Monthly Archives: May 2012

Making the Case for Soft Law

Chris Brummer, Soft Law and the Global Financial System: Rule Making in the 21st Century (Cambridge University Press 2012).

Every once in a while I read something and say to myself “this one’s a keeper” in the sense that it goes to the shelf to be drawn on again as an important source of knowledge.  This book earned that status early in the read and it earned it again and again as the read went on.  Indeed, I may be this book’s ideal reader for the very reason that I’m a domestic business law academic.  To be sure, the book follows from and addresses a number of international law literatures and so addresses itself in the first instance to the international legal cohort, both to international law writ large and the group’s business and financial subset.  But the learning curve is much steeper for me than for those primary addressees.  Here we find the whole cast of international financial characters–bankers, cops, securities and insurance regulators, auditors, politicians, bureaucrats, technocrats, and their international and domestic organizations–all carefully and neatly laid out with their histories, structures, and outputs juxtaposed and categorized.  My revelation lay not in the fact that I’d never heard of them (although I must admit that one or two were new to me), but in the fact that my institutional knowledge was full of holes, particularly as regards the book’s comparison to other, treaty-based international organizations.

When I picked up the book I wrote down three general observations, touchstone points to assist in evaluation.  They are:

  1. Globalization implies downward regulatory pressure.
  2. Soft law will always disappoint you.
  3. Reputational sanctions are unreliable.

First, globalization and downward regulatory pressure.  More particularly, what’s the interface between the book’s account and regulatory competition–race to the top, race to the bottom, law as product, or whatever you want to call it?  In fact, there’s not much in the book about downward competitive pressure.  It’s more a background factor that pops up on the screen when pertinent.  Even so, I think it’s an important part of what the book is about.  I think back fifteen years or so to a discourse that posed international regulatory competition as against international regulatory co-ordination. The competition side of the binary was heavily theorized where the co-ordination side was not.  The competition side drew on economic theory going back to Tiebout and had negative things to say about co-ordination, which it cast as rent seeking.  There wasn’t a whole lot on the coordination side.  Since then international lawyers have been slowly filling in the picture.  This is where I locate the book.  For me it fills in the empty set with an exhaustive description of the international co-ordinative effort.  Theory can now start over. Continue reading "Making the Case for Soft Law"

Adopting a “Child-Centric” Model of Paternity for Nonmarital Children

Camille M. Davidson, Mother’s Baby, Father’s Maybe!– Intestate Succession: When Should a Child Born Out of Wedlock Have a Right to Inherit from or Through His or Her Biological Father? 22 Colum. J. Gender & L. 531 (2011), available at SSRN.

One of the most important and interesting conversations among inheritance law scholars has been the role genetic connection should play in establishing parentage and rendering a nonmarital child eligible to inherit from her father.  The advent of easy and reliable genetic testing has crystallized the issue and focused scholars on which paradigm we should adopt now that we no longer need “surrogate” rules in intestacy statutes, e.g., acknowledgement by a putative nonmarital father, to help establish whether a child is likely that man’s child.   There is a spectrum in terms of potential paradigms, running from a purely genetic model at one end where a DNA test establishing paternity would make a nonmarital child eligible to inherit even if she had no relationship with her father to a purely functional approach where the father’s behavior and intent would be the linchpin of whether the child is eligible to inherit, regardless of her genetic connection.  I would characterize the former  model as a “child-centric” model where the interests of the nonmarital child trump that of the father and his other marital children since the nonmarital child does not have to rely on the father to take any affirmative action like acknowledgement in order for the child to be eligible to inherit.

In her recent article Mother’s Baby, Father’s Maybe!-Intestate Succession: When Should a Child Born Out of Wedlock Have a Right to Inherit from or Through His or Her Biological Father?, Camille Davidson argues for the adoption of such a child-centric model of establishing paternity in the area of inheritance law. She highlights some of the historical antecedents of our current patchwork of state laws on defining paternity.  Davidson also adopts a comparative lens in evaluating how states should embrace the genetic connection between a nonmarital child and her father as dispositive of not only of paternity but of her eligibility to inherit from him.  In so doing, Davidson makes a compelling argument for this approach and adds an important voice to the academic conversation in this area of inheritance law. Continue reading "Adopting a “Child-Centric” Model of Paternity for Nonmarital Children"

The Jim Crow Foundations of Agricultural Governance

Kimberley S. Johnson, Racial Orders, Congress, and the Agricultural Welfare State, 1865-1940, 25 Studies in American Political Development 143 (Oct. 2011).

Kimberley S. Johnson’s recent article, “Racial Orders, Congress, and the Agricultural Welfare State, 1865-1940,” is part of a valuable turn evident in recent scholarship on governance in the twentieth century. Bringing together politics and race to understand agricultural policies and institutions, Johnson asks, “[w]hen does race matter; and how does race matter when thinking about the shaping of the American state?” (P. 144) The answer? Race has shaped agricultural policy in some surprising and not-so-surprising ways.

In her study of the “agricultural welfare state,” Johnson examines the shifting ways in which the federal government provided farmers with services and subsidies in the decades following the Civil War. Responding to scholarship centered on interest group relations and partisan politics, Johnson stresses the importance of considering the political machinations involved in agricultural policy in the specific historical context in which these programs were designed and implemented. She describes in detail the numerous agricultural programs that came out of Congress in the years before the New Deal, and examines how their design and implementation occurred against a backdrop of legalized white supremacy in the rural South. The segregated nature of Southern agriculture combined with the power of Southern Democrats in Congress meant that national agricultural programs reflected the assumptions and preferences of powerful southern interests in maintaining racial hierarchies and allowed local authorities significant discretion in the distribution of assistance. Although the federal government consistently acknowledged its role in protecting farmers from economic dislocation, racial calculations, she argues, destroyed early on any possibility that the federal government would establish universal agricultural benefits as a matter of right. Continue reading "The Jim Crow Foundations of Agricultural Governance"