January 12, 2022Analysis
The history and politics of price controls and economic management in the United States
In the decades after the Civil War, Andrew Carnegie captured the American steel industry by pushing down prices. So effective was the Scottish-born telegraph operator at reducing costs, breaking cartels, and driving competition into bankruptcy during the downturns of the…
December 23, 2021Analysis
Is Germany's new coalition government a return to the status quo?
The new coalition government in Germany, led by Social Democrat Olaf Scholz, is the first time that the SDP, the Greens, and the Liberals have joined together in a single government. The cooperation agreement, published on November 24, was the…
December 18, 2021Analysis
Rising student debt burdens in the past decade have contributed to a decline in homeownership for young adults.
The benefits of owning a home in the United States cannot be overstated. The housing market in the United States both reflects and causes widening cleavages in American society; owning a home is a functional prerequisite for financial security. The…
December 17, 2021Analysis
New forms of fascism haunt Chile’s presidential election
In October 2019, a proposed thirty peso hike in public transport fares triggered protests in Santiago that spread to other major cities across the country, denouncing the country’s economic infrastructure with the slogan, “It’s not thirty pesos, it’s thirty years.” Chileans…
November 23, 2021Analysis
Revisiting the effects of trade liberalization on economic growth
According to a survey on free trade from the University of Chicago, economists overwhelmingly agree that free trade’s net effects are good. A recent article by several IMF economists affirms that, “perhaps more than on any other issue, there is…
November 18, 2021Analysis
Finance Day at COP26 shows a ruthless dedication to voluntary decarbonization
Wednesday, November 3, was private finance day at COP26. For those who follow central banks closely, the event was a chance to gauge whether their recent turn to climate-conscious policy making would translate into ambitious decarbonization announcements. After all, private…
November 12, 2021Analysis
The Evergrande crisis, “common prosperity,” and the transformation of the Chinese growth model
The ongoing crisis for Chinese property developer Evergrande has made the giant company the focal point of global concern. Creditors, investors, contractors, customers, and employees of Evergrande within and outside China have watched anxiously to see whether the Chinese government would…
November 6, 2021Analysis
Tracing the rise and the politics of asset manager capitalism
In mid October 2021, when BlackRock revealed its third quarter results, the asset management behemoth announced it was just shy of $10 trillion in assets under management. It’s a vast sum, “roughly equivalent to the entire global hedge fund, private…
November 4, 2021Analysis
The Federation of German Industries’ agenda in the formation of the new German federal government
The new German government will be called upon, at a highly critical time for the global and European economy, to draw up a new economic and political strategy not only for Germany but also for the EU/Eurozone. The outcome will…
November 4, 2021Analysis
Intellectual property, industrial organization, and economic growth
$5.3 trillion of US federal government stimulus and relief spending have returned the economy to its pre-Covid growth trajectory. But that growth trajectory was hardly robust—either before or after the 2008 financial crisis. Nor was the slow decay of GDP…
November 2, 2021Analysis
The history of the global infrastructure gap
On June 11, leaders at the G7 summit signed the Build Back Better World (B3W) Partnership, an agreement which commits signatories to meet the infrastructure needs of low- and middle-income countries. The deal is an explicit response to China’s Belt…
October 30, 2021Analysis
Climate diplomacy and the global financial architecture
This year’s Conference of the Parties (COP), opening October 31, is hosted by the United Kingdom, whose agenda-setting privilege as host has made private finance a central focus of the 2021 meeting. The UK ambition to center the City of…
October 19, 2021Analysis
The UK‘s petrol shortage is also a labor shortage driven by worsening conditions of work
The United Kingdom is in the midst of a protracted crisis in the supply of petrol. In the face of a plummeting sterling and severe disruptions to essential public services, military tanker drivers have been deployed to transport fuel to…
September 18, 2021Analysis
The forgotten ancestors of East Asian developmentalism
2021 marked the centenary of the creation of the Chinese Communist Party, born of the May Fourth Movement of 1919. History textbooks tend to claim that the Movement emerged out of a widespread realization that China’s rights as a victorious…
The deceptive financial aid system at America's colleges.
No matter how talented, hard working, and committed a student is, if financing falls through, the dream of obtaining higher education can be dashed. But much of the financial data that prospective students receive is misleading. In the cost information…
August 24, 2021Analysis
A history of central bank independence.
We live in the age of the central bank. The financial crisis of 2008 and the COVID-19 crash of 2020 have made visible the central role of the US Federal Reserve and its overseas counterparts in the international financial system.
