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November 19, 2022

Analysis

The Wall Street Consensus at COP27

The derisking roll-out at COP27

At COP26, US Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry sanguinely declared the need to “de-risk the investment, and create the capacity to have bankable deals. That’s doable for water, it’s doable for electricity, it’s doable for transportation.” UN Special Envoy…

November 16, 2022

Reviews

Transatlantic Ties

On Jeremy Green’s The Political Economy of the Special Relationship

Bretton Woods is often associated with les Trente Glorieuses, the triumph of a certain kind of social democratic governance system, and American hegemony in Western Europe. The postwar system of monetary governance represented a form of “regulated” international capitalism subordinate…

November 9, 2022

Analysis

A New Non-Alignment

How developing countries are flouting Western Sanctions and playing the great powers off each other

This essay first appeared in GREEN, a journal from Groupe d’études géopolitiques. In March of this year, as Russia’s war in Ukraine intensified, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi made a trip to New Delhi to speak with his Indian counterpart…

November 2, 2022

Interviews

Cyborg Trucking

An interview with Karen Levy on surveillance and automation in the trucking industry

The supply and demand whiplashes of the Covid-19 pandemic snarled global supply chains, shaking up labor markets and well-established migration patterns. In the process, existing cracks in logistics and infrastructure systems widened, making these systems newly visible. In the US…

October 26, 2022

Analysis

Town & City

Reading Brazil’s first round election results

Earlier this month, Brazilians went to the polls in an election billed as the most momentous since democratization in 1985. Far-right president Jair Bolsonaro faced off against former two-term president Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva. Though Lula did win the…

October 19, 2022

Interviews

Ventures & Networks

An interview with Sebastian Mallaby on venture capital

The past year of rampant inflation and energy system chaos is a clear indication that we need paradigmatic change. Any new economic system is going to be anchored by major scientific innovations; historically, spurring these technological transformations has required a…

October 13, 2022

Interviews

The Geopolitics of Stuff

A discussion on supply chains, commodities, and climate

The material economy is back. Economists and commentators in recent decades had heralded (or lamented) the arrival of an automated, redundant, frictionless system of international commerce. But over the past two years, multiple global crises have exposed the fragile physical…

October 12, 2022

Interviews

Who Pays for Inflation?

A conversation on monetary policy, labor, and the definition of inflation

The inflation of the past year has reshaped the political economic landscape in the United States and around the globe. While the IMF and World Bank echo UN calls about the recession risk of globally-synchronized rate hikes, the debate over…

September 28, 2022

Interviews

Bottom-up Bargaining

An interview with Xiao Ma on the politics of China’s high-speed railways

China’s high-speed railway network is one of the largest infrastructure programs in human history. Though today international headlines emphasize the decline in China’s growth—lagging behind the rest of Asia for the first time since 1990—for more than two decades, the…

September 24, 2022

Analysis

Africa’s Century of Growth?

On Morten Jerven’s The Wealth and Poverty of African States

On May 1, 2014, Nigeria’s then-president, Goodluck Jonathan, addressed a crowd of workers in the country’s capital Abuja.  He declared that “the challenge of the country is not poverty, but redistribution of wealth.” The prompt for his comment was a…

September 20, 2022

Analysis

The Finance Gap

Poverty finance from colonial Kenya to microcredit markets

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ foreword to the UN’s Inter-agency Task Force on Financing for Development’s 2021 Financing for Sustainable Development report, speaks to a prevalent piece of common sense in global development: Financing for sustainable development is at a crossroads.…

September 15, 2022

Analysis

Technocracy and Crisis

Stagnation and technocratic rule in Italy

On September 25, Italians will be called to elect a new Parliament. The snap election follows on the heels of the forced resignation of the government in late July, led by former European Central Bank (ECB) President Mario Draghi. That…

September 2, 2022

Reviews

Politics and Expertise

On Elizabeth Popp Berman’s Thinking Like an Economist and Paul Sabin’s Public Citizens

