Monthly Archives: January 2014
Ajay Mehrotra’s new book, Making the Modern American Fiscal State, describes how the United States in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries transformed the way it taxed its citizens and thereby laid the foundation for new forms of governance and new sensibilities about the network of civic obligations that bound the nation together. This is a truly impressive work of legal historical scholarship—thoroughly researched, well written, and powerfully argued. Mehrotra also offers a masterful demonstration of scholarly synthesis, artfully weaving together an intricate tapestry of economics, politics, law, and social history.
At the heart of Making the Modern American Fiscal State is a revolution in American tax practices. Prior to the twentieth century, the national government raised revenue through a system of import duties and regressive excise taxes that were “indirect, hidden, disaggregated, and partisan.” (P. 6.) By the end of the story, in the wake of World War I and on the cusp of the New Deal, a much different taxing regime was in place. It was a progressive system that was “direct, transparent, centralized, and professionally administered.” (P. 6.) While prior forms of taxation drew on a premise of a quid pro quo exchange between citizen and government—citizens put money into the system and received certain benefits in return—the new form of taxation challenged this atomistic “benefits” theory and emphasized instead a thicker sense of national community and responsibility. Taxes were assessed on a principle of one’s “ability to pay.” This approach, Mehrotra explains, “promoted an active role for the positive state in the reallocation of fiscal burdens, the reconfiguration of civil identity, and the rise of administrative authority.” (P. 10.) The rise of the modern fiscal state, built on this transformation in taxing policy was, in Mehrotra’s account, a radical change in policy with lasting effects on American statecraft and society. Continue reading "How Tax Law Made America Modern"
The moral arc of the universe is long. But how long is it? If we measure from the civilizations of ancient Greece and Rome, it is long enough to bring into the fully human fold whole categories that had once been denied equal moral status: notably slaves, women, and people of color, who had sometimes been regarded as hardly more significant, morally and legally, than (non-human) animals. It may be an exaggeration to say that Roman law adhered to a rigid, exhaustive and mutually exclusive bifurcation between rights-holding persons and non-rights-holding things, but the eminent Kant scholar Christine Korsgaard does not deny that Kant was “consciously following” precisely that view (P. 630, emphasis original). In this superb paper, she takes up the task of showing that Kant’s thought contains elements that undermine what she calls “the legal bifurcation” (P. 629) of the world into persons, on one hand, and things, on the other. That task is instrumental to her aim of showing that Kant might consistently have adopted a more respectful view of the moral status of animals, and that the framework of Kant’s thought indicates an attractive way of understanding what that third status—of neither person nor mere thing—might be.
Working within Kant’s general account of rationality, agency, and personhood, Korsgaard proposes that we recognize a third category of morally significant being: that of creatures who are not mere things, and yet are not persons either. The tantalizing suggestion is that at least some animals populate this third category, and that they are not apt objects of ownership, at least not in the usual sense. This of course is contrary to Kant’s statement in Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View: Continue reading "Animals, Rights, and Legal “Bifurcation” In Kant"
Joel Waldfogel, Copyright Protection, Technological Change, and the Quality of New Products: Evidence from Recorded Music Since Napster, 55 J.L. & Econ. 715 (2012), available at the University of Minnesota.
The constitution empowers Congress to promote the useful and the expressive arts, which Congress does through the laws governing patents and copyrights. But, promoting one may sometimes retard the other. This happens in the context of new technologies of copying and dissemination, such as the photocopier, VTR, the MP3 player, and file-sharing networks. Imposing copyright liability on the makers and users of these technologies encourages copyright owners but may discourage innovators. Shielding such makers and users from liability encourages technological innovation but may retard expressive creativity. How should we strike this trade-off, either in general or in particular cases?
This question has long been a major issue in copyright law and scholarship. To know what the right policy is, we should have some sense of the degree to which incentives to create content are diminished, if at all, in the face of the new technology. Indeed, much empirical work surrounding the file-sharing litigation has studied the effect file-sharing had on music sales. This body of literature contains diverse views, and the debate on the empirics is sometimes as heated as the one on the theory and policy side. Continue reading "Quantifying the Copyright-Innovation Interference"
Peter Conti-Brown, The Institutions of Federal Reserve Independence, Rock Center for Corp. Governance at Stanford Univ. Working Paper No. 139 (2014), available at SSRN.
