Coalminers and Coordination Rights

Coalminers and Coordination Rights

In the two decades before the Hepburn Act’s enactment, two entities vied for the right to coordinate the price and distribution of coal. The first—a group known as the Joint Conference of Miners and Operators of the Central Competitive Field—was the child of the United Mine Workers.The second—a group of coal-hauling railroads known as the Seaboard Coal Association—was the child of J. P. Morgan and the Pennsylvania Railroad. Understanding their struggle for power (and why capitalists rather than workers won), can help us better understand the stakes of antitrust.

Woke Capital?

Woke Capital?

Anti-monopolists are right to worry about the concentrated power of institutional investors, but they are wrong to treat them as all bad. Common ownership presents an opportunity for the left to divide the interests of capitalists.

The Regulatory Roots of Inequality in the U.S.

The Regulatory Roots of Inequality in the U.S.

The surge in US economic inequality since the 1970s was powerfully driven by politics and policy. Firms and individuals actively shaped market governance – from corporate governance to labor regulation – in their own favor and then took advantage of that favorable governance in the marketplace. This “inequality snowball” was particularly pronounced in the United States because firms were more aggressive in their business and political strategies and because the political system delivered more winner-take-all policy outcomes than the more consensual political systems of continental Europe and Japan.

The Case for Making Rent Disappear

The Case for Making Rent Disappear

To understand what’s at stake in the fight for rent cancellation, we first need to understand the significance of rent. In the US, rent is the vehicle for a wealth transfer from the poorest third of the population to a mere 7% of US residents and a relatively small number of corporate entities. The mom-and-pop landlords that make up that 7% face more precarity than their corporate counterparts, underlining the importance of COVID-19 mortgage cancellation. But many tenants live one paycheck away from homelessness, representing a far greater and more vulnerable segment of the population.

Reconstructing the Algebra of Race and Rights

Reconstructing the Algebra of Race and Rights

I follow Patricia Williams, Angela Harris & Aysha Pamukcu, in arguing universal rights, to basic income and other resources, are insufficient but necessary ingredients for justice. Indeed, I argue for permanent, non-discretionary funding of these rights. No one truly knows how much money the U.S. government spends encoding and encasing private property rights, much less private capital’s rights to coordinate or contract. In many ways, these costs are “baked into” society. So, ultimately, should it be for rights to income, healthcare, housing, education, employment for all.

Basic Income and the Freedom to Refuse

Basic Income and the Freedom to Refuse

It would be ironic indeed if a UBI slipped quickly through the fingers of lower-income people of color and into the coffers of jurisdictions most aggressively criminalizing poverty. This would negate UBI’s ability to facilitate work refusal because UBI—devoured by debt—would no longer be available to meet basic needs without a wage (or connection to a wage-earner). Moreover, this negation’s radically unequal racial distribution would mock UBI’s pretensions to universalism. Substantive universality requires more than formal inclusion and nominally equal payments. It requires cash receipts that deliver equal capacity to refuse work.

The Politics of Price Making: Why LPE Needs to Engage with Market Design

The Politics of Price Making: Why LPE Needs to Engage with Market Design

Once we recognize (yet again) that price making cannot be understood in neutral, functionalist terms, efforts to design new markets become impossible to separate from politics and political economy. Viewed in this way, prices are not simply signals or pieces of information that emerge from markets, but also objects of struggle—an insight that one can find in Max Weber’s understanding of markets and prices, in Joan Robinson’s vigorous mid-century critique of mainstream economics, as well as in the work of institutional economists and legal realists, such as John Commons and Robert Lee Hale who viewed prices and price relationships in the context of a broader economy of mutual coercion structured by shifting sets of background entitlements.

What the UK Student Rent Strikes Reveal about Financialization

What the UK Student Rent Strikes Reveal about Financialization

The Bristol Rent Strike, which now has over 1900 students pledging to withhold rent, is one of the many ongoing student strikes across the UK. Over the past few months, students at roughly 20 universities including Manchester, Oxford, and Cambridge have organized mass rent strikes, demanding overall reductions in rent, no-penalty contract releases, and better accommodation conditions. But one significant obstacle stands in their way: Many of these students live in financialized student housing—in buildings owned not by universities but by multi-million-dollar corporations. The financialization of student housing has fundamentally altered the relationship between universities and students and, in so doing, has complicated student resistance against housing injustice.

The Functional Logic of Antitrust: Oligarchy vs. Democracy

The Functional Logic of Antitrust: Oligarchy vs. Democracy

The reinterpretation of antitrust in terms of “consumer welfare” has not resulted in bountiful consumer welfare, but oligarchy unleashed. But, as I wrote in the Journal of Law and Political Economy, antitrust can be a force for fairness and democracy again. A reimagined antitrust law that restricts consolidation of business assets and permits certain forms of coordination among small actors would limit domination and disperse power.

The Capital Commons, Part 2: How Best to Manage Public Capital

The Capital Commons, Part 2: How Best to Manage Public Capital

In Part 1 of this two-part post, I explained that, owing to its endogeneity and consequent vulnerability to what I call Recursive Collective Action Predicaments, monetized public capital must, if it is to be productively rather than merely speculatively deployed, be publicly managed, while privately intermediated capital may be privately managed.I then suggested that public…