This article explores James M. Buchanan’s contributions to urban economics and urban public finance. Buchanan never self-identified as an ‘urban economist’, so his contributions to the field have blended into his broader body of work on public finance and externalities. However, in a series of papers in the 1960s and 1970s, Buchanan developed an urban fiscal club framework for thinking about urban problems that he used to analyse cities’ tax policy and the negative externalities of congestion, crime and pollution. By drawing out those ideas and their relation to each other, we can reconstruct Buchanan as an urban economist. This reconstruction casts new light on Buchanan’s service with several academic and federal urban policy commissions, including the Committee on Urban Public Expenditures and Richard Nixon’s Task Force on Urban Affairs and Task Force on Model Cities. Buchanan’s interest in urban economics has roots in an often-ignored member of his dissertation committee, Harvey Perloff. Perloff’s joint appointment with the Chicago Planning Program brought Buchanan into contact with several urban planners and urban economists who would continue to engage him in urban policy work throughout his career.
Ageing demographics have prompted widespread pension reforms across Latin America. This has left several countries with a significant financial burden related to the transition from one system to another. In this article, we evaluate two alternative methods of financing the recent pension reform in the Dominican Republic. We build on a simple real business cycle model with perfect competition and add a fiscal block that allows us to simulate shocks to the tax rates on capital and labour, based on the present value of the pension reform cost. We find that increasing the tax rate on returns to capital would not only fill the pension deficit, but also have a significantly smaller adverse effect on the macroeconomy, when compared with an increase to the tax on labour.
Content moderation is key to platform operations. Given the largely outsourced character of content moderation work and the dynamic character of social media platforms, technology firms have to address the accompanying high degrees of uncertainty and labour indeterminacy. Central to their managerial strategies is the use of automated technology that allows them to organise work by incorporating the social media user activities within the production processes, and control workers for ensuring the accuracy of content moderation decisions. The labour process analysis is informed by two workshops with ten participants at a Berlin-based IT-services firm providing content moderation services to a lead firm based in the USA. The research design combines together the design thinking method and the focus group interview method to examine the worker–machine interaction. The research findings indicate that technical control results in continuous standardising of content moderation work through routinisation of tasks and codification of time. Its combination with bureaucratic control through the supply-side managerial functions aims to ensure the quality service delivery and points to the continued significance of human supervision. Correspondingly, there are two main contributions of our study: first, regarding the governance in content moderation value chains and second, regarding the worker experiences of technical-driven control. On account of the limited resistance observed in the labour process, we conclude that instead of seeing it as the totalisation of technical control, our findings point towards the structural conditions in Germany that restrict migrant workers’ agency.
Much is known about how labour platforms use ‘algorithmic management’ to implement rules which govern labour by matching workers (or service providers) with clients (or users). But little is known about whether and how platform workers engage with these rules by manipulating them to their own advantage, and how this accounts for wider ‘regime dynamics’ across (and within) different types of platforms (for example, on-location and online). Based on a comparative analysis of two food delivery (Deliveroo and Takeaway) and two freelancing (Upwork and Jellow) platforms in Belgium, we discuss the rules platforms use to govern labour and examine what role workers have in shaping a ‘space’ of control over the conduct of their work. Drawing on labour process theory, we argue that this space is shaped by the way in which platforms shift risks onto workers by rules governing access to work through rewards, penalties as well as labour deployment reflecting various contractual statuses. Hence, we explain how workers also shape such spaces by organising consent around these rules, pointing to a ‘social space’ for food delivery workers and a ‘market space’ for self-employed freelancers. These spaces refer to different regime types, that is, ‘pay-based control’ and ‘time-based control’ for food delivery, and ‘customer-based control’ and ‘task-based control’ for online freelancers. These types are shaped by the control and consent dynamics within labour platforms, reflecting the platforms’ labour governance strategies and workers’ attempts to ensure control over these strategies within the distinctive political institutional realm.