Exactly one hundred years after its birth, the Federal Reserve remains one of the most powerful and mysterious institutions in the world. The recent global financial crisis made it exceedingly clear how much the Fed can do – and, in fact, does do – to shore up failing financial markets and prevent the entire economic system from collapsing. That same display of strength under fire, however, exposed the darker side of Fed power: what if it’s abused or misused in ways that can hurt all of us? Both revered and feared for its apparent ability to pull at the hidden strings that keep the national (and even global) economy going, the Fed has emerged from the latest crisis with an expanded regulatory mandate and an even greater political visibility. Some applaud this development, while others criticize it. Yet, despite all of our post-crisis wisdom and divided opinions, how well do we know the Fed? Do we actually understand the sources and nature of the Fed’s century-old “magic”?
If you hesitate at all before giving an affirmative answer, you should read Peter Conti-Brown’s recent article, The Institutions of Federal Reserve Independence, a brand new draft of which is currently available on SSRN. This piece is an opening move in Conti-Brown’s larger project – a book entitled The Structure of Federal Reserve Independence (Princeton University Press, forthcoming 2015). The book promises to offer a comprehensive and historically-grounded analysis of the Fed’s “independence,” that critical ingredient of its powerful magic. To Conti-Brown, however, the Fed’s independence is much more than a dry legal concept – it is a complex real-life phenomenon, a unique “ecosystem” continuously evolving through interactions among multiple legal, political, administrative, ideological, and even cultural factors. From his perspective, it doesn’t make sense to speak of the central bank’s “independence” as a static formal attribute that means the same thing in every context. Instead, the task is to understand the key mechanisms, both formal and informal, through which the Fed exercises its independence vis-à-vis specific parties, or audiences. Continue reading "Demystifying the Fed"
What comes to mind when you hear the term “au pair”? If you’re like me, you may imagine a young adult from an upper-middle class family going abroad for a year to help care for another family’s children—a kind of student exchange program with some child care duties included as part of the bargain. But as Janie A. Chuang shows in her recent article, The U.S. Au Pair Program: Labor Exploitation and the Myth of Cultural Exchange, the au pair program that the U.S. government currently offers is not uncommonly a site of disturbing and exploitative labor practices that look much more like an abusive guest worker program than a cultural exchange. In fact, according to Chuang, the framing of the au pair program as a cultural exchange may actually contribute to the vulnerability of its foreign participants.
As Chuang notes in her article, the au pair concept was initially one of cultural exchange: au pair is a French term meaning “on par with,” and refers to “a European practice of having a young person come to a foreign country to learn the language and experience the culture through immersion in the home life of a host family while assisting with childcare and light housework.” Under the U.S. program, au pairs must be between the ages of 18 and 26. For one to two years, they live with “host families” and provide childcare in exchange for room, board, and a small stipend. Despite the labor provided by au pairs, however, the program is not run under the auspices of the Department of Labor, as are other employment-based visa programs. Instead, they are run under the State Department’s J-1 Exchange Visitor Program, a program that facilitates cultural exchange by providing temporary visits by people such as camp counselors, interns, and academic researchers. Categorizing the work as involving cultural exchange rather than labor allows employers to bypass the step of showing that they could not find a qualified American worker to perform the job. Continue reading "Labor Protection Parity for Au Pairs"
In their engaging, highly readable article, Jon Binnie and Christian Klesse explore the effects of intergenerationality within Polish transnational sexual solidarity movements. Specifically, the authors examine how chronological age and people’s histories and trajectories of political activism shape the interactions taking place between lesbian and gay activists from Poland and those from Western Europe.
