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Weekly Roundup: February 9, 2024


At the Blog

On Monday, John Mark Newman, who recently served as Deputy Director at the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, took stock of the new era of antimonopoly thought and action. Dispelling the recent talking point that new-wave antitrust enforcers have a “poor” win-loss record, Newman notes that the FTC has been on an absolute tear over the past several weeks, racking up victories like the mid-2010s Warriors. More broadly, however, he argues that the ultimate success (or failure) of an agency will not be found in such simplistic accounting. Rather, we need a more holistic assessment of whether enforcers are achieving their goals. On this front, despite not yet being two years at full-strength, the antitrust agencies have already broadened their analytical toolkit, brought actions under long-ignored antimonopoly statutes, and made antitrust accessible to the public. While Newman warns that these are still early days, and that past agency initiatives have required several years to bear fruit, he ultimately concludes that the early indications are highly promising.

On Wednesday, Valentino Larcinese and Alberto Parmigiani described their new research, which shows how public policies that increase economic inequality also increase the ability of the rich to influence public policy, which in turn, leads to public policies that increase economic inequality (and so on). As they document, over the past forty years, the general rise in income inequality has been mirrored by a similar concentration in individual campaign contributions. For instance, the share of campaign contributions coming from the richest ten percent of Census tracts went from about 40% of the total in 1980 to almost 55% in 2020. Moreover, they demonstrate how these two phenomena—rising income inequality and the concentration of campaign donations among the wealthy—are connected through public policy. Examining the aftermath of Reagan’s 1986 Tax Reform Act, which slashed the highest marginal tax rate from 50 to 28 percent, they find the bill resulted in an increase in individual campaign contributions, and that this increase was largely driven by taxpayers in the top ten percent of the income distribution, who experienced the largest increase in disposable income from the tax cuts. Perhaps surprisingly, this increase in donations benefited both parties, yet were concentrated among legislators who were socially well-connected or came from a privileged background. Hence, the inequality spiral appears to be more rooted in social class than in partisanship or ideology.

In LPE Land

Mark your calendars: On Thursday, February 29, the LPE Project and the YLS LPE Student group are holding a lunch talk with Vincent Bevins about his latest book, If We Burn: The Mass Protest Decade and the Missing Revolution. The event will be both in-person and online; more information and registration details here.

On our favorite podcast, Astra Taylor interviewed Luke Messac about his recent book Your Money or Your Life: Debt Collection in American Medicine.

The Journal of Law and Political Economy invites submissions of up to 20,000 words from scholars in law, the social sciences, and the humanities whose research seeks to expose mechanisms of structural inequality and promote economic, political, and social justice. Peer reviewed! Accepting submissions year-round! What more could you ask?

This coming Wednesday (February 14), Hila Shamir will kick off LPE@HLS’s series on Supply Chain Capitalism: Legal Regimes and Worker Power with her talk, “A New Labor Law for Supply Chain Capitalism.” All are welcome to join via livestream.

On Thursday, February 22, The Petrie-Flom Center and LPE@HLS will be hosting a conversation with Tim Schwab about his latest book, The Bill Gates Problem: Reckoning with the Myth of the Good Billionaire. Audiences, both in-person and online, will have the opportunity to join in the discussion.

In a newly published YLJ piece, Karen Tani and Katie Eyer document the critical role of disability cases in laying the groundwork for the Supreme Court’s federalism revolution.

In a new piece in the Cornell Law Review, Gali Racabi argues that Balancing workers’ statutory rights against employers’ interests is, well, for suckers.