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Weekly Roundup: June 18 (Juneteenth), 2020


Happy Juneteenth, everybody. See y’all in the streets.

Look, we’re doing our second weekly roundup in a row! Surely this will last forever.

This week at the blog:

Brian Highsmith (returning LPE champion) explored the promise of and barriers to restructuring state budgets in this abolitionist moment.

Amna Akbar reflected on the abolitionist moment at the New York Review of Books, and we cross-posted.

We announced an exciting event–the second in our summer video series–on how law constructs (and might deconstruct) geographic inequality, featuring Team Vanderbilt: Ganesh Sitaraman, Morgan Ricks, and Christopher Serkin. Sign up to join us!
And here’s some oases we’ve been relishing elsewhere in the vast wasteland of the WorldWide Web:

Anna Wherry:

Sunaura Taylor writes in The Boston Review, on the imbrication of human and non-human animals and how and how we must think of public health and environmental protection as problems to be addressed together. In the early twentieth century, environmental health, public health, and occupational health were considered to be one discipline; separating these into discret fields has had implications for the working class and poor. Taylor challenges the U.S.’s approach to the pandemic that denies connections and interdependencies and pushes us to “rethink the separation of human health from the health of our environments and social welfare systems.” 

Julia Marcus and Gregg Gonsalves explain in the Atlantic why it’s imperative that public health experts support Black Lives Matter protests. Gonsalves offers protesters some specific lessons from the ACT UP era in his interview with New York Magazine

The Marshall Project on why fears that child abuse might be secretly rising during the pandemic could lead to further policing of communities of color.

Outside my beat, but…

Paris Marx in Jacobin proposes using the current crisis in public transit to nationalize and redirect resources away from air toward rail and bus.

Atiya Husain argues that international counterterror and counterinsurgency campaigns should be washed away in the abolitionist wave.

Caroline Parker:

Amidst proposals to transfer police authority and funding elsewhere, Dorothy Roberts warns against reforms that would redirect power to health and human services agencies. Like the criminal legal system, the “foster industrial complex” functions to “regulate millions of marginalized people through intrusive investigations, monitoring and forcible removal of children.” Reforms that would grow CPS trade one set of carceral institutions for another. 

ProPublica reports on the separation of Native American mothers from their newborns under targeted zipcode-based screening policy for COVID-19. For tribal advocates, this policy evokes a long history of Native American child removals justified by pretextual concerns about child safety.

During the last few weeks, many “big green” organizations have reckoned publicly with the history of white supremacy in mainstream environmentalism and released statements of solidarity. For a deeper dive into this history, check this 2015 article by LPE’s own Jed Purdy on the racist roots of the conservation movement.

Essayists Mary Annaïse Heglar (@MaryHeglar) and Amy Westervelt’s (@amywestervelt) write funny, poignant, and terrifying things about the climate crisis. Their weekly Hot Takes digest, which usually requires a subscription, is free this week.

Luke Herrine:

If you have any interest in monetary policy–or curiosity about how much of the federal response to the economic crisis brought on by COVID has been carried out by the Fed–you must already be reading friend-of-the-blog Nathan Tankus’s Substack religiously. To get a sense of his sharpness, check out his fisking of eminent banking law professor Frank Partnoy’s article arguing that we may be facing a looming crisis of securitized corporate debt in The Atlantic. After Partnoy responded on Twitter, Nathan followed up.

Nathan also wrote a well-argued and provocative piece in the American Prospect this week–which has been running an excellent series on COVID policy response, by the way–about how riots produce good economic policy by instilling fear into economic policy makers. We almost got him to post it here at The Blog. Better luck next time!

Speaking of The Blog, former Fearless Leader (whose huge shoes I currently try to fill) Kate Reburn just published an elegant piece explaining the importance of the Bostock decision over at Jacobin. Kate has also promised us some exclusive Bostock-related Blog content!

Over at our semi-rivalrous (and relatively autonomous) sibling blog, Legal Form, August Nimtz asks why there is no police brutality in Cuba and what that says about the comparative civil liberties records of the US and its tenacious Communist neighbor.


Exclusive dealing agreements are a way dominant firms restrain less dominant firms in a variety of business activities: buying from other sellers, selling to particular buyers, charging a different price for certain products or services, and even the way the business itself is run (opening hours, branding, what workers are paid, etc.). 

Often used by powerful franchisors like McDonald’s or Quiznos on less powerful franchisees, a growing body of work has raised awareness of both the harm these agreements pose to workers (especially those classed as independent contractors) and small businesses, and the ways antitrust law has historically (and still could) redress this imbalance of power.

In “Antitrust, the Gig Economy, and Labor Market Power,” economist Marshall Steinbaum discusses how by muddling the legal boundaries of the firm, exclusive dealing arrangements weaken the protections afforded by labor law to workers while also leaving workers who seek to organize themselves more susceptible to antitrust violations.

Brian Callaci of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth explores the legal creation of franchising, noting that business form franchising as we know it today would not exist were it not for political pressures on the Small Business Administration to provide cheap financing to cookie-cutter franchisees and a loosening of per se illegality of vertical restraints by the Supreme Court (under the growing influence of Chicago School doctrine).

Finally, ever wonder why antitrust law is hostile to proto-unions of local piano tuners, but perfectly happy to let giant pharmaceutical companies merge into a giant behemoth? Sanjukta Paul plumbs the history of antitrust law in the formative era (as in James May’s classic study) and beyond to revive the idea that antitrust law primarily serves to allocate economic coordination rights. Recently called the “Ronald Coase of our time” by an esteemed colleague, Paul’s work is a must-read for understanding the LPE horizon of antitrust law.

Isabel Echarte:

Because government budgets and funding priorities have come under intense scrutiny as activists demand that officials #DefundthePolice, I was reading up on state and local budgets. Amna Akbar’s piece in the NYRB (which we posted about earlier but which deserves another mention) outlines how decades of activism and organizing have put prison abolition on the “horizon” while drawing attention to the disproportionate share of local budgets dedicated to policing. 

But beyond learning how the spending of local dollars became politicized, I wanted to read up on how that revenue is raised. Last month, Andrew Kahrl wrote about how some municipalities have used property taxes sales and tax lien foreclosures to target low income communities and communities of color: he says, “Thurgood Marshall characterized tax sales as a form of racialized plunder, which he lamented, ‘is almost completely within the letter of the law.’” Many cities will sell delinquent taxes in bulk to debt buyers who can often collect exorbitant interest rates, as high as 50 percent, and foreclosure on homes when the owner is just a couple hundred dollars behind on taxes. 

And in 2015, Walter Johnson traced how Ferguson, Missouri came to rely “on its cops and its courts to extract millions in fines and fees from its poorest residents. These readings also made me think about Ruth Wilson Gilmore’s classic Golden Gulag–which points to the California budget’s (right wing) politicization as one reason behind the development of the carceral state. And to close with a small nugget of something hopeful: check out how the Federal Reserve can solve all state and local governments’ budget woes. If it wanted to (yes, there is a magic button that can solve all our financial woes).