Category Archives: Uncategorized

[Self-promotion post] New Book: “A Nation Within: Navajo Land and Economic Development”

a-nation-within[Self-promotion post] New Book: Ezra Rosser, A Nation Within: Navajo Land and Economic Development (Cambridge University Press, 2021). [The Amazon link is here.] Overview below, then some author notes:

In A Nation Within, Ezra Rosser explores the connection between land-use patterns and development in the Navajo Nation. Roughly the size of Ireland or West Virginia, the Navajo reservation has seen successive waves of natural resource-based development over the last century: grazing and over-grazing, oil and gas, uranium, and coal; yet Navajos continue to suffer from high levels of unemployment and poverty. Rosser shows the connection between the exploitation of these resources and the growth of the tribal government before turning to contemporary land use and development challenges. He argues that, in addition to the political challenges associated with any significant change, external pressures and internal corruption have made it difficult for the tribe to implement land reforms that could help provide space for economic development that would benefit the Navajo Nation and Navajo tribal members.

Some author notes: First, the self-serving but fortunately honest point . . . I think this book does relate to poverty, even though it is not framed as a “poverty law” book. I hope it finds an audience, so please forward info about the book to anyone (librarians, faculty at other schools or departments, students, bookstores, etc) who might be interested. And I am happy to talk more about the book–so if you think of a good way to share the work, please reach out to me. And the cover art, produced by Jared Yazzie of OXDX Clothing Designs, makes this a great book to display on a shelf or coffee table even if you are not going to read it!

Second, I really want to thank the folks that made this book possible, starting with the people at Cambridge University Press. They were a pleasure to work with and I greatly appreciate their belief in this book from the moment I approached them. The librarians at my school were also fabulous, esp. when tracking down hard to obtain items (the best example of which was an internal history of Peabody Coal Company that could only be found in two places). And, of course, a book like this is only possible because of tremendous institutional support, both from main campus and from the law school.

This book took A LOT longer to do than I thought it would, which meant that it benefited from work others have done recently related to Navajo economic development and natural resources. I recently published a thank you in the Navajo Times, so I won’t repeat myself here, but it is great to find others who share the same commitment and love for Diné and the Navajo Nation.

Finally, the book would not have been possible without the support of various people who helped take care of my kids during the writing process. I am not sure whether this is true or not, but I read a book dedication once that said the book was dedicated to the author’s spouse and kids, without whom it would have been completed earlier. It makes for a nice punchline and might be true in some respects, but my greatest privilege over the last eleven years has been the privilege and opportunity to be an involved parent and partner. I used to joke that the fact that my school’s daycare does not start until kids hit 2 1/2 was a sign they did not care if I was productive during those years. And certainly my book took longer than I thought it would, partly or even largely because of parenting obligations; which as most parents know can be brutal in the moment but are beautiful in hindsight (the headaches, oh the headaches from lack of sleep with a newborn). But my wife, kids, and I have also benefited from tremendous help from grandparents, daycare teachers, babysitters, school teachers, coaches, and others who give so much of themselves to our children (and to us). So thank you.

Summer Virtual Poverty Law Workshop

Poverty Law Workshop Flyer Summer 2021

It is a great line-up and as a reminder our first workshop is tomorrow! There are also a great group of commentators. Thanks to Andrew Hammond and Erika Wilson for making this happen. Should be great and please join us on Tuesdays this summer.

[Abusing my role as blog editor]: If you could use a summer law student intern, please contact me.

I have a number of good students still looking for summer internships. If you could use such a student, please send me an email,, with whatever information you have about the position (in person, distant, research based, direct services, etc) and I will connect you with a good student who is still looking. =)

Poverty Law Syllabi Collection

In an effort to help those either considering teaching poverty law for the first time or teaching it for the twentieth time, below is a collection of syllabi from poverty law classes across the country. These are either ones I could find through google or were emailed to me to include here. If you teach the class and are willing to share your syllabi, please email it to me and I will add it.

There are of course other schools that offer poverty law so PLEASE do email me if you are willing to have your syllabus shared on this blog. For those who want to talk about the class, I am always happy to talk through reading options, share notes, share slides, etc. It really is a great class to teach!

New Op-Ed: My Pandemic Year Behind the Check Out Counter

Ann Larson, My Pandemic Year Behind the Check Out Counter, The New Republic (March 5, 2021).


Larson writes “on working amid paranoid customers, hungry shoplifters, sick co-workers, and people who just need the bathroom.”

News Coverage: To Juice the Economy, Biden Bets on the Poor

Jim Tankersley, To Juice the Economy, Biden Bets on the Poor, N. Y. Times (March 6, 2021).