Explanations for the rise of neoliberal policymaking in the United States commonly take one of two forms: a political history or an intellectual history. The first focuses on the overlapping crises of the 1970s and the rebalancing political coalitions competing…

August 13, 2022

Analysis

Rating Sovereigns

Sovereign ratings in a financialized world

As dark clouds gather on the horizon of the global economy in the third year of the pandemic—with debt stocks swollen, interest costs rising, and growth undermined by energy insecurity and war—policy makers and pundits are anxiously watching sovereign credit…


Pragmatic Prices

An excerpt from How China Escaped Shock Therapy

European and American traditions of economic theorizing on price control are intimately connected with war—practices and debates over price control peaked amid the two world wars. The experience of the First World War had been one of inflation and limited…

July 28, 2022

Reviews

The Last Days of Sound Finance

On Karen Petrou’s “Engine of Inequality”

When the Federal Reserve turned to unconventional monetary policy in 2008, many feared that we would soon see a return to the wage-price spiral of the 1970s. The combination of deficit spending and monetary ease raised the old specter of…

July 23, 2022

Interviews

Resource Nationalism and Decarbonization

Revisiting “resource nationalism” in a new era of raw minerals demand

Across Latin America, a recent wave of left electoral victories has drawn comparisons to “Pink Tide” of the early 2000s. The current moment, however, coincides with a global push towards decarbonization, and much of the world’s supply of commodities essential…

July 20, 2022

Interviews

The Economic Style

An interview with Beth Popp Berman

For some, neoliberalism is to blame for most, if not all, of our societal problems, as well as for the resistance to progressive changes that characterizes contemporary policymaking. This is for good reason. As has been extensively documented, the neoliberal…

July 16, 2022

Analysis

Development Engines

NAFTA, electric vehicles, and the evolution of Mexico's auto industry

In December 2021, President Joe Biden announced a proposed consumer tax incentive for electric vehicles (EV) made in the US by unionized autoworkers. The tax incentive aims at tackling climate change while also strengthening unionized jobs. It promises to support…

July 9, 2022

Analysis

A New Labor Regime

The BJP's new labor reforms, the construction industry, and the mounting challenges for India’s trade unions

Since coming to power in 2014, India’s right-wing government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has introduced sweeping reforms aimed at strengthening the union government at the expense of the states, and catering to large corporations over smaller establishments and…

July 7, 2022

Interviews

The IMF & the Legacy of Bretton Woods

Global South debt crises and the evolution of the international monetary system

Fifty years on from the collapse of the Bretton Woods system, the role of the international monetary system and international financial institutions in managing the global economy are in question.

June 29, 2022

Analysis

Geographies in Transition

Mining-based development and the EU's critical raw materials strategy

Though it failed to resolve a number of contentious issues, the COP26 meeting in Glasgow solidified a consensus around the need for a global transition towards clean energy. Implicated in this transition is the widescale adoption of renewables—we must build…

June 16, 2022

Reviews

Developmental Realism

A review of Eric Helleiner’s The Neomercantilists

Since Donald Trump’s surprise victory in the 2016 US presidential election, defenders of the postwar liberal international order have panicked over the return of their bête noire: neomercantilism. For them, neomercantilism signals a revival of nationalistic protectionism, a surge in…

June 10, 2022

Analysis

Leapfrog Logistics

Digital platforms, infrastructure, and labor in Brazil and China

In Spring 2018, two significant labor disputes broke out at opposite ends of the earth. The first, in Brazil, was a two-week-long mass strike of 400,000 truckers in response to successive price increases unleashed by the state oil company, Petrobras,…

June 2, 2022

Reviews

General Theories

On Stephen Marglin’s Raising Keynes

In 2022, the audience for books about John Maynard Keynes is probably as large as it has ever been. With two global economic crises followed by widespread use of government interventions, debates recently relegated to history books and academic journals…

