potential loss of $50 per week to a charity he didn’t like) to those who need a carrot with their stick (the New York Times columnist who quit smoking by pledging a friend $5,000 per smoke … if she would do the same for him). You’ll learn why you might want to hire a “professional nagger” whom you’ll do anything to avoid—no, your spouse won’t do!—and how you can “hand-tie” your future self to accomplish what you want done now. You’ll find out how a New Zealand ad exec successfully “sold his smoking addiction,” and why Zappos offered new employees $2,000 to quit cigarettes.

Visit the book’s website

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The $500 DIET: Weight Loss for People Who Are Committed to Change (Kindle Singles, 2011). Read an Excerpt. Free iTunes Audio Download.

Would you rather lose a pound next week or $500? Most people given the choice would find it pretty easy to take off a pound. This simple insight is the key to a seven-step plan, The $500 Diet, that can guide you to sustained weight loss. Most diet books obsess about what you should put in your mouth. But information is not the problem. You already know that to lose weight you need to eat a bit less or exercise a bit more.
The $500 Diet is a different kind of diet plan, because it doesn’t tell you how much to eat or exercise. You are smart enough—with the help of the Internet and dozens of dieting books—to figure that out. What’s unique about The $500 Diet is that it works on another dimension. It lets you change your own incentives to lose weight. New York Times best-selling author, Ian Ayres, tells you about his own struggles with weight loss, and lays out advice for how you can use commitment contracts to safely lose 10 percent of your body weight. You’ll learn about his seven-step plan to a happier and lighter you. Most important, Ayres tells you what you should do to keep it off. Most diet books are written by physicians and scientists, but Ayres is a contract lawyer and an economist who uses the tools of his crafts to help you change how much you want to eat. If you are serious about losing weight, The $500 Diet provides a simple tool that can help you commit to a healthier life. Kindle Download. Free iTunes Audio Download.

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