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Weekly Roundup: July 24, 2020


This week at the blog…

Ivana Isailović analyzed the political struggles over working from home through the lenses of social reproduction and workers’ control over their time, comparing policy responses in France and the U.S.


Katharine Jackson argued that LPE should borrow some analytical tools from political theory to separate out different ways of thinking about the value of democratizing control over different parts of social life.


Elsewhere on the internet…

Luke Herrine: Some big news in the progressive antitrust world came out this week. Bloomberg reported that Fiona Scott Morton, economics professor at the Yale School of Management, widely feted for her critical-but-still-mainstream takes on the current non-enforcement regime, and well-connected with the elites of the Democratic party, has been doing a good deal of undisclosed consulting with Amazon (her consulting with Apple had been previously disclosed). Earlier this year, Morton had started the well-endowed “Thurman Arnold Project” to bring together some of the scholars and advocates doing new thinking in antitrust. Soon after the Bloomberg story dropped, Stacy Mitchell, the co-director of the Center for Local Self-Reliance, resigned her fellowship at TAP (to Mitchell’s surprise, the tweet went viral):

Blog contributor Sanjukta Paul announced she had done the same:

Zephyr Teachout has called for Morton to step down:

Whatever happens at TAP, it’s worth highlighting that Sanjukta’s announcement teased a tantalizing detail: she and a few others will be starting a more clearly left anti-monopoly collective in the coming months. Stay tuned!

In more academic news, Erik Peinert published an article in Review of International Political Economy that draws connections between domestic industrial organization policies and global economic/trade regulation, opening up space for exciting conversations on the nature of global political economy, of market and inter-state competition, and the political economy of antitrust. (h/t Nathan Tankus).

Sarang Shah: What is competition? And what makes for a competition wrong? And if competition is legalized injury, what harms do not deserve legal redress? These have been the questions I’ve been mulling over the past week with the help of the following two articles.

First, Nicolas Cornell in a piece recently published in the Yale Law Journal argues that comeptition wrongs may go well  beyond mere violations of legal entitlements. Cornell makes a case for why a violation of public norms in a particular market, much like cheating in a sports game, constitutes a wrong done to other participants in the market. While I take issue with some of the framing, particularly Cornell’s view of competition law as private law much like torts (I would rather call torts public law instead), this paper offers an interesting and constructive approach to thinking through what constitutes competition.

Second, I read an article by legal theorist Joseph William Singer on “The Legal Rights Debate in Analytical Jurisprudence from Bentham to Hohfeld.” In particular, I found the discussion of damnum absque injuria, or the category of harms that are not entitled to legal redress, to be especially relevant to understanding how we may legally characterize competition. After offering a brief but clear introduction to Hohfeld’s celebrated categories of legal categories, Singer reviews the contemporaneous debates and rights-based frameworks  in analytical jurisprudence to which Hohfeld was responding. In short, Singer demonstrates that the question of what constitutes fair competition cannot be answered through a simple analysis of rights and “self-regarding acts,” but instead must address underlying policy reasons in determining when a particular harm does or does not deserve legal redress 

Together, these articles have offered me an initial tasting of what the legal theory underpinning tort law has to offer an understanding of competition, as I look forward to reframing competition and antitrust law on a more secure theoretical foundation.

Anna Wherry: Slightly old news, but still fascinating: Somerville, MA’s city council passed an ordinance at the end of June granting polyamorous groups the right to be recognized as domestic partners and thus receive health insurance benefits and make hospital visits. 

LPE Blog Contributor Sam Moyn’s talk with Jacobin’s Ben Burgis on the problem with human rights. Moyn reviews the history of how human rights came to replace socialism as a dominant political language and argues that human rights, while important, are not enough for achieving a more egalitarian social order.

Tariq El-Gabalawy: The Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA published a recent study focusing on the disparate impact the Corona Virus has had on California’s Latinx communities. As reported by Democracy Now, Latinx Californians between the ages of 50 and 64 have died of Corona Virus at more than five times the rate of white people of the same age. Dr. David Hayes-Bautista attributes the disparity to the fact that “Latino and people of color basically do the scut work that keep the state going, its economy going, but get very little of the resources.” This link has been anecdotally confirmed in a number of cases and exacerbated by employer malfeasance. For example, in Wasco CA employees at Primex Farms, which owns over 5,000 acres of pistachio orchards in the state, are fighting for greater protections after learning nearly 100 fellow farm workers have tested positive for the virus. Employees reported learning about the outbreak from fellow workers and media reports not from Primex, and when sick employees requested time off they were told they could resign instead. 

Last week the Supreme Court continued it’s trend of ignoring state abuses of voting rights by denying an application to vacate a stay issued by the 11th Circuit, this being the case despite clear ethics violations by two Trump appointed justices who refused to recuse themselves despite past involvement in the case while serving on the Florida Supreme Court. The head spinning malarky dates back to a 2018 amendment to Florida’s constitution that restored voting rights to Floridians who had been convicted of a felony. In response to this groundbreaking step towards equal suffrage, Florida Republicans passed legislation requiring ex-felons to pay all court-imposed fines and fees before having their voting rights reinstated, a move that will block between 750,000 and 1.1 million largely indigent Floridians from participating in November’s general election. The law imposes strict criminal consequences on those who cast a ballot without first settling court debts, essentially imposing a poll tax (or a “voter paywall” according to Justice Sotomayor’s dissent of the Court’s order). As the injunction reversed by the 11th Circuit points out, the state passed this law despite having no idea how much ex-felons actually owe due to poor record keeping, making clear their intention to exploit poverty and use criminal law to enact voter suppression. 

My final recommendation provides more context on the police abolition movement. A deeply personal account, I recommend reading because it makes a great case for replacing the police with much needed community services that heal rather than inflict and perpetuate violence. As author Derecka Purnell explains by referencing Michelle Alexander, the idea of living in a world without police is hard to understand because “calling them felt like something, …, and something feels like everything when your other option is nothing.”