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Weekly Roundup: December 15, 2023


At the Blog

On Monday, David Adler and José Miguel Ahumada explained how Honduras Próspera, a US-based, VC-backed company, is suing the Honduran Government for shutting down its private, libertarian city-state – the most recent example of the abusive Investor-State Dispute Settlement system. As they write, “If the ZEDEs have generated the most international outrage — a clear-cut case of corporate colonialism set among the poorest communities in Honduras — the system of Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) is the true scandal. The ISDS system, written into US bilateral investment treaties across the world, provides the international scaffolding for corporate power and its abuses, allowing investors to threaten, extort, and extract billions of dollars from governments in the developing world for any regulation that might impinge on their profit margins — from minimum-wage provisions to environmental protections.”

On Tuesday, Zoe Tucker, a staff attorney at UNITE HERE local 11, explained why the high cost of housing is a labor issue, and why labor unions are well-positioned to address the problem. Because of the exorbitant cost of housing in LA, many workers have been pushed out of neighborhoods close to their jobs and now commute four hours a day (or more) in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Moreover, increasing rents have diverted large percentages of wage raises into profits for landlords, while also making it more difficult for workers to go on strike. To address this issue, Local 11 has supported a number of ordinances intended to preserve the housing stock and fund tenant protections in LA, and it has also made creative housing-related demands in collective bargaining. Tucker concludes by encouraging unions to adopt an even more radical stance: that housing should be guaranteed for all. As she writes, “Labor unions have often had the role of voicing radical visions about what does and does not belong in markets, even as they fight for their members’ survival pending systemic change: Local 11 and National Nurses United have called for universal health care, even as we press employers to pay into elaborate private health funds to meet our members’ medical needs in the meantime. Unions are well positioned to make other radical market-constitutive claims: that housing, like health care, does not belong in a consumer market. If workers were not beholden to paying rent every single month, how much longer could we strike? If housing were guaranteed for all, how much more could we win?

And on Thursday, Jamelia Morgan continued our symposium on non-reformist reforms, discussing the tension between long-term abolitionist goals and our duties to mitigate harm in the here and now. After noting the important role that the idea of non-reformist reform plays within abolitionist movements and discourse, she wonders whether an abolitionist should support “groups that litigate cases seeking relief in the form of access to accommodations or medical and mental health treatment for incarcerated people. These are reformists strategies, since they leave untouched the structure of the prison, but in many cases like this one, the imperatives of harm reduction—a life-saving strategy within communities facing imminent harms due to police violence, environmental degradation, housing instability, etc.—require pursuing reformist, piecemeal strategies. Abolitionist groups do not, and arguably need not, reflect or practice the kind of intellectual purity so often seen in academic theorizing. But what is required of abolitionist groups (at least those that adopt the moniker and practice) is a clear sense of which strategies should be pursued and why—which is not an easy task.”

In LPE Land

Do you owe Teddy KGB $12,000 because you unwisely vouched for your childhood friend’s gambling debt? Well, The Manne Program in Law and Economics is offering just that amount(!) for papers “exploring the premises, assumptions, foundations, research, and conclusions underlying the LPE Project.” We suggest starting here.

Cool job alert reminder: The Law and Political Economy Project seeks to hire a 2024-2025 Law & Organizing Fellow, who will work to create space for organizing as a practice and theory of change in the legal academy.

Sam Bagg’s long-awaited and much-anticipated book on democratic theory is making its way into the world. If you want to whet your appetite, make sure to check out his posts: “Two Fallacies of Democratic Design” and “How Should We Think About Democracy?

Chase Foster and Kathy Thelen have a new article that examines Louis Brandeis’ economic philosophy and the extent to which it has been adopted into competition law and policy in the EU and US. For the blog-sized version of the argument, see here.

Over at Promarket, Tim Wu responds to the letter by former agency chief economists calling for a separation of the legal and economic analysis in the draft Merger Guidelines. As Tim notes, the letter “insufficiently appreciates that the primary duty imposed on the agencies is to ‘faithfully execute’ the law by obeying Congressional statutes and binding precedent.”