The authors locate their discussion within queer conversations about time and futurity. According to Lee Edelman, whose blistering critique of heterosexual reproductive futurity proved very popular within certain quarters of queer studies, “The image of the Child invariably shapes the logic within which the political itself must be thought”; there is only one position to take when it comes to the Child and that is to be “for” it. Edelman argues instead for an “unthinkable” politics that refuses to be oriented to the future and its beneficiaries. But this is not the position Binnie and Klesse adopt. Rejecting Edelman’s account of queer, the authors draw instead on José Esteban Muñoz’s argument of queer time, where “Queerness is a structuring and educated mode of desiring that allows us to see and feel beyond . . . the present.” Thus, the authors indicate the possibility of a “queer child” as one who stands in for, and gestures to, a different future—where sexual diversity is a regular and accepted dimension of social life. Continue reading "Generations of Activism and Queer Time"
As New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg left office, commentary on his public health initiatives abounded; the reviews ranged from lauding him as an innovative pioneer to painting him as a meddling nanny-in-chief. At the core of these contrasting views lies a sharp divergence in how commentators understand the scope of the state’s proper interest in protecting its citizens from today’s primary threats to their health, threats posed by chronic and non-communicable conditions such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Does the state’s interest in protecting public health—and thus its police power to advance that interest—extend to combating such conditions’ growing prevalence? Or is the state’s public health authority limited to addressing health threats like those that historically have occupied public health officials, threats like communicable diseases, tainted food, and unsafe water? In short, what makes health threats “public”?
Lindsay Wiley’s article “Rethinking the New Public Health” reconsiders this debate and suggests a novel approach to finding a middle path between the public health expansionists (who view any problem diminishing the health and longevity of a significant number of people as a public health problem subject to regulatory intervention) and the public health minimalists (who would confine the state’s regulatory authority to addressing those collective threats against which responsible individuals cannot protect themselves). By identifying and analyzing a common strand of thought in public health and public nuisance law, Wiley provides a theoretical basis for identifying those “public bads” that are properly targets of public health interventions. Wiley would define those “public bads” as having not only economic, but also epidemiological meaning. Continue reading "What Makes Health “Public”? Finding a Middle Path"
For decades, I have felt quite Janus-faced about gender crime laws. My feminist face cringes at the thought of widespread sexual and nonsexual violence against women occurring with utter impunity. My anti-authoritarian face furrows in consternation at reports of mass incarceration, prison abuses, and authoritarian police and prosecuting norms. This personal philosophical dissonance has led me on a quest to figure out whether the United States’s penal system holds any liberatory potential for women, and, if not, what can be done about violent gender subordination. In this vein, I have sought out scholarship that neither repeats the battered women advocates’ mantra that there should be “zero tolerance” for gender crime, nor holds to liberal ideals that instinctively prioritize “neutral” (defendants’) rights. This led me to Leigh Goodmark’s complex, insightful, and no doubt controversial book, A Troubled Marriage: Domestic Violence and the Legal System. The book is meticulous in its research, spanning decades of historical developments in the law of intimate abuse. It brings together many strains of feminist and criminal law theory to formulate a comprehensive re-envisioning of the domestic violence law reform project.
The book consists of two main interventions―a theoretical intervention and a practical intervention. Theoretically, the book critiques “dominance feminism,” a brand of feminist legal theory developed primarily by Catharine MacKinnon, for steering the anti-abuse movement in a prosecutorial direction. While MacKinnon’s writings have far less to do with domestic violence than with rape, pornography, and sexual harassment, the book makes a compelling case that dominance feminism-type ideas were highly influential in the domestic violence arena. Practically, the book calls for “antiessentialist” domestic violence law and policy, meaning that domestic violence reform must be disentangled from popular reductionist characterizations of battered women as non-poor white women subject to brutal violence, who have tried unsuccessfully to separate in the past, and desire batterers’ incarceration but are too afraid to pursue prosecution. For Goodmark, rejecting essentialist images necessitates rejection of most state punitive responses to intimate abuse. The book accordingly advocates reforms “outside the criminal law,” such as truth commissions, batterer inventions, and even microfinance. Continue reading "Rethinking Domestic Violence, Rethinking Violence"
As some may remember, Dallas attorney Fred Baron created an uproar in the legal community in 1993 when he mounted a full-bore attack against the infamous Georgine nationwide asbestos settlement class. In 1997, Laurence Tribe — arguing an array of substantive and procedural objections — ultimately convinced the Supreme Court in Amchem v. Windsor to disapprove that settlement. Fred Baron, then, largely was responsible for helping to establish that settlement classes are legitimate, but that they must include structural assurances of due process fairness to absent class members.