August 11, 2021Analysis
Employer claims of unavailable labor are rooted in an unwillingness to raise wages and the long-term decline of the nation’s system of training and allocating labor
As the American economy reopened in the first half of 2021, reports of a “labor shortage” spread throughout US industries. But there was one sector where employer panic about hiring was old news: the massive and decentralized US construction industry.
July 20, 2021Analysis
Global trade hierarchies across two eras of globalization
What is the legacy of the First Globalization of the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-centuries on the economic fortunes of countries during the Second Globalization? To what extent have countries’ positions in the international economic order been persistent across the…
July 2, 2021Analysis
Cheap money will boost inequality and geopolitical tension but not inflation
Though the lockdown in 2020 threw many workers out of work, the big fiscal stimulus, fueled by government debt and an unprecedentedly large monetary expansion, offered stimulus checks and elevated unemployment benefits to millions of Americans.
June 24, 2021Analysis
Inflation, wages, and the fifty-year crisis
In one of her first statements as Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen said that the United States faced “an economic crisis that has been building for fifty years.” The formulation is intriguing but enigmatic. The last half-century is piled so high…
How the Great Recession fueled the student debt crisis.
The geographic character of the Great Recession of 2008–2009 is, by this point, well-known. While everywhere in the United States experienced a sharp increase in unemployment, some areas suffered disproportionate exposure to subprime mortgages and the consequent bursting of the…
June 8, 2021Analysis
Trade, bond markets, Suez, and the Ever Given.
Why did the Ever Given capture our collective imaginations? At the end of its week in the spotlight, the poet Kamran Javadizadeh wrote: “I too am ‘partially refloated,’ I too remain stuck in the Suez Canal.” Two fluorescent yellow-vested construction…
May 13, 2021Analysis
A proposal for a public ratings agency for green finance
April 28, 2021Analysis
Popular politics and reconstructing the Reconstruction Finance Corporation.
April 6, 2021Analysis
On market makers and risk managers post-2008.
For a long time, Bagehot’s rule, “lend freely, against good collateral, but at a high rate,” restored the Fed’s control over the money market and helped end banking panics and systemic banking crises. This control evaporated on September 15, 2008,…
Third wayism and the problem of representation.
The problem of democratic representation has always turned on the question of the “have-nots”—that is, not only those without wealth and property, but also those marginalized on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, origin, religion and education. Even in a…
In the 1980s, the left abandoned its language of transformation. Can it be regained?
Some time in 1991 I was invited to give a talk to the Andalusian Confederation of the Spanish Socialist Worker’s Party (PSOE). Afterwards, the secretary of the confederation walked me back to my hotel. I asked him why there was…
The rise and fall of the French Road to socialism.
The history of French socialism is filled with famous and heroic dates: 1789; 1848; 1871 1936; 1968. But less well remembered is another date of great significance: 1981. It was in May of that year that the French left achieved…
Four voices on Spain's transition from the Franco dictatorship to parliamentary monarchy — and what didn't change.
It’s been some time since the term “transition” was fully incorporated into day-to-day usage in contemporary Spanish. It refers to the process of political change that began during the second half of the 1970s, a process which transformed Spain from…
From stagflation to the transformation of Italian left parties.
In 1977, Eric Hobsbawm published a book of interviews with Giorgio Napolitano, a leading figure in the Italian Communist Party (PCI)’s gradualist wing, the miglioristi. Hobsbawm proclaimed himself a “spiritual member” of the PCI and intended this book to depict…
January 22, 2021Analysis
The many causes and effects of inflation.
Concerns over a generalized “inflation” loom in the recovery. Yet the prices that most heavily factor into the cost of living for US workers—housing, health, and education—have already been rising for decades. The question we should be asking is whether…
January 16, 2021Analysis
The Control Data Corporation and global value chains.
In March 1976, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Defense (DOD), William “Bill” Clements invited William “Bill” C. Norris, CEO and Chairman of the supercomputer producer Control Data Corporation (CDC) to a closed-door meeting at the Pentagon.
January 9, 2021Analysis
Hyman Minsky and the politics of inflation.
An effective way to write the history of the last thirty years of the twentieth century,” economist Albert Hirschman wrote in 1985, “may well be to focus on the distinctive reactions of various countries to the identical issue of worldwide…
Borrowers are increasingly unable to pay down their student loans, leading to mounting balances and an intensifying debt crisis.
Think of the student debt crisis as an overflowing bathtub. On the one hand, too much water is pouring in: more borrowers are taking on more debt. That is thanks to increased demand for higher education in the face of…
October 16, 2020Analysis
On the problems of propertarian and dignitarian approaches to data governance.
Since the proliferation of the World Wide Web in the 1990s, critics of widely used internet communications services have warned of the misuse of personal data. Alongside familiar concerns regarding user privacy and state surveillance, a now-decades-long thread connects a…
October 1, 2020Analysis
n Populist programs and democratic central banking.
