Magazine and popular articles
Up Against Big Tech. The American Prospect, February 5, 2018 (online here). The old challenges of concentrated economic and political power now confront us in new forms. A review of three new books on technology, private power, and rent-seeking.
How our changing view of the Bill of Rights has threatened our democracy. Washington Post, January 2018. (online here)
Monopoly Men. Boston Review (Lead article). October 2017. (online here). Amazon. Google. Facebook. Twitter. These are the most powerful and influential tech platforms of the modern economy, and the headlines over the last few weeks underscore the degree to which these firms have accumulated an outsized influence on our economic, political, and social life. The danger of the “platform power” accumulated by Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Twitter arises from their ability to control the foundational infrastructure of our economic, informational, and political life. Even if they didn’t spend a dime on lobbying or influencing elected officials, this power would still pose a grave threat to democracy and economic opportunity. The fact that these companies provide enormously popular and useful goods and services is indisputable—but also beside the point. The central issue here is not simply the value for the consumer. Instead it is vast, unaccountable private power over the foundations of contemporary society and politics. In a word, the central issue is democracy.While the technological realities of Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Twitter are distinctly modern, the problems they pose for our economy and our politics are in many ways deeply familiar. They recall the threat that earlier generations faced in the height of the industrial revolution with the rise of corporate giants, which suggests that today’s reformers could learn a lot from the anti-monopoly movement.
Losing and Gaining Public Goods. Boston Review - Forum (Lead article). Fall 2017. (online here). The clash over health care is the most glaring example of a more widespread battle over the meaning and importance of public goods: what they are, how they ought to be provided—and to whom. The question of whether to privatize and deregulate, or to restore—and even expand—public provision is at the heart of many contemporary political, economic, and moral debates. The battles over health care, education, and other goods underway today express a very different view of public goods, one grounded not in economic terms of efficiency and production, but rather in moral and political concepts. In this framework, “public goods” are those essential to enabling human success and well-being. Let’s call this the democratic conception of public goods. A democratic conception of public goods entails more than just the aspiration for equal access to basic necessities. It also includes a second, critical claim: that power in the modern economy is exercised through the control, administration, and provision of these very goods. Whether they are public agencies or private firms, providers of goods such as health care exercise control over those dependent on them. The practical realities of who can access which goods, and on what terms, represent the codification and institutionalization of citizenship—or its denial. Access to these goods is one of the key ways our society defines the demos itself.
The Way Forward for Progressives, The New Republic, November 2016 (online here)
Challenging the Curse of Bigness. The American Prospect, November 29, 2016 (online here). Many economic inequities and abuses today stem call for renewed antitrust remedies from the Progressive Era -- if we get serious about enforcement.
Economics of Power. (online link here). Pacific Standard, April 2016. Increasing economic inequality is not just about the changes in the workforce. It’s also about a shift in the balance of power in the economy.
The Key to Making Economic Development More Equitable Is Making It More Democratic. The Nation, April 2016 (online here). How Oakland and other cities are experimenting with efforts to make local residents active participants in the development process.
What Clinton and Sanders Are Really Fighting About (online link here). The Atlantic, February 6, 2016. The Democratic candidates have revived an old progressive debate about whether big business can be regulated, or must be broken up.
Fighting Inequality in the New Gilded Age. Boston Review, September 2015 (online here). A review of new research on how participatory government can help counteract economic inequality.
How To Revive Progressive-Era Economics for the New Gilded Age (online link here).The Nation, July 2015. How do we fight concentrations of private corporate power? By studying how they did it last time.
Curbing the New Corporate Power (online link here). The Boston Review, May/June 2015. How should we regulate the new forms of private power in the internet economy? From Amazon to Google to Uber, these technological giants present novel forms of corporate power that outstrip conventional modes of regulation. But reformers from a century ago developed a novel approach for corporate giants that exerted control over key aspects of economic infrastructure: the public utility model. This model offers a starting point for addressing the new forms of power in the information economy.
Is Participatory Rule-Making Possible? The Nation, March 2012 (online here). By giving people a direct voice in shaping regulations, we can make agencies more responsive and accountable, and give citizens a direct stake in policy-making.