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Weekly Roundup: September 9, 2022


At the Blog

On Monday, Beth Popp Berman kicked off a symposium on her recent book, Thinking like an Economist. In contrast to other histories of neoliberalism, which emphasize the rise of the economic right, Berman argues that the call was coming from inside the house: it was centrist, technocratic Democrats who advocated for evaluating policies on the basis of their cost-effectiveness and ensconced the economic style in the policymaking process. As this new style of reasoning spread, the Democratic Party abandoned universal programs – such as national health insurance and investment in public housing – for more efficient solutions, such as means-tested, cost-sharing health care programs and housing programs that provided vouchers to low-income families. We live with the consequences.

On Tuesday, Marshall Steinbaum argued that, perhaps surprisingly, the story told in Thinking like an Economist is one that adherents of the economic style would prefer us to believe. Revisiting the history of antitrust and deregulation, Steinbaum suggests that it is misleading to cast the central debates as between moral or political commitments on the one hand (e.g., universalism or equality) and a solely ‘economic’ calculus on the other. In each case, there were alternative economic theories – views that we are only now beginning to rehabilitate – that the “economic style” ultimately supplanted. To cede the framing of this debate, he writes, “lets those responsible for inflicting the economic style upon us off the hook and leaves their claims intact on their own terms.”

On Thursday, Kate Redburn explained how the libertarian and Christian wings of the conservative legal movement are working together to reorder our society along private, religious lines. Examining the Court’s recent Free Exercise decisions – in which the Court has mandated that state funds cannot be withheld from private religious charities or schools – Redburn identifies a two-step process by which the conservative legal movement is shifting public resources to private religious power: “The first step, which has been much remarked upon by LPE scholars, is to privatize public goods and services. The second step is to eliminate the distinction between religious and secular in the newly empowered private sphere. In Polanyian terms, their objective is to replace the New Deal settlement not with a libertarian vision of market freedom, but rather an arrangement in which the market is embedded in a conservative Christian social vision.”

In LPE Land

On Friday, Sept. 16, join us for the next iteration of our LPE 101 series with Professor Talha Syed (UC Berkeley) discussing an LPE approach to Torts!

Over at Phenomenal World, Luke Herrine gives you two-for-the-price-of-one, reviewing both Berman’s Thinking Like an Economist and Paul Sabin’s Public Citizens. Come for the even-handed and insightful review, stay for the call to action: “A form of expertise worthy of a left-liberal coalition that could move us past neoliberalism must be one that does not hold itself apart from base-building organizations or from political calculation. It must be one that breaks down subject-area silos that press for narrow specialized reforms and instead aims to find ways to build power and agendas that combine multiple issues into a mutually agreeable vision.” Sounds like a job for the prince that was promised.

The Political Economy Program at the University of California, Berkeley is hiring a tenure-track assistant professor for a position 50% in Political Economy and 50% in a related discipline such as Economics, History, Sociology, Anthropology, Political Science, or Business.

Professors Paul Ohm and Julie Cohen of the Georgetown University Law Center are hiring a Senior Institute Associate to help them lead a multi-year research project entitled “Redesigning the Governance Stack: New Institutional Approaches to Information Economy Harms.”

We tip our hat to the Michigan Journal of Law & Society, which recently published its first volume. Check it out!