May 28, 2022

Analysis

Farmland Assets

International finance and the transformation of Brazil’s agricultural lands

The election of Jair Bolsonaro in 2018 commenced a long agenda of environmental destruction in Brazil. Before taking office, Bolsonaro had openly threatened Indigenous communities with racist attacks, commenting that Indigenous peoples should not have “an inch of land” and…


The Price of Oil

The history of control and decontrol in the oil market

In October 2021 the price of gasoline in the United States rose to its highest level in seven years. There were many reasons for this: surging demand following a year-and-a-half of lockdown, a slower than expected recovery of oil production,…


Politics and the Price Level

Inflation and the governance of prices

In 1959, the leaders of the Organization for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC, now the OECD) appointed a Group of Independent Experts “to study the experience of rising prices” in the recent history of the advanced capitalist countries. Between the end…

May 14, 2022

Analysis

Persisting Paternalisms

The Auxilio Brasil in perspective

In recent months Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro appears to have shape-shifted. From a staunch ally of business interests, he now presents himself as a president of the poor. The basis of this transformation is his new conditional cash-transfer programme Auxilio…

May 12, 2022

Analysis

Financing Schools

America’s kleptocratic public school divide

As the arrival of the pandemic forced schools shut, the Public Schools of Robeson County in North Carolina scrambled to save the rural district’s closed and crumbling buildings. At the same time, they faced the major task of providing education…

May 7, 2022

Interviews

Fault Lines

An interview with Helen Thompson on the geopolitics of shale and energy independence

Restarting our economies after the pandemic continues to expose the fragility of our supply chains. The Russia-Ukraine conflict serves as a stark reminder that oil and gas can still dictate our anxieties. Commodity prices and our collective sense of vulnerability…

May 4, 2022

Analysis

Weimar Themes

Hilferding, Sohn-Rethel, and Hamilton

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has flung the international order into crisis. Understanding the causes of such cataclysms requires understanding not only the interests of states, but also the shape of society—its internal tensions, as well as its material and cultural…

April 30, 2022

Analysis

The Whole Field

Markets, planning, and coordinating the green transformation

In recent years, an intense debate has unfolded over the policy and politics of the green transition. Politically, the tide appears to be receding: As the Biden agenda has lost momentum and rising inflation moves center stage, the near-term prospects…

April 27, 2022

Analysis

Regime Change?

The evolution and weaponization of the world dollar

The centerpiece of shock and awe of the West’s economic response to Russia’s invasion and bombardment of Ukraine was the freezing of Russia’s central bank assets. In the March 7 edition of his Global Money Dispatch newsletter, the Credit Suisse…

April 15, 2022

Analysis

Economic War and the Commodity Shock

A discussion on sanctions and global commodity markets

The war in Ukraine has unleashed both geopolitical and economic strife, and nowhere is the latter clearer than in the volatile commodities market. Commodities prices have fluctuated wildly since the Russian invasion began and the US-led coalition retaliated with extraordinary…

April 13, 2022

Analysis

Austerity and Renewables

A new IMF-approved tax regime is crippling Pakistan’s green energy sector

After weeks of rising domestic pressure, a spiraling economic crisis, and the swift loss of crucial military support, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan was removed from office last weekend following a vote of no confidence. The political turmoil is the…

April 2, 2022

Interviews

Philosophy and Reparations

An interview with Olúfẹ́mi Táíwò on climate crisis, reparations, and the use of history

Every new climate study seems to confirm what we have long known: the brunt of these impacts will fall on those least prepared to weather them, in considerable part because the basic structure of our global system had long ago…

March 24, 2022

Interviews

Tax Regimes

An interview with Robin Einhorn

Tax cuts and austerity have been a central feature of American politics in recent decades—just recently, the Build Back Better bill was blocked under the guise of fiscal responsibility. The work of Robin Einhorn, Preston Hotchkis Professor in the History…

March 12, 2022

Interviews

Structures of History

An interview with historian William Sewell

Few scholars have had the theoretical, methodological, and empirical influence of William Sewell. His work has persistently scrutinized and challenged disciplinary barriers, placing historical and social scientific methods in dialogue and thereby illuminating their strengths and shortcomings. This effort is…

March 9, 2022

Analysis

Bargaining Chip?

