LPE on COVID-19 (vol. 5)


Valeria Vital, an ER tech, holds a sign during a protest by medical professionals working for Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, Calif., and their supporters on March 23, 2020. Photo (via The Intercept): Carlos Avila Gonzalez/San Francisco Chronicle via Polaris


Dear Readers, 

Today we’re bringing you a special Saturday edition of our ongoing covid-19 series.

Take care,

LPE Blog


Your first stop after reading this post should be here, to listen to Amy Kapczynski and Gregg Gonsalves on The Dig podcast. They talk about how to survive this plague – the politics of public health and what we can learn from ACT UP.

Over at Demos, Sabeel Rahman posted this analysis of the pandemic as a crisis of racial capitalism. (Racial capitalism is one of our analytical keystones here at LPE – you can read more about it on the blog.) The post comes from a longer report, available here, that makes clear how the crisis “is revealing the deeper inequities for Black and brown people that have always been present in our economy and democracy but that are often papered over in ordinary times.”

This week Mehrsa Baradaran also posted a reporton financial inclusion and building an equitable financial system in the wake of COVID-19:

As part of Congress’s financial stimulus response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the CARES Act included $1,200 stimulus checks to all qualifying Americans—but there was no clear plan for delivering these checks to unbanked and underbanked Americans. Unfortunately, financial inclusion—access to payment systems, credit products, and financial services of all kinds—is an afterthought in politics and policymaking debates, but it’s wholly necessary to build an equitable economy.

Along with Julius Krein, and E. Glen Weyl, Ganesh Sitaraman suggested this week that the US create a war production board to ramp up “production, coordination, and deployment” of COVID-19 testing.

As cities and states report desperate shortfalls, Robert Hockett is promoting ‘Community QE,” to give them a lifeline. You can read about it in these two forbes posts, and in his longer piece up on SSRN.

In case you’re left wanting more, a few recommendations from around the internet:

First, LPE folks can learn a lot from this op-ed by Melissa L. St. Hilaire, a domestic worker in Florida who was fired when the pandemic hit. Next, the Boston Review has been publishing a wave of great pieces on class and inequality in the crisis – in no particular order, here’s one on the politics of disposability, another about a Brazilian town building a successful solidarity economy, and a look at the figure of the welfare queen in policy debates about COVID relief.





LPE on COVID-19 (vol. 4)



Valeria Vital, an ER tech, holds a sign during a protest by medical professionals working for Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, Calif., and their supporters on March 23, 2020. Photo (via The Intercept): Carlos Avila Gonzalez/San Francisco Chronicle via Polaris

Dear Readers, 


As part of our ongoing coverage of the COVID-19 crisis from an LPE perspective, we bring you a round-up of recent work from our LPE community. We’re aiming to make these a (semi) regular feature of the blog throughout the crisis. Above all, we hope you are as well as can be expected. 

Take care,

LPE Blog

Last week, Amy Kapczynski and Gregg Gonsalves appeared on Democracy Now, where they talked about the ways market logic has created a woefully insufficient American healthcare system, and what kind of policies could build an alternative.

They also have another installment in their work on COVID-19 up at Boston Review- this one is called Markets vs. Lives – beating back the wave of hot takes suggesting that we ignore the epidemiologists in order to serve “the economy.”

“What is happening today has no analogue in mainstream economic analysis: a rapid retraction of our paid economy, and a vast expansion of the kind of unpaid work that has never been properly valued. We are doing it for deeply human reasons, with the best evidence we have at the moment: to save the lives of people we know, perhaps even our own, and to protect our health care system”

You can also follow the work they are doing to improve our response to COVID-19 as part of the Global Health Justice Partnership.

Up recently at The Guardian, Veena Dubal draws attention the choice facing Uber and Lyft drivers in the crisis: risk contracting the disease, or starve. She also appeared on NPR this week to discuss coronavirus and the gig economy.

