About me

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Currently Reginald Lewis Fellow, Harvard Law School.  Research focus on participatory governance, public law (constitutional, administrative, electoral, local government), economic policy, international development.  Committed to research and practice aimed at improving democratic governance and economic welfare. (More here)

Current works in progress

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“The Architecture of Voice.”  Draft in progress.  |  “Expertise, Markets, and Democratic Judgment in Financial Regulation.” Presented at Harvard Law School Legal History Workshop 2013.  | “Private Power, Public Politics”. Presented at Harvard University Political Theory Workshop 2012.  | “Republicanism, Regulation, and the Problem of Capture.”  Draft in progress.  |  “Power, Regulation, and Democratic Agency: A Progressive Theory of the Public.” Presented at 2013 American Political Science Association annual conference.  | “Progressive Cosmopolitanism: Political Agency, Public Sphere, and International Action”.  Presented at Harvard Government Department Political Theory Workshop.

Governing the Economy: Markets, Experts, and Citizens

[Ph.D dissertation, Harvard University Department of Government, 2013].

ABSTRACT

The 2008 financial crisis provoked a debate over how we as a democratic society ought to govern the modern market economy.  Our prevailing response to this problem of economic governance has been to appeal either to free markets as self-regulating, self-optimizing systems, or to technocratic rule by neutral experts.  Both these systems are appealing because they claim to promote the public good free of the corruption, irrationality, conflict, and vagaries of democratic politics.  This project aims to overcome this skepticism to sketch an account of a democratic approach to economic governance, inspired by the thought and reforms of the Progressive Era.

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“Democracy and Productivity: The Glass-Steagall Act and the Shifting Discourse of Financial Regulation”

Journal of Policy History, 24:4 (Fall 2012), pp. 612-643

Available online here.  Download from SSRN  here.

INTRODUCTORY EXCERPT:

In the fall of 2008, the United States experienced a sudden financial crisis that plunged the financial sector into disarray, provoked the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, and gave rise to an ongoing series of highly contentious debates over economic regulation. Two years later, Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, one of the largest overhauls of financial regulation in history. Throughout this debate, much of the discourse of financial reform revolved around concepts such as consumer protection, the problem of the “systemic risk” posed by the failure of financial institutions that could have vast negative spillover effects, and the clash between proponents and critics of expanded federal regulatory oversight. But despite deep-seated public anger against financial firms and accusations of abusive practices of securitization and subprime mortgage lending, the public discourse of reform politics exhibited little evidence of more aggressive arguments against the concentrated economic and political power of big finance—arguments that had historically animated antitrust and financial reformers during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.2 This current era of ongoing debate over the role of the state in regulating the financial sector suggests an opportune moment to reexamine the language and arguments of an earlier era of financial regulatory reform: the debate around the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933. …

The reform discourse in Congress surrounding Glass-Steagall parallels many of the debates in our current historical moment. Then, as now, policy- makers struggled to conceptualize the precise nature of the economic challenge and how reforms ought to respond. Then, as now, the dominant narrative was primarily one where reforms were targeted toward promoting economic productivity and stability. Yet at the same time, there was a strong undercurrent of a more aggressive and moralized critique of financial greed and excessive power. This historical debate around Glass-Steagall from 1931 to 1933 is especially interesting because it captures an important shift in discourses of reform, from earlier Progressive Era reform discourses to the kinds of language that would mark the New Deal and postwar eras—a shift that would ultimately have profound consequences for more recent debates on financial regulation.

Salon: Progressive freedom

Aside

“Beyond the Free Market”: Progressivism has at its heart a distinct view of freedom that pushes us towards a fairer economy and a more democratic society.  Advancing this vision requires reclaiming the language of freedom from its more conservative and free-market valence today.  See my essay at Salon here.

Link

Brandeis’ vision of citizenship–and its implications for the economy and democracy.  Second installment of the new blog series on Progressive Citizenship.  Full post at New Deal 2.0 here, or at Citizen Think here.