Balkinization: Interview on the Black Box Society: "The Black Box Society’s central subject--agnotology, the suppression or destruction of knowledge--is a particularly difficult topic to interpret methodically. But I’ve tried to highlight some very important disputes, show their broader relevance, and explain what laws would need to change for us to really understand the value of what data brokers, search engines, financiers, or homeland security contractors are doing. I justify those policy proposals with reference to emerging work in more normatively oriented branches of political economy and social science...
Political economy is a venerable discipline. While it has, of late, been dominated by “positive political economists” focused on the pathologies of governance, there is a venerable tradition of political economists studying the “ideal role of the state in the economic and social organization of a country” (as Piketty puts it). Lawyers are particularly well-suited to the task of studying political economy, because we are the ones drafting, interpreting, and applying the rules governing the interface between state actors and firms.
Integrating the long-divided fields of politics and economics, a renewal of modern political economy could unravel “wicked problems” neither states nor markets alone can address.
But it’s actually more urgent than that, because the very terms “state” and “market” seem antiquated. For example, Medicare may be publicly funded, but it’s ultimately run by a panoply of private contractors. Banks may make tremendous profits from financial “markets,” but the main reason they have deposits and counterparties to deal with is governmental guarantees that take the sting out of credit risk—and, in turn, reward many of those administering such guarantees with lucrative jobs once they leave government.
So a purely economic approach to “markets” here, or a purely political approach to “states,” misses the critical interaction between the two. A political economic approach is vital—and that’s what has made social theory ranging from Smith and Mill, to Tocqueville and Durkheim, to Weber and Habermas, of such enduring interest. In law, we still read Robert Lee Hale and the legal realists for exactly the same reason. My concluding chapter tries to revive this political economic perspective, suggesting reforms beyond the purely legal concerns of the penultimate chapter." 'via Blog this'