Less well-known and long-forgotten in Amchem’s wake, Baron also lobbed an array of ethical objections at the settling parties, although the Supreme Court ultimately deflected these challenges. The Georgine settling parties had simultaneously presented the federal district court with a class complaint and a settlement. Baron raised the question of the duties that plaintiffs’ attorneys owed to class members in the absence of a formal class certification at the outset of the litigation. On this, he held two somewhat discordant views. On one hand, he opined that absent a formal class certification at the front-end of class litigation, no class was created and therefore the plaintiffs’ attorneys could not negotiate a settlement on behalf of the class. There was no attorney-client relationship until the class came into existence. Thus, he argued, the entire Georgine settlement was illegitimate and the class could not be bound by a back-end class certification. On the other hand, he argued that an attorney-client relationship existed throughout and class counsel owed fiduciary duties to the class members, even without a filed class complaint. In this regard, class counsel had violated their fiduciary duties to the Georgine class. Continue reading "Front-End Duties to the Class"
Every once in a while you read an article that makes you smack your head and say, “Duh—this is so obvious (and obviously right)—that I can’t understand why I didn’t see it before.” That’s the mark of a terrific article. It says something that is obvious after you’ve read it, but that wasn’t at all obvious (to you, at least) before. Deborah Hellman’s article on the Supreme Court’s treatment of “avoiding corruption” as a justification for campaign finance regulation is terrific in that way.
According to the Court, the First Amendment limits the kinds of corruption that can be targeted by campaign finance regulation. Only quid pro quo corruption—the more or less direct exchange of money given to a candidate for the candidate’s vote or other action on a matter of interest to the donor—counts for First Amendment purposes. Professor Hellman points out that “corruption” is what she calls a “derivative concept.” That is, you can’t say that some activity “corrupts” an institution’s proper operation without specifying beforehand what that proper operation should be. After developing that point with examples from universities (nepotism is bad in hiring faculty members because academic departments are supposed to make decisions based on academic criteria, but preferential admission to selective public schools for siblings of a student already enrolled there might be permissible because of their overall goals), she turns to politics. Continue reading "Corruption, Partisan Gerrymandering, Theories of Democracy, and the Supreme Court"
Lisa Heinzerling, Inside EPA: A Former Insider’s Reflections on the Relationship Between the Obama EPA and the Obama White House, Pace Envtl. L. Rev. (forthcoming), available at SSRN.
Ever wondered what it is like—really like—to be an agency official confronting review by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) of your agency’s rule? Readers of JOTWELL’s administrative law blog are disproportionately likely to be part of the small group that wonders about such things, and this post has some very good news for them.
Surely, the best way to find out what it is really like to run a rule through OIRA would be to become an insider, serving as a high-ranking official at a major rulemaking agency. Most of us will never have that option. Fortunately for outsiders, a leading administrative law scholar, Professor Lisa Heinzerling of Georgetown University Law Center, did. She left academia for two years to serve as Senior Climate Policy Counsel to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson from January to July 2009 and then as Associate Administrator of the Office of Policy from July 2009 to December 2010. Now back in the academic fold, she has written a fascinating account of the way that centralized White House review has affected agency rulemaking during the Obama administration. Continue reading "What Does It Feel Like To Have OIRA Review Your Rule?"
In his paper, which was presented as the Thomas E. Fairchild Lecture at the University of Wisconsin Law School, Professor Michael Zimmer does a superb job of explaining how employment has factored into the economic inequality that is so prevalent in our society. Professor Zimmer explains how the middle class is quickly disappearing from the workplace, and how economic mobility is quickly on the decline. Most importantly, he charts a course toward rectifying the existing problems.