On the speed and scope of the Russia sanctions, and the prospects for off-ramps

For the global hegemon, pulling the trigger on crisis management seems to consist primarily of posting PDFs to government websites. During the March 2020 financial panic, as the coronavirus first spread throughout the Global North, the Federal Reserve feverishly published…

March 1, 2022

Interviews

Power, States, and Wars

An interview with Michael Mann on the study of history and the reemergence of great power politics

Over the course of several decades, Michael Mann's writing has consistently advanced thinking on great powers and the social orders they create. Combining a theoretical and empirical focus, his work is nearly unparalleled in its ambitious scope and meticulous attention…

February 14, 2022

Analysis

Eskom, Unbundling, and Decarbonization

The history of South Africa’s state utility and the future of the energy transition

South Africa has one of the most carbon-intensive economies in the world. It is also in a staggering and protracted unemployment crisis—the real unemployment rate, including discouraged work-seekers, is near 50 percent. But there remain tens of thousands of workers…

January 12, 2022

Analysis

Controlled Prices

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, 2021

Interviews

Rekindling Labor?

An interview with Kim Voss on the American labor movement, from the Knights of Labor to “Striketober.”

The uptick in organized and unorganized labor militancy registered throughout the pandemic, and in particular in strike and unionization campaigns in recent months, comes at a relative nadir for the US labor movement. The work of Kim Voss, Professor of…

December 18, 2021

Analysis

Homeownership & the Student Debt Crisis

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…

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

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…

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 12, 2021

Interviews

Long Crises

An interview with Benjamin Holtzman

As New Yorkers grapple with an uncertain future, the fiscal crisis of the 1970s and its aftermath are often invoked by the press and politicians. Today, “New York in the 1970s” is shorthand for a city facing poverty and crime,…

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…

June 18, 2021

Interviews

Investment and Decarbonization

A conversation on investment strategies for the green transition

In late March, the Biden administration announced the $2 trillion American Jobs Plan, with approximately half of the sum dedicated to fighting the climate crisis. While the legislation would mark a sea change in federal action to avert climate catastrophe,…


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.

May 6, 2021

Interviews

Restructuring Sovereign Debt

An interview with Ken Shadlen

Ken Shadlen's research examines how international institutions can create unique challenges for developing countries and, in doing so exacerbate core-periphery inequalities.

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,…

March 19, 2021

Interviews

Party Politics and Social Policy

A conversation between Lena Lavinas, André Singer, and Barbara Weinstein on three decades of party politics and social policy in Brazil.

In The Takeover of Social Policy by Financialization, Lena Lavinas names the “Brazilian Paradox”: the model of social inclusion implemented by the Workers’ Party under President Lula and President Rousseff promotes a logic of financial inclusion and market incorporation, and…

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

Interviews

Feminism in the Union

An interview with feminist activist and trade unionist Begoña San José.

Begoña San José is a feminist activist and trade union leader.

February 20, 2021

Interviews

New System, New Society

An interview with former Prime Minister of Spain Felipe González.

Felipe González was Prime Minister of Spain from 1982-1996.

February 20, 2021

Interviews

Revolution in the Long Run

An interview with Hector Maravall on the Communist Party of Spain, the decline of unions, and Felipe González's modernization program.

Hector Maravall is a long time member of the PCE, a labor lawyer, and a leader of the Comisiones Obreras, the largest trade union in Spain.

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 18, 2021

Interviews

Party Unity and Renewal

An interview with Roger Martelli on the decline of the French Communist Party.