Since Lehman collapsed in 2008, central banks have broken free of historical norms, channelling trillions into the banking system to prop up global finance and the savings of depositors from Germany to Hong Kong. The corona crash has only accelerated…
September 25, 2020Analysis
How should we measure racial discrimination?
A 2018 National Academy of Sciences report on American policing begins its section on racial bias by noting the abundance of scholarship that records disparities in the criminal justice system. But shortly thereafter, the authors make a strange clarification: “In…
JFI’s interactive map presents the geography of student debt.
Since the Great Recession, outstanding student loan debt in the United States has increased by 122% in 2019 dollars, reaching the staggering sum of $1.66 trillion in June of this year. Student loan debt has grown faster than other debt…
September 5, 2020Analysis
Gardiner Means, administered prices, and why the Texas Railroad Commission should regulate oil production again.
Even at the depth of the Great Depression, oil producers were always paid a positive price for their product. But on April 20 of this year the price of West Texas Intermediate oil traded for negative prices, reaching a record…
August 15, 2020Analysis
The systemic character of the global periphery debt crisis.
Contrary to common beliefs on fiscal fundamentals, the current debt crisis in the global periphery demonstrates that the solvency of sovereign states is determined by their monetary power. Crucially, liquidity has a cyclical character in the periphery of global capitalism…
July 27, 2020Analysis
The case for sovereign investment in telecommunications infrastructure
July 22, 2020Analysis
Property rights and extraction in the mineral frontier
July 16, 2020Analysis
How the US dollar shapes geopolitical power
July 10, 2020Analysis
On crisis, partisanship, and public policy
Will the current crisis transform America’s politics and economic institutions? With unemployment higher than at any point since the Great Depression, rising food insecurity, and an increasingly muscular role for government—are we witnessing the beginning of the end of the…
July 3, 2020Analysis
What the pandemic teaches us about poverty measurements
Mapping concentration and prices in the US higher education industry During and after the Great Recession, public funding for higher education was slashed as part of state budget austerity. Staff and programs were cut and tuition rose; in many states,…
May 28, 2020Analysis
On automation and worker surveillance
Before Covid-19 hit, we'd become used to reports about Amazon's robotics innovations and the impending large-scale automation of warehouse jobs. But recent strikes and protests by Amazon's very human workers have exposed how far we are from robotic warehouses.
May 1, 2020Analysis
Managing an international public good
April 17, 2020Analysis
Shaping the base of a renewable economy
April 3, 2020Analysis
The underlying problems in the US economy
Today’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report hardly registers the cataclysm in the US job market. The sharp 0.9 percent uptick in unemployment—itself newsworthy—only grasps the very beginnings of the shutdown of the American economy.
March 25, 2020Analysis
The shape of the Covid-19 recession
February 27, 2020Analysis
On the neoclassical and stratification theories of race
February 6, 2020Analysis
Exploring the limits of Expected Utility
I once wrote a post criticizing modern microeconomic models as both overly complex and unrealistic, leading their practitioners into theoretical dead ends without much corresponding increase in explanatory power. I suggested the entire enterprise of Expected Utility (EU) was a…
January 30, 2020Analysis
Fair algorithms from the seventeenth century to the present
As national and regional governments form expert commissions to regulate “automated decision-making,” a new corporate-sponsored field of research proposes to formalize the elusive ideal of “fairness” as a mathematical property of algorithms and especially of their outputs.
January 23, 2020Analysis
Lessons from the 1970s experiments in guaranteed income
One of the questions at the heart of contemporary debates over the merits of UBI is ‘what would it fund?’ In other words, what type of activities would it encourage? There are of course the widely debunked quibbles about guaranteed…
January 17, 2020Analysis
A new working paper models the effects of a basic income in New York City
Skeptics of guaranteed income tend to worry about the policy’s inflationary effects; absent rent regulation, for instance, one might expect housing costs to rise in proportion to the increase in disposable income generated by the policy.
January 16, 2020Analysis
On incorporating distributional concerns into macroeconomic models
Recent years have seen the revival of academic conversation around rising wealth inequality and its distributional consequences. But while applied, microeconomics-oriented fields like public and labor economics have long engaged with questions around inequality, macroeconomics has historically paid less attention…
Mapping market concentration in the higher education industry In much of the existing higher education literature, “college access” is understood in terms of pre-college educational attainment, social and informational networks, and financial capacity, both for tuition and living expenses. The…
November 22, 2019Analysis
The effects of big development initiatives
Infrastructure lies at the heart of development. From transportation and telecommunication networks to electrical grids and water pipelines, large-scale infrastructure projects play a pivotal role in the global development landscape.