In the first part of this paper, Professor Zimmer examines how the current economic volatility has created numerous difficulties for everyday workers. In particular, he explores how the permanent-type relationships between employers and employees are going by the wayside, as businesses have moved toward an independent contractor model that allows them greater flexibility in managing their workforce. As the majority of U.S. workers are employees-at-will, most employees today have little security in their paychecks or in their health and retirement benefits. Professor Zimmer also does an excellent job of exploring how unionization has waned across the country. Thus, while workers still have the ability to organize and overcome employment-at-will, it is becoming far less common for them to do so. Continue reading "Inequality in the Workplace and Beyond"
Testamentary freedom gives a person the right to control the distribution of his or her property upon death. The main way for a person to exercise that right is to execute a Will. In the event a person dies without a Will, his or her estate is distributed based upon the scheme set forth in the applicable intestacy statute. Even though most Americans die without executing Wills, Professor Weisbord is convinced that the decision not to execute a Will is not an indication that a person wants his or her property to be distributed under the intestacy system. Professor Weisbord opines that most people do not understand the consequences of dying intestate.
Professor Weisbord seeks to articulate a reason for the high rate of intestacy. He rejects the argument that people fail to execute Wills because they are afraid to think about their own mortality. To justify his rejection of that argument, Professor Weisbord asserts that people confront and plan for death by using non-testamentary transfer devices like life insurance and retirement plans with death benefit provisions. Professor Weisbord concludes that procrastination is the most plausible explanation for the high rate of intestacy. He maintains that most people procrastinate when it comes to making a Will because the process is complex and intimidating. According to Professor Weisbord, the Will-making process is complicated because the Will has to be attested to by witnesses and drafted using complex legal language. Professor Weisbord states, “In short, simplifying the will-making process would likely reduce testamentary procrastination.” Continue reading "Linking the Certainty of Death and Taxes"
Nils Jansen, The Idea of Legal Responsibility, O.J.L.S. (forthcoming, 2014) available at SSRN.
Prof. Nils Jansen’s new article, The Idea of Legal Responsibility, is an ambitious work of tort theory. Jansen engages some of the most basic questions of private law. The article’s rewards are found on two levels. First, the argument it propounds—that responsibility in tort can be usefully (if not exclusively) framed in terms of restitution– is intriguing and offers another take on corrective justice. Second, the framework around which Jansen builds his argument – the evolution of the law of restitution in scholastic and early modern European private law– is one that may be unfamiliar to many common lawyers. Jansen’s article make a persuasive case that contained within this history are lessons that transcend the common and civilian divide.
Professor Jansen’s thesis is deceptively simple: He argues that the best justification for tort liability in many modern legal systems on both sides of the Atlantic is a principle of “responsibility” that has its roots in the doctrine of unjust enrichment. Early in the article Jansen asserts that the question that all tort theorists in both the common law and civilian legal cultures must answer is, “why be responsible for another’s loss” and that the answer to this question lies in the “moral principle against unjust enrichment” (P. 3). Yet by the end of the article, Jansen restates his position so that it seems that unjust enrichment is useful today because it helps illustrate the “constitutionalisation” of tort law, a modern phenomenon where the priority of basic human rights determines the variety of tort doctrines that dominate today’s legal landscape. This tension is interesting and worth considering. Continue reading "Why Answer?"
Thomas J. Brennan, Law and Finance: The Case of Constructive Sales, Ann. Rev. Fin. Econ. (forthcoming 2013) available at SSRN.
Tom Brennan’s recent paper, Law and Finance: The Case of Constructive Sales explains that constructive sale guidance and case law fail to take account of volatility. To fix the omission, Brennan explains, use the delta value of the constructive sale transaction relative to the underlying asset to determine how close the transaction is to a sale. Reg writers, take note.
