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November 23, 2021

Analysis

Trade and Growth

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, 2021

Analysis

The Wall Street Consensus at COP26

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, 2021

Analysis

Growth Towns

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, 2021

Analysis

Titans

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, 2021

Analysis

Negotiations

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, 2021

Analysis

Manufacturing Stagnation

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, 2021

Analysis

The Diverging Gap

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, 2021

Analysis

Uneven Channels

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, 2021

Analysis

Gas and Labor

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, 2021

Analysis

Developmentalisms

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…


How Schools Lie

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, 2021

Analysis

Legitimacy Gap

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, 2021

Analysis

Built Trades

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, 2021

Analysis

Path Persistence

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, 2021

Analysis

Repressing Labor, Empowering China

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, 2021

Analysis

Preferred Shares

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…


Hysteresis & Student Debt

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, 2021

Analysis

The Crisis Canal

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, 2021

Analysis

Investment and Decarbonization: Rating Green Finance

A proposal for a public ratings agency for green finance

The Biden administration has committed the United States to cutting its carbon emissions in half by 2030 and achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

April 28, 2021

Analysis

Reconstruction Finance

Popular politics and reconstructing the Reconstruction Finance Corporation.

Like the world system as a whole, segregated cities in the United States have their own finance driven core-periphery dynamics.

April 6, 2021

Analysis

Risks and Crises

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,…

February 20, 2021

Analysis

Democracy or the Market

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…

February 20, 2021

Analysis

Revolution, Reform, and Resignation

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…

February 20, 2021

Analysis

François Mitterrand’s Austerity Turn

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…

February 20, 2021

Analysis

Transitions

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…

February 5, 2021

Analysis

The Italian Left After Keynesianism

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, 2021

Analysis

Inflation, Specific and General

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, 2021

Analysis

Supercomputer

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, 2021

Analysis

The Deflationary Bloc

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…


The Student Debt Crisis is a Crisis of Non-Repayment

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, 2020

Analysis

Data as Property?

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, 2020

Analysis

A Popular History of the Fed

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, 2020

Analysis

Direct Effects

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…


Unceasing Debt, Disparate Burdens: Student Debt and Young America

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, 2020

Analysis

Hot Oil

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, 2020

Analysis

Another Lost Decade?

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, 2020

Analysis

Essential Infrastructures

The case for sovereign investment in telecommunications infrastructure

How should the fabric of social life, especially as it is rewoven by the pandemic, relate to the private ownership of telecommunications?

July 22, 2020

Analysis

Laws of the Land

Property rights and extraction in the mineral frontier

“The Mining Law of 1872,” reported California Democrat Alan Lowenthal in May 2019, "is one of the most obsolete laws still on the books.”

July 16, 2020

Analysis

The Dollar and Empire

How the US dollar shapes geopolitical power

What does the US dollar’s continued dominance in the global monetary and financial systems mean for geo-economic and geo-political power?

July 10, 2020

Analysis

The Crisis and the Free Market

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, 2020

Analysis

Pandemic and Poverty

What the pandemic teaches us about poverty measurements

Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in the United States, more than 40 million people have applied for unemployment benefits.


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, 2020

Analysis

Digital Scab, Digital Snitch

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, 2020

Analysis

The Class Politics of the Dollar System

Managing an international public good

The global dollar system has few national winners. The typical frame for understanding the US dollar is that of “exorbitant privilege.”

April 17, 2020

Analysis

Inside Out

Shaping the base of a renewable economy

The transition to a post-carbon energy economy will require extraction.

April 3, 2020

Analysis

Crisis and Recovery

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, 2020

Analysis

The First Services Recession

The shape of the Covid-19 recession

It is hard to see how the United States can avoid a recession. Unemployment insurance claims have already surged, and this week's numbers look to be in the millions.

February 27, 2020

Analysis

The Economics of Race

On the neoclassical and stratification theories of race

Black America has had less wealth, less income, less education, and poorer health than white America for as long as records have been kept.

February 6, 2020

Analysis

Decision Making in a Dynamic World

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, 2020

Analysis

The Long History of Algorithmic Fairness

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, 2020

Analysis

What Would a UBI Fund?

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, 2020

Analysis

UBI & the City

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, 2020

Analysis

Macro Modeling in the Age of Inequality

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, 2019

Analysis

Development and Displacement

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, 2019

Analysis

Collective Ownership in the Green New Deal

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, 2019

Analysis

Disparate Causes, pt. II

On the hunt for the correct counterfactual

An accurate understanding of the nature of race in our society is a prerequisite for an adequate normative theory of discrimination.

October 11, 2019

Analysis

Disparate Causes, pt. I

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, 2019

Analysis

Money Parables

Three competing theories of money

In the past year, Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) has shifted the policy debate in a way that few heterodox schools of economic thought have in recent memory.

August 23, 2019

Analysis

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, 2019

Analysis

Decentralize What?

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, 2019

Analysis

Student Debt & Racial Wealth Inequality

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, 2019

Analysis

The Politics of Machine Learning, pt. II

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, 2019

Analysis

The Politics of Machine Learning, pt. I

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, 2019

Analysis

Copyright Humanism

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, 2019

Analysis

Experiments for Policy Choice

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, 2019

Analysis

The Emerging Monopsony Consensus

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, 2019

Analysis

Ideology in AP Economics

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, 2019

Analysis

The Case for an Unconditional Safety Net

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, 2019

Analysis

Why Rational People Polarize

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, 2018

Analysis

Banking with Imprecision

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, 2018

Analysis

Machine Ethics, Part One: An Introduction and a Case Study

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, 2018

Analysis

Who cares about stopping rules?

Can you bias a coin?

Take a coin out of your pocket. Unless you own some exotic currency, your coin is fair: it's equally likely to land heads as tails when flipped.

October 2, 2018

Analysis

The “Next Big Thing” is a Room

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.…

October 1, 2018

Analysis

Phenomenal World is a new publication that distributes research, analysis, and commentary on applied social science. We chose this name for our blog because we hope to publish work that addresses the social world in all its apparent complexity. Our…