Usury ceilings seem indefensible. Their opponents insist these caps harm the consumers they are intended to help. Low ceilings are said to prevent the least advantaged agents from accessing legal credit and drive them into the black market, where prices are higher and collection methods are harsher. But in this paper, I challenge these arguments and show that the benefits of interest-rate limitations in the most expensive credit markets clearly outweigh the costs. The test case is payday lending. Deregulated pricing (...) in this market produces negative externalities that justify usury restrictions. Unless prices are capped, the more solvent majority of borrowers is compelled to cross-subsidize the least solvent debtors, who have a high rate of default. Rationing the riskiest debtors out of this market by means of a moderate usury cap puts an end to this unfairness and produces fewer bad consequences than the advocates of deregulated pricing recognize. I argue that only an extreme principle like maximizing the minimum could justify a free market in payday credit. (shrink)
This paper offers a new answer to an old question. Others have argued that exploitation is wrong because it is coercive, or degrading, or fails to protect the vulnerable. But these answers only work for certain cases; counterexamples are easily found. In this paper I identify a different answer to the question by placing exploitation within the larger family of wrongs to which it belongs. Exploitation is one species of wrongful gain, and exploiters always gain at the expense of others (...) by inflicting relative losses on disadvantaged parties. They do harm to their victims, even when their interactions are mutually advantageous, by failing to benefit the disadvantaged party as fairness requires. This failure is the essential wrong in every case of wrongful exploitation. At the end of the paper I assess how wrong this failure is as a way to gain at another's expense. (shrink)
Are guest-worker programs exploitative? Egalitarian and neoclassical theories of exploitation agree that they always are. But these judgments are too indiscriminate. Privileged guests are the exception, and the exception points toward a more sensitive standard for identifying exploitation. This more sensitive standard, the sufficiency theory of exploitation, is used to analyze several guest-worker programs. Even when guest-worker programs are exploitative, it is argued that the unfairness should be tolerated if the exploitation is modest, not severe, and if the most likely (...) nonexploitative alternative worsens the plight of the disadvantaged. (shrink)
This paper uses the example of payday loans to identify two standards of exploitation that better accord with intuitions about taking unfair advantage than neoclassical or neo-Marxian exploitation theory. These two standards are derived from ongoing policy debates about the regulation of payday loans. The sufficiency standard is more restrictive than relative-advantage theory, but the latter indicates when exceptions to the prohibition on exploitation should be made for the sake of the disadvantaged party.
By what process was the Jacobin identity transplanted into nineteenth-century Russian radical culture? According to the conventional account, the Jacobin label was coined by proponents like Zainevskij and Tkaev. Lenin, in turn, is said to have derived his Jacobin identity from them, thus revealing the non-Marxian source of his political ideas. This article contests that interpretation through a study of the origin and spread of the Jacobin terminology in post-emancipation Russia. I show that the Jacobin identity in Russia was invented (...) by anti-Jacobin populists and that there were scarcely any self-proclaimed Jacobins prior to Lenin. I also reconstruct the path by which Lenin came to identify with French Jacobinism. That path remained within the territory of Marxist theory from beginning to end. (shrink)
What did Lenin mean when he claimed to be thinking dialectically about questions of political practice? Renewed interest has been expressed in this subject, but the tendency of most studies is to treat Lenin's dialectic as a metaphysical doctrine consisting of universal laws such as transformation into opposite, and so forth. Emphasizing Lenin's Hegel Notebooks, commentators have argued that his tactical innovations after 1914 were simply applications of these dialectical laws. Examination of Lenin's conception of the dialectic as set forth (...) in his tactical writings after the turn of the century shows, however, that the Leninist practice of dialectical thinking was in fact the very antithesis of metaphysical reason, because it repudiated the universality of abstract rules in the formulation of tactics. Several examples of this practice are examined, including the case of national self-determination and the problem of party dictatorship over the working class. (shrink)
According to the prevailing scholarly view, made popular by Neil Harding, Lenin is said to have derived his well-known theory of working-class consciousness in What Is To Be Done? from G. V. Plekhanov, the father of Russian Marxism. Is this article I demonstrate, however, that Plekhanov and Lenin disagreed quite sharply on this question. Plekhanov did not believe that workers would fail to develop a socialist consciousness in the absence of external intervention. Indeed, Plekhanov was a thorough-going optimist about proletarian (...) capacities, and while he did assign an important role to the intelligentsia in the process of consciousness-raising, that role was carefully circumscribed. An exhaustive review of Plekhanov's writings before November 1903, when he broke with Lenin, reveals just how unorthodox Lenin's most famous argument was in the context of Russian Social-Democratic theory. (shrink)