Finance expert, law professor, and fellow overwhelmed consumer Kathryn Judge investigates the surprising ways that middlemen have taken control of the economy at the expense of the rest of us, and provides practical guidance about how to regain control, find more meaning, and contribute to a more sustainable economy.
Over the past thirty years, middlemen have built intricate financial and retail empires capable of moving goods across the country and around the world—transforming the economy and our lives. Because of middlemen, we enjoy an unprecedented degree of choice and convenience. But the rise of the middleman economy comes at a steep price.
In Direct, Columbia law professor Kathryn Judge shows how overgrown middlemen became the backbone of modern capitalism and the cause of many of its ailments. Middlemen today shape what people do, how they invest, and what they consume. They use their troves of data to push people to buy more, and more expensive, products. They use their massive profits and expertise to lobby lawmakers, tilting the playing field in their favor. Drawing on a decade of research, Judge shows how to fight back: Go to the source.
The process of direct exchange—and the resulting ecosystem of makers and consumers, investors and entrepreneurs—fosters connection and community and helps promote a more just, resilient, and accountable economic system. Direct exchange reminds us that our actions always and inevitably impact others, as it rekindles an appreciation of our inherent interconnectedness. As Judge reveals in this much-needed book, direct exchange is both the cornerstone of the solution and a tool for revealing just how much is at stake in decisions about “through whom” to buy, invest and give.
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About the Author
Table of Contents
Preface: The Quiet Transformation ix
Part I Tracing Food from Farm to Table
Chapter 1 The Hidden Cost of Convenience 3
Chapter 2 The Joy of Going to the Source 25
Part II The Rise of the Middleman Economy
Chapter 3 The Retail Behemoths 45
Chapter 4 Helping People Buy Homes 67
Chapter 5 The Middlemen Behind The Middleman 81
Part III The Dark Side
Chapter 6 Who Do Middlemen Really Serve? 97
Chapter 7 Middlemen Perpetuating the Need for Middlemen 119
Chapter 8 The Myth of Supply Chain Accountability 143
Part IV Direct and the Path Forward
Chapter 9 Connections, Local and Global 169
Chapter 10 Almost-Direct, Quasi-Direct, and the Limits of Direct 189
Chapter 11 Five Principles for Policy Makers, Companies, and the Rest of US 211