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Weekly Roundup: January 27, 2023


At the Blog

On Monday, Veena Dubal explained how recent technological developments are transforming the basic terms of worker compensation. Rather than receive a salary or predictable hourly wage, workers in the on-demand economy are often paid using opaque and constantly fluctuating formulas, allowing firms to personalize and differentiate wages in order to influence worker behavior. These payment schemes violate long-established norms of fairness, undermine economic stability, and make it nearly impossible for workers to predict or understand their compensation. As a result, many workers now experience their jobs as a form of gambling, in which they are being tricked into working longer for less.

On Wednesday, Kathryn Sabbeth, Lauren Sudeall, Jessica Steinberg, & Tonya Brito detailed how, in a wide range of cases, civil courts routinely extract resources from poor, predominately Black communities, and transfer them to white-controlled corporations or to the state itself. For instance, with respect to debt collection, they write, “Civil courts have adopted default judgments as a routine aspect of case handling, in part to address high docket volumes. Yet this practice allows for permanent, enforceable judgments to be issued without any evidence or thorough investigation of the claims… this means that a person may lose her sole means of transportation through asset seizure, be subjected to prolonged wage garnishment, or be thrown out of her home on the basis of unverified, meritless allegations of which she had no notice and for which the court required no proof. The courts’ choice to support such practices provides the powerful debt collection industry with a cheap and easy mechanism for extracting wealth from poor, predominantly Black communities.”

In LPE Land

Over at Balkinization, David Pozen offered an analysis of why “the center of gravity on the academic legal left has moved away from blogs like Balkinization and organizations like the American Constitution Society in the direction of the Law and Political Economy Project and affiliated groups.” Worth reading in full, but the following lines struck as exceedingly well put: “Balkinization’s contributors are proficient in the normal science of constitutional analysis. To a degree that now seems ‘puzzling,’ if not scandalous, that normal science has had almost nothing to say for decades about the operations of capitalism, much less about runaway inequality, election denialism, environmental degradation, and other existential threats to the republic.” As Anton Chigurh might have said, if your constitutional analysis brought you to this, of what use was your analysis?

Will you be a rising second- and third-year law students from a New York City law school this summer? If so, we invite you to apply to a Summer Academy on Law & Organizing to be held this May in upstate New York. Application deadline: March 1.

The inimitable Tim Barker on the question we’re all asking: Is Easy Money an Engine of Inequality?

An interesting piece in Noema on the rise of “the designer economy.” Is this what lies “beyond neoliberalism“?

In Chartbook #187 (but #1 in our heart), Adam Tooze discussed MLK’s economic radicalism & the strange birth of the Fed’s dual mandate, with a hat tip to work by David Stein and Lev Menand.

Over at Notice & Comment, they have been running a symposium on Morgan Ricks, Ganesh Sitaraman, Shelley Welton, and Lev Menand’s “Networks, Platforms, and Utilities: Law and Policy.”