Brishen Rogers is also writing about the future of labor, as in this Boston Review piece imagining work post-coronavirus:

“COVID-19 has exposed the fragility of our labor markets just as much as the fragility of our public health and welfare systems. As we take the economy out of its induced coma, we should ask what kinds of jobs we want and need.”

At Jacobin, Jedidiah Purdy-Britton writes that “the only treatment for coronavirus is solidarity.”

Mehrsa Baradaran explains how the CARES act fails to help those who need it most, and offered reflections on the crisis at The American Prospect. She recommends that LPE readers check out this symposium at Just Money, featuring many LPE Blog contributors.

Following the money and finance trail, on Wednesday, Saule Omarova posted on Just Money about Money in the time of Coronavirus,  calling for a contemporary analog to the New Deal-era Reconstruction Finance Corporation. She has also posted a memo on SSRN – “Why We Need a National Investment Authority.” 

In the absence of a permanent institution specializing in capital allocation and management, the American public is forced to rely on ad hoc crisis-containment measures that are notoriously politicized, messy, and prone to corrupt influence by private interests. The task of national economic mobilization falls mainly on the U.S. Treasury and the Federal Reserve, whose modus operandi relies heavily on direct injections of public funds into—i.e., bailouts of—financial institutions and other private firms. As the 2008 experience shows, however, bailouts are difficult to execute without reinforcing the economically and politically damaging pattern of “privatizing gains and socializing losses.” Having a permanent federal agency with the authority and expertise to manage emergency bailouts would help to ensure that this process is handled in a transparent, democratically accountable, economically efficient, and distributionally just manner.

Robert Hockett has also been working to promote his Treasury Dollar plan, here on LPE Blog, and in a variety of other places. You can read the text of his proposed bill here, and further commentary in these two pieces at Forbes, and these two pieces on the democratic digital dollar at the Harvard Business Law Review and Stanford Journal of Blockchain Law and Policy.   Also this (paywalled) Wall Street Journal op-ed.

Finally, Lev Menand and Ganesh Sitaraman have a summary of lessons we should learn form the Great Recession in the face of another massive economic contraction.





Slumlord Capitalism v. Global Pandemic : LPE on Covid (vol 3)

As part of our ongoing effort to bring you the best LPE work on COVID-19, today we bring you this piece from John Whitlow, followed by a roundup of LPE COVID writing published elsewhere. 

John Whitlow –

The poet Langston Hughes once wrote, “I wish the rent was heaven sent.” With a record 10 million Americans filing for unemployment benefits in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Hughes’ words resonate now more than ever. As we hurtle toward a public health and economic catastrophe, we must reckon with the sobering fact that our federal government is helmed by landlords, real estate developers, and financiers whose fortunes have been made – and whose worldview has been shaped – by years of predatory and extractive business practices. These practices prefigured the federal response to the pandemic and overdetermine the nature of the state-led economic rescue that is already underway.

Jared Kushner is widely regarded as the Trump administration’s behind-the-scenes point person on the coronavirus. Kushner, like Trump, inherited his family’s real estate holdings, updated the business model and expanded its geographical footprint. A New York Times expose from 2017 sheds light on the day-to-day workings of Kushner’s properties in the Baltimore area, where tenants live amidst chronically poor conditions and are subjected to a relentless pattern of petty and meritless litigation. In New York City, Kushner’s residential real estate portfolio has benefited from generous tax incentives and exploited loopholes in the state’s rent laws to remove units from regulation, in the process converting affordable apartments to luxury goods.The extraction of value that is at the core of Kushner’s business model is based on the multiplication of rents-debts and the intensification of inequalities.

The business practices of Kushner – like those of the real estate industry more broadly – are emblematic of the shifting relationship between the state and the market economy over the past four decades. Beginning in the 1970s, after years of intellectual mobilization by right-leaning economists, neoliberal policies began to take hold in the US and Western Europe. The redistributive functions of the state, established during the New Deal and expanded during the Great Society, were whittled down to a nub, resulting in a tattered safety net and exploding inequalities. At roughly the same time, capital began to move more freely across borders, and once-vibrant economic centers saw massive losses of stable, relatively high paying industrial jobs.