Roger Martelli is a historian of the French Communist Party.

February 18, 2021

Interviews

Confronting Globalization

An interview with François Morin.

François Morin was technical adviser to Jean le Garrec at the State Secretary for Public Sector Expansion from 1981–1982 and an adviser to Prime Minister Pierre Mauroy.

February 18, 2021

Interviews

Objective Constraints

An interview with Anicet le Pors on the PCF, the Common Program, and the constraints on left governance.

Anicet le Pors is a French communist party politician who served as a member of the French Senate from 1977 to 1981, and Minister of Civil Service and Reforms from 1981 to 1984.

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…


Party of the Future?

An interview with Giuliano Amato

Giuliano Amato was a member of the Italian Socialist Party and Italian Prime Minister from 1992–93 and 2000–2001, Treasury Minister in 1999–2000, and Minister of the Interior, 2006–2008.


Changing Bases

An interview with Emanuele Macaluso, Italian trade unionist and politician with the Italian Communist Party (PCI)

Emanuele Macaluso was an Italian trade unionist and politician with the Italian Communist Party (PCI).


Creative Destruction

An interview with Claudio Petruccioli

Claudio Petruccioli is an Italian politician who was president of the Italian national broadcast network RAI from 2005–2009.

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…

December 3, 2020

Reviews

Transition Theory

On Jairus Banaji’s A Brief History of Commercial Capitalism

Capitalism is either eternal or it isn’t. There are people who defend the first view, or something close to it—the multivolume 2014 Cambridge History of Capitalism opens in Babylonia, circa 1000 BCE—but it is much more plausible that capitalism, like…

November 25, 2020

Interviews

Development, Growth, Power

An interview with Amit Bhaduri.

Amit Bhaduri was internationally selected professor at Pavia University and visiting Professor at the Council for Social Development, Delhi University. His six books and more than sixty journal articles have consistently scrutinized the foundations of neoclassical economic theory and presented…


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 10, 2020

Interviews

Change the Furniture

An interview with Mark Blyth.

Mark Blyth is William R. Rhodes Professor of International Political Economy at Brown University and a Faculty Fellow at Brown’s Watson Institute for International Studies. His research examines how the interests of states and economic actors shape ideological consensus and…

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 26, 2020

Interviews

Banks, Bubbles, Profits

An interview with Richard Westra.

Richard Westra is University Professor at the Institute of Political Science, University of Opole, Poland and international Adjunct Professor of the Center for Macau Studies, University of Macau. His research focuses on the philosophical underpinnings of economic phenomena, with an…

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…

August 8, 2020

Interviews

Economics, Bosses, and Interest

An interview with Stephen Marglin.

Stephen Marglin is Walter S. Barker Professor Economics at Harvard University, where he has taught since he received tenure in 1968.

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,…

June 13, 2020

Interviews

Trade Wars Are Class Wars

A discussion between Adam Tooze, Michael Pettis, and Matthew Klein

Michael Pettis and Matthew Klein's new book "Trade Wars Are Class Wars" begins with an epigraph from John A. Hobson: "The struggle for markets, the greater eagerness of producers to sell than of consumers to buy, is the crowning proof…

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 14, 2020

Interviews

The Postindustrial Welfare State

An interview with Gøsta Esping-Andersen

"The Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism" is among the most influential works in the study of welfare states. Rather than conceiving of welfare and industrial policy on a single state-market axis, Three Worlds develops a typology to situate welfare states…

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 24, 2020

Interviews

The Weight of Movements

An interview with Frances Fox Piven

Few theorists of social movements have shaped the events that they analyze. Frances Fox Piven, Professor of Political Science and Sociology at the City University of New York and one of these few, has studied and agitated within American social…