An expanded use of agency workers has followed a series of economic shocks in the UK since the 2008 financial crisis. Agency workers, unlike permanent workers, comprise a wide range of workers without regular, secure and long-term employment relations. In this article we examine the inherently contradictory employment relationship embodied by agency workers, namely employers’ wish to stabilise and make the workforce more predictable by bringing in agency workers under insecure and unstable employment terms. Based on a significant single case study of a distribution centre, the study compares two agency work regimes: one with systematic screening and employment of pre-formed workers, and the other with strong normative control over fragmented under-formed workers. The study details management strategies aimed to improve workforce stability in the more fragmented agency worker regime by bringing an employment intermediatory on-site, building coherency between the permanent and agency workers, and restraining the supervisor’s power of dismissal. These findings problematise framing agency employment based on an assumption of continuous and selective inflow of migrant workers. Rather, contrasting agency worker regimes demonstrates contested employment relations between an increasingly diverse group of agency workers and an employer seeking to instigate predictability and coherency in agency employment.
This article aims at developing a conceptual framework of the migrant labour regime (MLR) to better understand the agency of migrants in the semiconductor industry and illustrates this by the example of Filipino migrant workers in the Taiwanese semiconductor industry. Based on semi-structured interviews with key persons in the semiconductor industry, the study demonstrates the different roles of actors and connections within the global production network (GPN). With regard to the theoretical contribution, this article develops a conceptual framework of the MLR and addresses three central actors in multi-scalar networks, that is, state, firms, and LMI. The framework proposed in this article offers more analytical clarity to the primary empirical contribution. Therefore, the article identifies three key factors of dynamics in GPNs. First, it emphasises the importance of the state and firms in shaping the MLR. Regulatory institutions at the national level hinder upward mobility of migrant workers and long-term employment relationships because working contracts do not allow employees to change job tasks or employers freely. Second, the coordination between contract manufacturers and lead firms in the GPN leads to a transformation of the workplace, for example, intensification and increased flexibility. Third, LMIs play a role in facilitating and mediating migrant labour in the transnational labour market.
From a labour geography perspective, workers are capable of (re)shaping economic spaces, commonly understood as ‘labour agency’. This article conceptualises and discusses German worker-led companies (WLCs) as sites of ‘transformative labour agency’. It demonstrate how workers consciously alter work and production structures through collective ownership and decision-making. In concert with post-growth research, empirical findings show how workers in German WLCs intentionally align their work structures with socioeconomic transformations beyond economic growth. Examples for transformative labour agency are reductions in working time, definitions of work that include unpaid labour and social reproduction as well as limitations on private profit generation. The article explores how far collectively managing decision-making and ownership can be understood as a way of ‘commoning labour’. It further analyses how German WLCs prefigure post-capitalist work practices in a capitalist present despite institutional constraints.
This article examines the assumptions behind the sociology of work and industrial relations literature on online labour-based platforms. This literature has critically examined working conditions and worker resistance in platform work, but it has done so without criticising what we call the ‘metanarrative of the platform economy’. This metanarrative enables a weaving together of platform work with broader trends such as precarisation, neoliberalisation, financialisation and marketisation, but it makes it difficult for scholars to explain the small size of the platform workforce or to understand the diverse forms that platforms take. We argue that in order to understand the limits and diversity of platforms it is important to understand the inherent problems of platforms as capitalist business models. We suggest a research agenda that decentres some of the better-known platform models (ridesharing and food delivery) and carries out in-depth studies of work and exchange in other sectors.
This article examines whether there is an increase in repression in the election year in electoral autocracies. First, we build a simple theoretical model of an electoral autocracy. We assume that autocratic rulers want to maximise the expected rents from office. As a higher vote share in the election is translated into a higher probability of remaining in power, they use repression to exclude those opposing the ruler from the electoral body. Then, in the empirical section, we use a data set of autocracies to examine the existence of an electoral cycle in repression. We use a dynamic inverse probability weighting regression adjustment model, which models the dynamics of elections on the respect of human rights and considers that elections are non-random events. All results, and several robustness tests, indicate a strong presence of an electoral cycle in repression consistent with our theoretical model and priors. Additionally, we find that when it comes to autocracies, this cyclical increase in repression is more pronounced than the pre-electoral increase in government spending.
The Soul of Classical Political Economy curates ten previously unpublished works by James M. Buchanan. The editorial introductions to these are independently valuable as scholarly works; they shed light on the context in which the papers, essays and letters were written, and draw important connections across Buchanan’s different writings. In this review essay, I consider Buchanan on classical liberalism, Knut Wicksell and the role of the economist in light of these newly available writings. The book and review essay should prove of interest not only to historians of economics, but also to scholars and economists generally, as Buchanan’s views on the classical tradition provide important philosophical support for the entire neoliberal enterprise, particularly as it relates to public policy, public economics and public choice.