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Dear Readers,

We’re living in strange times. As we try to make sense of the moment, LPE Blog wants to offer some COVID 19 coverage from our regular contributors. We’re starting today with some work that Amy Kapczynski has done with various colleagues.

To our LPE community, please send us links to your own educational and mutual aid efforts at managingeditor@lpeblog.org for these posts.

Above all, we hope you are well.

-LPE Blog

  • Five Ways public health officials should respond to coronavirus in the Philadelphia Inquirer, by Scott Burris, Amy Kapczynski, and Albert Ko.
    • Sneak peak: “Firstly, measures like contact tracing and quarantine will not work unless they are used in accordance with the law and accompanied by comprehensive social support measures and protections. Voluntary self-isolation measures are more likely to induce cooperation and protect public trust than coercive measures. If people expect hardship, they will avoid public health officials or not honestly report their contacts. Mandatory quarantine, regional lockdowns, and travel bans are difficult to implement, have large societal and economic costs, and disproportionately affect the most vulnerable. They should only be used if they are necessary, the least restrictive means needed to protect public health, justified by scientific evidence, and accompanied by strong support and legal protections.”
  • Alone Against the Virus in Boston Review, by Amy Kapczynski and Gregg Gonsalves.
    • Sneak peak: “Though we’ve had months to prepare, we have yet to reckon with the extraordinary risks that a pandemic like this poses in a country like ours. Those hardest hit will be the most vulnerable—the elderly and those with chronic diseases, particularly those in nursing homes, crowded homeless shelters, and prisons. We have no natural immunity to this new virus, and there is no vaccine. It will spread unchecked, from human to human and across our social gradients, unless we create social immunity, woven of the ways we interact and care for one another. But what kind of social immunity can we build in a body politic that has been ravaged for decades by neoliberal policies?”
  • Coronavirus and the Politics of Care here at LPE Blog, by Amy Kapczynski
  • This open letter by hundreds of public health experts on a fair and effective COVID 19 response.

Friday Roundup…

…on Thursday! Because time is just a social construct, man.

Plenty of action on the blog since we last rounded up.

We hosted symposia on money bail reform, on interdisciplinary methods in political economy, on Ganesh Sitaraman and Anne Alstott’s book on public options, and on Daniel Markovits’s book on meritocracy and inequality.

Amy Kapczynski also situated the law and political economy of care in the context of the accelerating global pandemic.


The Case for Universal Labor and Employment Rights

This week we’re featuring two discussions of Anne Alstott & Ganesh Sitaraman’s The Public Option:

Amanda Jaret & Sandeep Vaheesan – 

Working people in the United States are fragmented by race, gender, ethnicity, religion, and status. We are also stratified by the law itself—specifically the extent to which we are entitled to labor and employment rights. Some workers have the right to take a new job when and where they want, to organize their workplaces, and to earn overtime pay. Others, due to their income, occupation, or location, have none of these rights. We live in a society in which, all too often, decent working conditions are treated as special dispensations, not fundamental rights.

Labor used to look different. In The Public Option: How to Expand Freedom, Increase Opportunity, and Promote Equality, Ganesh Sitaraman and Anne L. Alstott identify the Treaty of Detroit as the milestone in the development of more equitable political economy at midcentury. The Treaty of Detroit – a monumental 1950 agreement between the United Auto Workers and General Motors – established the postwar suite of workplace protections and employer-sponsored health and retirement benefits that would define unionized workplaces for most of the next three decades. Sitaraman and Alstott argue that the Treaty of Detroit stalled the development of what they term “public options” for, among other things, health care, childcare, and retirement benefits.