November 7, 2019Analysis
What rural electrification can teach us about a just transition
This year, we once again shattered the record for atmospheric carbon concentration, and witnessed a series of devastating setbacks in US climate policy—from attempts to waive state protections against pipelines to wholesale attacks on climate science.
October 17, 2019Analysis
On the hunt for the correct counterfactual
October 11, 2019Analysis
The shortcomings of causal and counterfactual thinking about racial discrimination
Legal claims of disparate impact discrimination go something like this: A company uses some system (e.g., hiring test, performance review, risk assessment tool) in a way that impacts people. Somebody sues, arguing that it has a disproportionate adverse effect on…
September 12, 2019Analysis
Three competing theories of money
August 23, 2019Analysis
Statistical prediction is increasingly pervasive in our lives. Can it be fair? The Allegheny Family Screening Tool is a computer program that predicts whether a child will later have to be placed into foster care. It's been used in Allegheny…
August 1, 2019Analysis
Can you fix political problems with new web infrastructures?
The internet's early proliferation was steeped in cyber-utopian ideals. The circumvention of censorship and gatekeeping, digital public squares, direct democracy, revitalized civic engagement, the “global village”—these were all anticipated characteristics of the internet age, premised on the notion that digital…
July 18, 2019Analysis
How student debt cancellation affects the racial wealth gap
The effect of cancelling student debt on various measures of individual and group-level inequality has been a matter of controversy, especially given presidential candidates’ recent and high-profile proposals to eliminate outstanding student debt.
July 3, 2019Analysis
The uses of algorithms discussed in the first part of this article vary widely: from hiring decisions to bail assignment, to political campaigns and military intelligence.
Across all these applications of machine learning methods, there is a common thread: Data on individuals is used to treat different individuals differently. In the past, broadly speaking, such commercial and government activities used to target everyone in a given…
June 27, 2019Analysis
On prediction, profits, votes, and militarism.
Terminology like "machine learning," "artificial intelligence," "deep learning," and "neural nets" is pervasive: business, universities, intelligence agencies, and political parties are all anxious to maintain an edge over the use of these technologies.
May 31, 2019Analysis
It's by now common wisdom that American copyright law is burdensome, excessive, and failing to promote the ideals that protection ought to.
It's by now common wisdom that American copyright law is burdensome, excessive, and failing to promote the ideals that protection ought to. Too many things, critics argue, are subject to copyright protections, and the result is an inefficient legal morass…
March 28, 2019Analysis
If we wish to pick good policies, we should run experiments adaptively
Randomized experiments have become part of the standard toolkit for policy evaluation, and are usually designed to give precise estimates of causal effects. But, in practice, their actual goal is to pick good policies. These two goals are not the…
March 22, 2019Analysis
On the theory of monopsony
Early on in The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith asked who had the edge in negotiations between bosses and wage laborers. His answer: the bosses. In the case of a stalemate, landlords and manufacturers “could generally live a year or…
March 19, 2019Analysis
Uncovering the ideology embedded in economics
When the media talks about ideological indoctrination in education, it is usually assumed to refer to liberal arts professors pushing their liberal agenda. Less discussed is the very different strain of ideology found in economics.
March 1, 2019Analysis
The 'magic bucket' of universal cash transfers
Imagine a system where everyone had a right to basic material safety, and could say “no” to abuse and exploitation. Sounds utopian? I argue that it would be quite feasible to get there, and that it would make eminent economic,…
January 24, 2019Analysis
Explanations of political polarization
U.S. politics is beset by increasing polarization. Ideological clustering is common; partisan antipathy is increasing; extremity is becoming the norm (Dimock et al. 2014). This poses a serious collective problem. Why is it happening?
November 9, 2018Analysis
How medieval financiers lent in the age of uncertainty
In 1596, Spanish troops under the leadership of the Duke of Medina-Sidonia set fire to their own ships in the waters near Cadiz. The sinking of these thirty-two vessels was a tactical necessity: a joint Anglo-Dutch navy had annihilated the…
October 18, 2018Analysis
Artificial intelligence, ethics, and public health social work
The past few years have made abundantly clear that the artificially intelligent systems that organizations increasingly rely on to make important decisions can exhibit morally problematic behavior if not properly designed.
October 10, 2018Analysis
Can you bias a coin?
October 2, 2018Analysis
New realities in Dynamicland
If you don’t look up, Dynamicland seems like a normal room on the second floor of an ordinary building in downtown Oakland. There are tables and chairs, couches and carpets, scattered office supplies, and pictures taped up on the walls.…