When do you own something, or more to the point, when have you sold it? In tax terms this presents the question of realization. And on it turns income tax planning’s central tenet: defer the payment of tax as long as possible. Preferably until the angel of death arrives with the gift of stepped-up basis, expecting only the small tip of possible estate tax liability. Continue reading "There’s Math for That! Delta Value and the Constructive Sale Rules"
In De Facto Immigration Courts, Stephen Lee untangles part of the thicket that is immigration law. Immigration law is a dense and unique fusion of administrative law, constitutional law, criminal law, and more. It is these intersections, in the context of the very human story of migration, which give immigration law its essence. Professor Lee’s article identifies and explores an underexposed phenomenon arising from immigration law’s dependence on criminal law and criminal procedure.
Professor Lee’s article focuses on how events in state and local criminal law proceedings affect eventual federal civil law agency removal (deportation) proceedings in immigration courts. Specifically, he looks at the impact of state and local prosecutors’ charging and plea choices in criminal cases in eventual agency immigration law proceedings. He argues that criminal court systems are functioning as de facto immigration courts. Continue reading "Local Prosecutors as Deportation Gatekeepers"
Today we inaugurate a unique new Jotwell section. Unlike our ordinary single-subject Jotwell sections, the Jotwell Lex Section will feature a selection of legal topics that do not necessarily have the publishing volume to carry a section of their own. The Lex section’s initial list includes Art & Cultural Property Law, Education Law, Election Law, Energy Law, Environmental Law, Immigration, and Librarianship & Legal Technology, with a stellar cast of founding Contributing Editors.
The first posting in the Lex section, on Immigration Law, is Local Prosecutors as Deportation Gatekeepers by Jill Family.
Please note our Call For Papers, and get in touch if you have suggestions for a new section, or if you have a review you would like to contribute to Jotwell.
Spoiler alert: This Jotwell review reveals the plot of Mitchell Kowalski’s book, Avoiding Extinction: Reimagining Legal Services for the 21st Century.
In recent years, those of us who are interested in legal services market innovation and disruption are often presented with two different types of source materials to satisfy our curiosity. First, there is blue-skies thinking—ideas that might ultimately become mainstream but not in the immediate future. Secondly, there is research, which examines innovative market behaviours, delivered by actual providers to real clients. However, what is generally missing from such works are discussions about how either of these changes will impact existing lawyers who find themselves caught up in this period of transition. And this is the main attraction of Mitch Kowalski’s approach: By writing a novel, Avoiding Extinction: Reimagining Legal Services for the 21st Century, Kowalski is able to offer a human-focused examination of these mega-market changes—from the perspectives of individual clients and private practice lawyers. Continue reading "Reimagining a New Ending to “Reimagining Legal Services”"
Katherine Turk’s recent article, ‘Our Militancy is in Our Openness’: Gay Employment Rights Activism in California and the Question of Sexual Orientation in Sex Equality Law, offers a deeply researched history of gay rights activism in California—“the epicenter of the gay employment rights movement” (P. 426)—that engages important questions about the benefits and limits of different legal strategies. In this detailed local history of the gay employment rights movement, Turk discusses the work of a number of advocacy organizations in the state—including the ACLU of Southern California, the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, the Metropolitan Community Church, the Society for International Rights, the Committee for Homosexual Freedom, the Committee on Rights within the Gay Community, and the National Gay Rights Association—through which activists pressed for equal rights in the workplace. Although this movement was dominated by gay men, Turk makes clear that it is not a story of a fractured movement. Instead, activists throughout the gay community understood the prosaic importance of employment rights, and the employment nondiscrimination litigation at the center of her narrative “embodied some of the most universal and consistent claims at the heart of the modern gay rights movement.” (P. 428.)
Activists called for a new model of workplace rights, as they sought legal protections that combined the equality arguments used by women and people of color with gay liberationist arguments that embraced sexual orientation. In doing so, they contended “that a worker’s gender and sexual orientation were irrelevant to his or her ability to perform a job, but that the freedom to signal those identities was an essential element of workplace equality.” (P. 426.) Thus, the gay employment rights movement rejected equality arguments based in sexual privacy, “which assumed that people could—or should—leave their sexual identity behind at the office door.” (P. 435.) Instead, activists argued, gay and lesbian workers should be able to participate in the workplace in the same way their heterosexual colleagues did—as workers with professional skills and rich personal lives. Continue reading "Gay Rights in the Workplace"