Category Archives: Inequality

New Article: “Rodrigo’s abstraction: capitalism, inequality, and reform over time and space”

New Article: Steven A. Ramirez, Rodrigo’s abstraction: capitalism, inequality, and reform over time and space, 50 Wake Forest L. Rev. 187 (2015).

Blog Post: “Poor Lives Matter Too”

Here: Bertrall Ross, “Poor Lives Matter Too,” Prawfsblawg, Aug. 25, 2015, http://prawfsblawg.blogs.com/prawfsblawg/2015/08/poor-lives-matter-too-.html#more.

New Article: “Wealth, Inequality, and Democracy”

New Article: Jedediah S. Purdy, Wealth, Inequality, and Democracy, Nomos forthcoming, SSRN 2015.  Abstract below:

The renewed debate over inequality has highlighted a set of deficits in much of the last fifty-plus years of thinking on the topic. The late twentieth-century tradition of thinking about distributive justice largely assumed (1) that market dynamics would produce stable and tolerable levels of inequality; and (2) that a relatively powerful, competent, and legitimate state could effectively redistribute to mitigate what inequality did arise. What was largely overlooked in this thought and has since risen to central attention is the prospect that (1) accelerating levels of market-produced inequality will (2) undermine the legitimacy and efficacy of the state and disable the political community from effectively pursuing distributive justice. This paper explains how the earlier assumptions arose, defined the boundaries of distributive justice for decades, and were undermined by developments from both the political left and the political right. At present, the dynamics of inequality appear to be self-perpetuating and self-accelerating, and much of earlier thinking on the topic has been rendered irrelevant by the erosion of its mistaken premises. Only a democratic effort to reconstitute a competent and legitimate state has any prospect of making inequality a tractable problem subject to effective intervention.

Interesting website: “WealthInequality.org”

Interesting website here: “WealthInequality.org” [an overview of wealth inequality and subcategories of wealth inequality].

New Article: “Wealth, Commonwealth, & the Constitution of Opportunity: A Story of Two Traditions”

New Article: Joseph Fishkin & William E. Forbath, Wealth, Commonwealth, & the Constitution of Opportunity: A Story of Two Traditions, NOMOS forthcoming, SSRN 2015.  Abstract below:

We live in a time of profound and justified anxiety about economic opportunity. The number of Americans facing poverty is growing, opportunities for middle-class livelihoods are shrinking, and economic clout is becoming concentrated at the top to a degree that recalls the last Gilded Age. For reformers throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, economic circumstances like these posed not just an economic, social, or political problem but a constitutional one. A society with a “moneyed aristocracy” or a “ruling class,” these reformers understood, was an oligarchy, not a republic. This understanding was rooted in a constitutional discourse we have largely forgotten — one that this essay suggests we ought to reclaim. From the beginning of the Republic through roughly the New Deal, Americans vividly understood that the guarantees of the Constitution are intertwined with the structure of our economic life. This understanding was the foundation of a powerful constitutional discourse that today, with important but limited exceptions, lies dormant: a discourse of constitutional political economy. A powerful tradition of arguments, from the founding era through the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, sounded in this tradition: arguments that we cannot keep our constitutional democracy — our “republican form of government” — without (a) constitutional restraints against oligarchy, and (b) a political economy that maintains a broad middle class, accessible to everyone. We call this the democracy of opportunity tradition.

Today, when we speak of “equal opportunity” and the Constitution, we usually think of a different tradition, more recognizable today as constitutional law: the inclusionary tradition, which has its roots in Reconstruction and animates arguments that the Constitution requires us to include, on equal terms, those who have previously been excluded from important opportunities on grounds such as race and sex. This essay, forthcoming in the journal NOMOS, tells the story of these two traditions and the relations between them, which have been fraught and often tragic. Generation after generation of white male champions of the older democracy of opportunity tradition refused to include women and racial others. Later, the great triumphs of the inclusionary tradition in the mid-twentieth century — the Civil Rights Revolution, the Great Society — were largely disconnected from the constitution of opportunity tradition. This was for a different reason: The Civil Rights Revolution and Great Society unfolded in an unprecedented moment of broadly shared prosperity; what remained to be done, it seemed, was to open the nation’s abundant middle-class opportunities to black America, women and other excluded “minorities.” Thus, the moment that marked the rebirth and greatest triumphs of the inclusionary tradition also signaled the eclipse of the democracy of opportunity tradition, and more generally of any constitutionalism not centered on the judiciary — an eclipse whose consequences have been far-reaching.

In this essay and in a larger book project, we aim to recover the idea that inequality and unequal opportunity, oligarchy and aristocracy, have a constitutional dimension. In the end, we argue that the inclusionary tradition and the democracy of opportunity tradition can only succeed together and intertwined. Here, we begin to sketch how a revived democracy of opportunity tradition, and a revived discourse of constitutional political economy, might matter both inside and outside the courts.

New Article: “Credit Reporting’s Vicious Cycles”

New Article: Luke Herrine, Credit Reporting’s Vicious Cycles, NYU Rev. L. & Soc. Change forthcoming, SSRN 2015.  Abstract below:

This article argues that consumer credit reports can create two sorts of vicious cycles, which can contribute to to cycles of poverty and deepen race-based disenfranchisement. The first takes place in credit markets themselves. Even on a neoclassical model of credit reporting, credit reports can amplify past problems with debt, most of which are brought on by systemic inequality. Loosening the neoclassical model reveals the possibility of even more drastic inequality amplification. The second cycle arises when credit reports are used on extra-lending contexts. In non-lending contexts such as employment credit checks, credit reports do not seem to provide any useful information to employers, but they do reinforce the first vicious cycle and the disadvantage it amplifies. In quasi-lending contexts like insurance pricing, credit reports may provide predictive information, but the information they reveal seems only to be economic instability and by forcing economically unstable individuals to pay more for insurance, they deepen their economic instability. The article concludes with several policy implications.

Op-Ed: Capitalism for the Rest of Us – The New York Times

Capitalism for the Rest of Us – The New York Times.

News Coverage: Millennials Getting Help From Parents Can Afford Homes – The Atlantic

Millennials Getting Help From Parents Can Afford Homes – The Atlantic. [Making a fairly obvious point, but one people can forget.]

News Article: These maps show the vastly separate worlds of the rich and poor – The Washington Post

These maps show the vastly separate worlds of the rich and poor – The Washington Post.

News Coverage: Wealth Has Accumulated in Ever-Richer Neighborhoods for the Past 20 Years Thanks to Exclusionary Housing Practices – CityLab

Wealth Has Accumulated in Ever-Richer Neighborhoods for the Past 20 Years Thanks to Exclusionary Housing Practices – CityLab.

[Note: worth clicking on the link for the Urban Institute’s map.]