Oxford University Press.
How can we remedy failures of democratic accountability and disparities of economic power in the modern economy? Drawing on the history of progressive political thought and engaging debates over post-financial crisis regulation, Democracy Against Domination provides an account of how our public philosophy has forgotten important values of democracy and economic power, and what a more democratic approach to economic regulation might look like.
"Inequality and the Crisis of American Democracy."
New America, DC, November 2016.
With Mark Schmitt, Connie Razza, Shayna Strom, and Brishen Rogers.
Review online here.
"A Post-Election Conversation on the Future of Democracy".
New America, New York City, November 9, 2016
With Keesha Gaskins-Nathan, Dorian Warren, and Daniel Altschuler.
In 2008, the collapse of the US financial system plunged the economy into the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. In its aftermath, the financial crisis pushed to the forefront fundamental moral and institutional questions about how we govern the modern economy. Which values should economic policy prioritize? What institutions do we trust to govern a complex economy?
Now in 2016, these questions are part of an even bigger debate over economic inequality, political dysfunction, and the future of American democracy. Drawing on a rich tradition of economic reform rooted in the politics of early twentieth-century progressives like John Dewey and Louis Brandeis, this book argues that democracy is threatened on two fronts: first, by the threats of economic domination whether in the form of corporate power or inequitable markets; and second, by the eroded capacity of we the people to hold both private actors and policymakers accountable.
Combining insights from history, political theory, law, and public policy, Democracy Against Domination offers an exciting reinterpretation of progressive economic thought, raising important implications for financial regulation policy, the problem of regulatory capture, and broader debates about economic inequality, public policy, and the prospects for a progressive economic vision after the Obama era.
The anxieties around economic inequality and ailing democracy in the US today echo a similar moment of upheaval and reform from a century ago. The book shows that progressives like Louis Brandeis, John Dewey, faced a similar confluence of economic upheaval, inequality, and political dysfunction. The thinkers, activists, and reformers of this time developed a powerful critique of corporate power and economic injustice—particularly focusing on the villain of modern finance. In response, they struggled to build new forms of democratic power as a way to hold both government elites and private actors accountable—and in so doing, create a more equitable and fair economy.
The book then tells the story of how this progressive economic populism lost the larger battle of ideas in the 20th century, and how this explains our tepid response to the 2008 financial crisis and the ongoing Great Recession. In short, this progressive vision was attacked by conservative law and economics and the turn to valorizing ‘free markets’, and abandoned by liberals increasingly turning towards apolitical, technocratic economic expertise as a dodge against this conservative resurgence.
This progressive economic vision suggests a radically different approach to financial regulation. The book argues that our prevailing approach to TBTF finance relies too heavily on a faith in insulated, neutral, top-down regulation by experts, despite the risks of industry lobbying or the complexities of trying to manage the modern financial system. Instead, the book suggests that a better approach would place stricter, structural limits on TBTF financial firms, whether by “breaking up the banks” or by regulating finance as a kind of public utility. Drawing on the latest thinking in economics and law, the book suggests how we need to revamp our financial stability regime.
The progressive economic vision also suggests a response to persisting anxieties about the lack of responsiveness and accountability among policymakers themselves. Taking head-on legal and policy debates about regulatory capture, the book makes a controversial and novel argument that we can address these concerns not by creating more insulated expert regulators (as many liberals suggest) nor by dismantling regulatory agencies (as conservatives often argue), but instead by creating more internal mechanisms for democratic representation, participation, and accountability within the regulatory process.
The book concludes by linking this call for a revived progressive economic populism to a range of other debates including the problem of corporate power; the challenges of building new economic justice social movements and reinventing organized labor; the link between structural economic justice and racial justice; and the broader concern with economic inequality and public policy.
1. Democracy, Domination, and the Challenge of Economic Governance
2. Managerialism and the New Deal Legacy
3. The Progressive Critique of the Market
4. Economic Domination and Democratic Action
5. Structuring Democratic Agency
6. Anti-Domination as Regulatory Strategy
7. Democratic Agency as Regulatory Process
8. Democratic Freedom in the New Gilded Age