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Spring 2022 Course

Law and Political Economy

Why do McDonald’s workers in Denmark earn more than twice as much as do McDonald’s workers in the United States, while the Heritage Foundation ranks Denmark as slightly more economically “free?” Why did executive compensation in the United States soar after 1980, while a country like Japan, at the same technological frontier and even more integrated into global trade saw no such takeoff in executive compensation? Why is women’s labor force participation in Sweden 96% that of men, while in the United States that ratio is only 86%? Why is median net worth of Black households in America one-tenth that of white households, and how does this fact relate to the role that racism played in the evolution of American capitalism? What role can law play in pursuing broad-based economic security and reviving productivity growth in a sustainable economy necessary to improve standards of living?  

These are the questions at the heart of an emerging intellectual movement in law centered on a revival of “political economy” as the organizing framework to think about contemporary market societies.  The first half of the course will offer an introduction to the intellectual origins and basic tools of law and political economy.  The second half of the course will be based on a set of specific strategic interventions that will be selected for their political and social salience during the semester in which the course will be taught.  Examples might include comparing a Green New Deal to a universal basic income; proposals for reform of antitrust, labor, or securities laws; or then-pertinent proposals for changing electoral law or other dimensions of democratic accountability and participation.  The primary method during the second half of the semester will be intensive team work to evaluate these various proposals in writing and in class presentations.