“Volunteers distributing food on Monday in Warren, Mich. President Biden’s economic relief plan overwhelmingly helps low earners and the middle class and is more focused on people than on businesses.” Elaine Cromie for the New York Times

“Mr. Biden’s bottom-up $1.9 trillion aid package is a sharp reversal from the tax it bill that was President Donald J. Trump’s first big legislative victory.”

Opinion: What to Tell the Critics of a $15 Minimum Wage

Gus Wezerek, What to Tell the Critics of a $15 Minimum Wage, N.Y. Times (Feb. 11, 2021).

Based off of the experience of Erica Hunt, a resident of Milwaukee, WI, Wezerek argues that an increase to a $15 minimum wage will not inflate pay, hurt small businesses, or reduce the total number of jobs. To read, this opinion piece, visit the link above.

New Article: Optimal Tax Theory as a Theory of Distributive Justice

New Article: Lily L. Batchelder, Optimal Tax Theory as a Theory of Distributive Justice, SSRN Jan. 2021. Abstract below:

The literature on taxation and transfers primarily relies on two theories of distributive justice: resource egalitarianism and welfarism, as elaborated through optimal tax theory.In recent years, optimal tax theory has garnered even greater prominence. But nonwelfarists argue it fails to address a number of serious philosophical objections.

This article considers the primary critiques of optimal tax theory, especially by resource egalitarians. It argues the gap between these two theories is narrower than most appreciate. Indeed, once one focuses on egalitarian optimal tax theory and reads that literature broadly, the ideal policy design principles implied by each theory largely mimic the other.

In addition, this article explores how both theories have dealt with concerns that they respond inadequately to preferences to help or harm others, hold individuals unduly responsible for their choices, or fail to account for real world social dynamics and human behavior. It argues that egalitarian optimal tax theory has responded—or, as laid out here, could respond—more effectively to these objections than resource egalitarianism.Specifically, optimal tax theory should adopt three innovations: (1) applying welfare-weighted Pigouvian taxes and subsidies to other-regarding preferences, (2) modeling the optimal endowment tax as one that is risk-neutral and only partially based on ex ante potential income, and (3) treating choices as providing less information about well-being when they are further in the past or relatively predictable.

More explicitly and consistently adopting these assumptions and modeling approaches would clarify that egalitarian optimal tax theory does not entail the extreme limits on autonomy, and unrelenting responsibility for prior choices, that have troubled nonwelfarists.Instead, the focus of egalitarian optimal tax theory would move toward sequalizing outcomes, and away from equalizing ex ante endowments.

A bad effort at humor from the editor.

I failed to find a publisher for this so I am abusing my role as blog editor to share here a mock final presidential letter from Trump to Biden that I wrote up as a joke last night. It was inspired by a friend posting on facebook a photo of Trump with his large order of McDonald’s catering–personally, I think the Total Landscaping image was the most entertaining–so I decided to imagine what Trump might include in a letter to Biden.


January 20, 2021

Dear Vice President Biden:

              Welcome to the White House. Melania and I are sorry we cannot be here to welcome you—we were eager to return to our better house in Florida. You understand. But I do want to share a few tips about living here. First, the good news. The TV works, though I am having a bit of trouble with the internet lately. The food is adequate (and they do have ketchup); fortunately, McDonald’s delivers. The beds are nice and clean. Trust me. And if you ever need to clean up anything, there are lots of paper towels around. Plus, if you want to fix up the lawn or gardens, I know a good landscaping business that can help.

              I need a new paragraph for the bad news. In general, I have the best words, but I have a hard time coming up with them with regard to having to live in D.C. Melania really couldn’t stomach the people here for while so she delayed moving in. I don’t blame her. There are a lot of losers here. A lot. Especially the dead ones—losers. Take the staff. Literally. I prefer people more dependent on me and I didn’t find that here. Some of them are just whiners. The Secret Service folks did as I said, but I really am tired of hearing about their bathroom needs. And Washington can be a bit much. The shadow people are everywhere. I had to escape to Mar-a-Lago whenever I wanted to get some work done. Plus, the golf in Scotland is better—I would look into relocating the White House there. Seriously.

              That is about all I have to say. I hope you know I don’t mean everything I said over the past four years. As I have said before, many of my supporters are easily manipulated. Some people you will find just care about looking good for the cameras. But as long as you wave something shiny in front of the cameras, they will forget what you might have said before. So don’t be afraid of a war or two. What’s the worst that could happen? Good luck with everything and keep the place nice: we plan on returning in four years. On that note, do sleep tight.

-Donald “MAGA!” Trump    

P.S. Please upgrade Air Force One for me. I want more gold next time.

News Coverage: Replacing Decorative Balconies at This Historic Building Could Displace Low-Income Washingtonians

News Coverage: Amanda Michelle Gomez, Replacing Decorative Balconies at This Historic Building Could Displace Low-Income Washingtonians, Wash. City Paper, Dec. 10, 2020.