We wish to provide some additional context for the intertwined historical and legal developments that produced and perpetuated the postwar settlement. We agree that expanding public options is a worthy goal and share Sitaraman and Alstott’s skepticism about both the viability and desirability of reviving the Treaty of Detroit. However, the transformative social vision Sitaraman and Alstott articulate will neither be achievable nor effective without the enactment of basic labor and employment rights for all workers. Universal rights would foster broad solidarity among working people—a precondition for establishing and sustaining public provisioning of an array of goods and services and for preventing public options from merely entrenching existing inequalities.

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LPE at RebLaw!

If you’re at (or on your way to) RebLaw, you should definitely go to the two events hosted by LPE student groups on Saturday! To wit,

10:15 a.m. in Room 129: “Reclaiming Our Legal Education: Alternatives By and For Progressive Law Students” (a panel featuring current law students and practitioners)

12:00 p.m. in Room 127: “Bringing LPE to Your Campus” (a breakout group for students interested in creating a home for LPE on their campus)


Friday Roundup

We’re sure at least a couple links in this long list of LPE-related content will garner a click:

Happy reading/listening!

Welcome JustMoney.org!

just moneyLPE is thrilled to welcome JustMoney.org into the LPE ecosystem, and to share this message from the Just Money team: The website aims to provide a platform for exploration of money and credit as matters of design.  We  approach them and their larger architecture as legal institutions that are crucial dimensions of governance in modern societies.

JustMoney.org will serve a number of functions, including a feed of scholarship posts (abstracts and links to recent publications and working papers); roundtables (invited exchanges among commentators on breaking or critical topics like banking and money creation, virtual currencies, race and the monetary architecture, and the debate over funding the Green New Deal); policy spotlights (short, student-authored columns about current policy ideas), teaching and resources (an archive of syllabi, course materials, other teaching materials), and announcements (event notices, CFPs, job postings, and similar items).

We invite you to browse the site.  We would be happy to post relevant syllabi and course materials – just send them, along with comments, questions, and ideas to editor@justmoney.org.   Please spread the word, by tweet or traditional media – we’d like the website to serve a broad community!  Note that each post on our JustMoney.org website has a Twitter icon at the bottom that you can select to retweet the post on your own Twitter feed, a great way of getting the word out. You can also visit and follow our @justmoneyorg Twitter feed. If you know people that would like to subscribe to receive email updates from JustMoney.org, please refer them to our signup form.

Just Money will also host a conference on Money as a Democratic Medium in December 2020. From the organizers: A bit more than a year ago, many of us gathered at the Conference on Money as a Democratic Medium.  We aimed at a territory that is critical to political communities:  the design of money and credit, understood as collective projects that configure much of material life and political power, along with economic norms, social practices, and conceptual space.  The Conference began a conversation that many participants wanted to continue and expand.

Monday Roundup

We’ve been so chock full of posts that we haven’t had the time to round them up! Since our last round up, we’ve hosted two symposia:

The LPE in Europe Symposium, with

Ioannis Kampouraksis’s introductory meditation on what might travel the trans-Atlantic wire,

Federico Fornasari’s consideration of the relationship between environmentalism and European corporate law,

and Laura Dominique Knöpfel’s analysis of the way that global value chains have destabilized accountability mechanisms for European corporations.


The Care Work Symposium, with

Irene Jor’s account of why and how the National Domestic Worker’s Alliance builds power,

Eileen Boris’s exploration of the relationship between domestic/care work and environmentalism,

Robyn Rodriguez’s contextualization of domestic work and care work in a global racial capitalism framework,

Allison Hoffman’s discussion of the necessity for a policy for long-term care in the United States,

and Noah Zatz’s call for big structural reform of the political economy of care work economy.


In addition, we featured posts from:

Sarah Quinn on the way that social problems become financial problems through credit policy,

Joseph Fishkin on the bad arguments against access to medical care as a basic right,

Frank Pasquale on the shift to structural concerns in the “second wave of algorithmic accountability”,

and Tendayi Achiume on reconceptualizing migration as part of the project of decolonization.
In this coming week, we will round out our LPE in Europe symposium. Next week we will begin a new symposium on global value chains. Stay tuned to find out if we will also be able to shimmy in another round up before the new year.