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Weekly Roundup: July, 2020


This week at the blog…

we began a symposium on the legal representation of poor people, part of our ongoing conversations of LPE praxis.

Helen Hershkoff and Stephen Loffredo kicked off the symposium by explaining why they wrote their manual for providing legal services for people with low incomes and how they understand the sort of legal practice a manual ought to call forth.

John Whitlow reflected on the vital role of attorneys for low-income people but the contradictions that come with the role service provision within an oppressive system.

Julia Hernandez argued for the necessity of radical self-education, humility, and willingness to be a thorn in the side of non-profit organizations that serve to reproduce oppression.

The discussion will continue next week, so stay tuned!


And here’s the treasure we’ve dug from elsewhere on the internet:

Sarang Shah:

It looks like postal banking is once again in the news this week. A fine idea that! Friend of LPE, and featured speaker at this week’s LPE summer series (register at the link!), Mehrsa Baradaran takes us through the virtues of postal banking, including redressing racial and income inequality, in this essay at the Harvard Law Review Forum.

Relatedly, why not just institute accounts at the Federal Reserve? Lev Menand, John Crawford, and Morgan Ricks have written a brief, persuasive argument for why Fed Accounts are easy, just, and dare I say, even fun.

Did you know that the US federal government regularly assesses prices and competitive injuries? I certainly didn’t! (h/t Sandeep Vaheesan) As just one example, the US International Trade Commission maintains this database of import injury determinations that makes for an endless supply of evening readings to go alongside your nightcap, plush reading chair, and cozy fireplace. I’ve been trying to develop a heuristic framework for how one can determine whether a practice ought to be fair or unfair given the founding principles of antitrust law. If, as Duncan Kennedy once put it, “competition is legalized injury,” I have a feeling this database will help with thinking through such a tort law-like heuristic.

Finally, Ron Knox of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance has written a great piece in Slate about consolidation in the beer industry, the use of anticompetitive exclusive dealing arrangements among the two duopolistic distributors, and how it harms independent craft brewers, consumers, and even American democracy.

Anna Wherry:

It’s baffling how, during a pandemic, hospitals are finding themselves in the red and laying off workers. Adam Gaffney’s article in the Baffler explains why. The article provides a brief history of hospital financing and capitalism in the United States (tldr: we went from something called “per diem” rates to diagnostic related groups, or DRGs–a concept invented by Yale researchers–in the 80s to try to increase competition, cut the length of hospital stays, and keep down costs.) But–*surprise*–hospitals operating under a logic of neoliberal capitalism exploited DRGs to maximize profit. DRGs also meant that patients who choose elective procedures are profitable for hospitals while those who need drug treatment or primary care are not. This system of financing leaves hospitals in the lurch when elective procedures are eliminated during a pandemic. It also creates inequalities between hospitals. These inequalities are, in turn, impacting COVID outcomes, as this recent article in the NYTimes reveals. Gaffney, who is the president of Physicians for a National Health Program, offers a solution: “we must move forward to full public financing of hospitals, not as commodity-producing factories, but as social institutions, with guaranteed annual global budgets that could be used for the care of hospitalized patients and the provision of community care services alike.” 

In North Carolina, one of thirteen states that refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, organizers with Down Home are making headway in their campaign to reverse this decision. Organizers attribute their success in part to how the pandemic has opened people’s eyes to the need for insurance not attached to employers as many residents in the state have lost jobs. 

Not on my beat (I can’t help myself), but this podcast episode on a popular diversion program in San Francisco caught my attention. I worked for a summer at a federal defenders office and had the chance to observe a diversion program for young defendants. Although the programs are undeniably better than incarceration–people aren’t, at the very least, locked in cages and separated from their networks of support–the programs often stretch on for years, make questionable demands of their participants, and deny procedural rights and guarantees in the name of “non-punitive” justice. This podcast implies that as we continue conversations on defunding the police we should continue to be aware of other institutions that have policing functions.

Caroline Parker:

On Monday, a federal judge ordered the Dakota Access Pipeline shut down for good, ending a legal and political battle that began more than four years ago. The DAPL story is a case study in the relationship between law and organizing in the era of climate change. In this article/post following the 2016 resolution of the Keystone XL case, Ted Hamilton (of Climate Defense Project) discusses what that seven-year battle revealed about the role of litigation in the climate movement. The two pipeline cases aren’t identical, but his reflections on tactical delay and politics resonate today.

I was delighted to encounter this piece from Astra and Sunaura Taylor asking why leftists haven’t organized in opposition to the meat industry. Like oil&gas, industrial animal agriculture is so terrible for workers, animals, human health, and the climate–it seems obvious that the left should be unified in opposition.  If you’re as into this argument as I am, you can hear more on Astra’s interview with the Hot & Bothered podcast in April.

Luke Herrine:

Maybe you saw the video of the “Trader Joe’s Woman” freaking out for being told to wear a mask (one of many such circulating the Twitterdome)? You didn’t? Well, then you’re like me. I didn’t watch it because I thought I knew everything I needed to know about it from the description. Turns out not. Tressie McMillan Cottom wrote a deft essay on how that video illustrates the way the anxiety that comes with constant lockdown, heightened saliency of death, and ongoing institutional failure interacts with the anxiety of downward mobility and how *that* interacts with the racial character of class mobility in the United States. Her analysis of the importance of consumption-based status clinging to this dynamic is especially profound.

Another great essay that ties many things together (like that transition??) is this recent scholarly article by Erin Lockwood on the “International Political Economy of Global Inequality.” Given the title, readers of this blog are contractually obligated to click and read, of course.