April 17, 2020

Analysis

Inside Out

Shaping the base of a renewable economy

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

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 13, 2020

Interviews

Austerity and Ideology

An interview with Kim Phillips-Fein

Kim Phillips-Fein is an associate professor of history at New York University and the author of the books "Invisible Hands: the Businessmen’s Crusade Against the New Deal" and "Fear City: New York’s Fiscal Crisis and the Rise of Austerity Politics",…

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 29, 2020

Interviews

Historicizing the Self-Evident

An interview with Lorraine Daston

Lorraine Daston has published widely in the history of science, including on probability and statistics, scientific objectivity and observation, game theory, monsters, and much else. Director at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science since 1995 (emeritus as…

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 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…

December 23, 2019

Sources

Thank you for reading the JFI letter this year. As we prepare for another year of research and link sharing, here's some of what we sent in 2019. We'll see you in 2020. OVER ILLUMINATION Highlights from a year of…

December 20, 2019

Reviews

Renegotiating Education

Caitlin Zaloom's ethnography of the American higher ed crisis

Indebted is anthropologist and NYU Professor Caitlin Zaloom’s deep dive into the middle-class American family’s struggle to solve the college cost puzzle. Its animating question: How can middle-class families maintain their status and provide their children with as much opportunity…

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 24, 2019

Interviews

Throughout his career, John Roemer's work has been uniquely situated between the fields of microeconomics, game theory, philosophy, and political science. His research makes use of the tools of classical economics to analyze dynamics typically thought to be outside the…

October 21, 2019

Sources

Of the many justifications for introducing a universal basic income, automation is among the most popular. Over the past years, a slew of reports and endless media coverage has raised the specter of mass "technological unemployment"—a possible future that has…

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 26, 2019

Interviews

Optimizing the Crisis

An interview with Seda Gürses and Bekah Overdorf

Software that structures increasingly detailed aspects of contemporary life is built for optimization. These programs require a mapping of the world in a way that is computationally legible, and translating the messy world into one that makes sense to a…

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 8, 2019

Interviews

Networks, Weak Ties, and Thresholds

An Interview with Mark Granovetter

Few living scholars have had the influence of Mark Granovetter. In a career spanning almost 50 years, his seminal contributions to his own field of sociology have spread to shape research in economics, computer science, and even epidemiology.

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 11, 2019

Reviews

Keynes versus the Keynesians

A new book by James Crotty reexamines the career of John Maynard Keynes

What drives economic growth and stagnation? What types of methodologies and tools do we need to accurately explain economic epochs in the past and present? What models and policy approaches can lead to prosperity for all?

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.

June 13, 2019

Interviews

Elections, Social Democracy, and the Neoliberal Shift

An interview with Adam Przeworski

Throughout the 20th century, radical social movements were plagued by their relationship to existing state institutions. Across Western Europe, labor movements found political expression in parties like the Swedish Social Democrats, the German SPD, and the French Socialist Party.

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…

May 16, 2019

Interviews

Feminist Theory, Gender Inequity, and Basic Income

An interview with Almaz Zelleke

Feminist and women's movements in the mid-20th century developed demands for an unconditional basic income that emerged out of concrete experiences with the welfare state. What can the current discussion around UBI learn from examining this largely sidelined history?

May 3, 2019

Interviews

How Do States Pay for Wars?

An interview with Rosella Cappella Zielinski

Academic study of war in the social sciences is as old as historiography itself, and political economists have considered the economic logic of war and peace for centuries. Yet social scientists have left several questions on the financing of conflict…

April 29, 2019

Sources

In nearly every major urban center, housing affordability is in crisis. Since the 1960s, median home value has risen by 112% across the country, while median owner incomes rose just 50%. For renters, especially since 2008, the problem is increasingly…

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?

December 14, 2018

Interviews

Cash Transfer, Knowledge Transfer

An interview with Johannes Haushofer

Johannes Haushofer is assistant professor of Psychology and Public Affairs at Princeton University. His work includes development economics, behavioral economics, psychology, and neurobiology.

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 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.…