Launching 1LPE: A Law and Political Economy Approach to 1L Courses

Isra Syed & Talya Lockman-Fine —

 Many of us came to law school interested in how the law can advance social justice, only to find ourselves disoriented by a 1L curriculum seemingly uninterested (and often hostile) to these questions. We encountered the Coase theorem in torts and Pareto optimality in contracts, but were given no vocabulary to understand the politics underlying these ideas. We were told that matters of economic redistribution were irrelevant to constitutional law, without any rigorous interrogation of why and how this came to be. And we were told that the laws of the market have no bearing on racial and gender equality, despite their tremendous power in ordering modern society.

This experience convinced us that we need other modes of analysis.  For many law students, required core courses – typically including constitutional law, contracts, civil procedure, criminal law, property, and torts – are the first introduction to what the law is and how to understand it. As such, they should be our first entry point into modes of critical analysis of the law in relation to power.

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Sachs & Block on Labor Day

We’re back from our hiatus, and first up, this cross-post from On Labor, about a new blueprint for labor law. Shouldn’t every day be Labor Day?

 

This Labor Day, A Clean Slate for Reform

Benjamin Sachs & Sharon Block —

As divided as we have become as a country, we arrive at this Labor Day with a shared national understanding: both economic and political power are wildly out of balance, with dire consequences for the vast majority of Americans who find themselves on the losing end of this imbalance. Wherever we live, and however we vote, Americans know that both wealth and political influence are now radically concentrated in the hands of a tiny few.

What does economic inequality look like in 2018 America? Here’s an illustration: The average Amazon worker makes about $29,000 per year, while Jeff Bezos, the Amazon CEO, has a net worth of $150 billion. This means it would take an Amazon worker 5 million years, working full time, to earn what Bezos now possesses.

With respect to political inequality, the data is just as stark. Political scientists have shown that the preferences of the vast majority of Americans simply no longer have any impact on what happens in Washington. In fact, when the rich disagree wth the poor and middle class, the path our government takes has nothing to do with what anyone but the rich want.

Why is it important to consider this crisis of inequality on the day we set aside to honor labor?  Because the evisceration of the labor movement is in large measure what got us here, and resuscitating the collective power of workers is what will get us out of this mess.  The more we learn about inequality – both economic and political – the clearer it becomes that the strength of the labor movement is intimately connected with the equality of our nation. Sustain a strong labor movement and you can count on a more equal society. Kill labor and you kill equality.

The question on this Labor Day therefore must be how, in 2018, can we create a new labor movement, one that can unite the interests of a sufficient number of lower and middle income Americans so that they have the power to restore balance to our economy and politics.

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Summer Break

Dear Readers —

 We are taking a few weeks off to accommodate the end of summer holidays and the scramble toward the new semester.  We’ll be back online in mid-September.  Thanks, as ever, for reading.

Best,

The LPE Team.