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Weekly Roundup: June 14


At the Blog

On Monday, Ethan Ris continued our series on the LPE of higher ed by arguing that elites place far too much importance on “Ivy Plus” schools. In the early 20th-century, there was a concerted effort by education reformers to restrict access to college – concentrating the privileges of higher education in a handful of elite institutions, while relegating most students to technical or junior colleges. Fortunately, however, this crusade failed, as flagship public institutions grew dramatically over the following decades. As a result, today, public R1s enroll 2.5 million undergraduates, while private R1s enroll just 330,000. Moreover, these public institutions remain surprisingly accessible, often accepting more than 75% of their applicants and charging around $10,000 per year in tuition for in-state residents. While administrators, journalists, and wealthy parents will continue to obsess over the top of the college rankings, the rest of us should focus our attention on the institutions responsible for educating the country.

On Tuesday, Greta Krippner continued our series on the LPE of insurance by looking at the puzzling persistence of legally-sanctioned gender discrimination in insurance markets. This persistence, Krippner argues, is explained by the fact that gender is embedded in the tools used to price risk, which is itself due to the legacies of mutualism that have long shaped the evolution of insurance as a social institution. For instance, the most foundational pricing tool is “class-based pricing,” in which insurers attach risks to groups, not individuals. Individuals who belong to a given risk class are believed to have the same exposure to accident, illness, or death, and risks are then socialized within these groups. Because gender as a classifier neatly divides the population into two approximately equal groups, it efficiently populates the cells of the actuarial table. Racial classifications, by contrast, do not comprise equal segments of the population, and hence offer insurers a much less useful predictor of risk. It is telling that such classifications were unilaterally eliminated by insurers when subject to civil rights challenge in the 1950s, while similar challenges have failed to dislodge the use of gender.

And on Thursday, Grace Li explained how the state relies on informal and formal associations in prisons – such as affinity groups, peer education groups, and other collectivities – to extract labor from incarcerated people, while also relying them as additional avenues of coercion and control. As she writes, “When it comes to associations, the state is not only regulating the market for incarcerated consumers but is itself in the market for associations’ services, or indirectly benefits from them. In conjunction with the for-profit vendors it contracts with formally, it demands and uses, without pay, the services that associations of incarcerated people conceive of and provide. In return, the state allows the associations to operate.”

In LPE Land

Save the date: on June 25th at 8pm ET, we’ll be holding the final session of What To Do About the Courts. In the session, led by Astra Taylor and Sabeel Rahman, we’ll talk about how we mobilize people to reclaim our democracy from the courts.

Cool job alert: the Roosevelt Institute is looking for a Director of Democratic Institutions.

The Yale Journal of International Law has published a new set of feature essays on Third World Approaches to International Law & Economic Sanctions, featuring pieces by Aslı Bâli, Ntina Tzouvala, Chisato Kimura, Vasuki Nesiah, Nathanael Tilahun, and Obiora Okafor.

Ashraf Ahmed, Lev Menand, and Noah Rosenblum have a hot new article in the Harvard Law Review, “The Making of Presidential Administration,” which “highlights the emergence of a neoliberal consensus around aspects of economic regulation that incentivized and buttressed presidential administration as an approach to administrative governance.”

In Project Syndicate, Quinn Slobodian explains How Techno-Libertarians Fell in Love with Big Government.

And over at the Sling, Hal Singer explains why abandoning the consumer welfare standard does not mean abandoning consumers.