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News from EPI 36 prominent economists, including 3 Nobel laureates, explain to the Supreme Court why the anti-union position in Janus is simply wrong as a matter of basic economics

Thirty-six distinguished economists and professors of law and economics including three Nobel laureates, two recipients of the American Economic Association’s prestigious John Bates Clark Medal, and two past presidents of the American Economic Association filed an amici curiae brief to assist the Supreme Court in understanding the free-rider problem at issue in Janus v. AFSCME.

The brief, from Dan Jackson at Keker, Van Nest & Peters, argues that the free-rider problem has broad application and acceptance in economics. While this is obvious to economists, it is at issue in this case. The key point the brief makes is that it is well established in economics that if an individual chooses not to pay for something that will be provided to them for free, that does not mean they do not value it. As explained in the brief, “Withholding financial support does not imply antipathy; it follows from individual self-interest and the collective nature of the benefits provided, even in the absence of any disagreement about those benefits. That is the essence of the free-rider problem.”

The economic luminaries behind the brief also point out that the greater good would be harmed if the Supreme Court rules for the petitioners, saying in part “…even if some contributors persevere the amount of the collective good will be sub-optimal, and will tend to decrease further and further below the optimum as the contagion of free riding spreads, resulting in increasing exploitation of the dwindling contributors.”

List of signers:

Henry J. Aaron is the Bruce and Virginia MacLaury Senior Fellow in the Economic Studies Program at the Brookings Institution.

Katharine G. Abraham is Professor of Economics, Professor of Survey Methodology, and Director of the Maryland Center for Economics and Policy at the University of Maryland. She served as Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics from 1993 through 2001.

Daron Acemoglu is the Elizabeth and James Killian Professor of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He received the John Bates Clark Medal in 2005.

David Autor is Ford Professor of Economics and Associate Head of the Department of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Ian Ayres is the William K. Townsend Professor at Yale Law School and a Professor at Yale’s School of Management.

Alan S. Blinder is the Gordon S. Rentschler Memorial Professor of Economics and Public Affairs at Princeton University. He served as Vice Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System from 1994 to 1996.

David Card is the Class of 1950 Professor of Economics at the University of California, Berkeley. He received the John Bates Clark Medal in 1995.

Kenneth G. Dau-Schmidt is the Willard and Margaret Carr Professor of Labor and Employment Law at Indiana University—Bloomington.

Sir Angus Stewart Deaton is a Senior Scholar and Dwight Eisenhower Professor of Economics and International Affairs Emeritus at Princeton University, and Presidential Professor of Economics at the University of Southern California. He was President of the American Economic Association in 2009, and received the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2015.

Bradford DeLong is Professor of Economics and Chief Economist of the Blum Center at the University of California, Berkeley.

John J. Donohue III is the C. Wendell and Edith M. Carlsmith Professor of Law at Stanford Law School.

Ronald G. Ehrenberg is the Irving M. Ives Professor of Industrial and Labor Relations and Economics at Cornell University. He is past President of the Society of Labor Economists.

Henry S. Farber is the Hughes-Rogers Professor of Economics and an Associate of the Industrial Relations Section at Princeton University.

Robert H. Frank is the Henrietta Johnson Louis Professor of Management and Professor of Economics at Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management.

Richard B. Freeman holds the Herbert Ascherman Chair in Economics at Harvard University, and is currently serving as Faculty co-Director of the Labor and Worklife Program at the Harvard Law School.

Claudia Goldin is the Henry Lee Professor of Economics at Harvard University. She was President of the American Economic Association in 2013.

Robert J. Gordon is the Stanley G. Harris Professor in the Social Sciences and Professor of Economics at Northwestern University.

Oliver Hart is the Andrew E. Furer Professor of Economics at Harvard University. He received the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2016.

David A. Hoffman is a Professor of Law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

Lawrence F. Katz is the Elisabeth Allison Professor of Economics at Harvard University.

Thomas A. Kochan is the George Maverick Bunker Professor of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management. He is a past President of both the International Industrial Relations Association and the Industrial Relations Research Association, and a recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Labor and Employment Relations Association.

Alan Krueger is the Bendheim Professor of Economics and Public Affairs at Princeton University.

David Lewin is the Neil H. Jacoby Emeritus Professor of Management, Human Resources and Organizational Behavior at the University of California, Los Angeles, Anderson School of Management. He served as President of the Labor and Employment Relations Association in 2013.

Ray Marshall is Professor Emeritus and holds the Audre and Bernard Rapoport Centennial Chair in Economics and Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. He was the United States Secretary of Labor from 1977 to 1981.

Alexandre Mas is a Professor of Economics and Public Affairs at Princeton University.

Eric S. Maskin is the Adams University Professor in the Department of Economics at Harvard University. He received the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2007.

Alison D. Morantz is the James and Nancy Kelso Professor of Law at Stanford Law School.

J.J. Prescott is a Professor of Law at the University of Michigan Law School.

Brishen Rogers is an Associate Professor of Law at Temple University.

Jesse Rothstein is Professor of Public Policy and Economics and the Director of the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment at the University of California, Berkeley.

Cecilia Elena Rouse is the Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and the Shirley Katzman and Lewis and Anna Ernst Professor in the Economics of Education at Princeton University.

Jeffrey D. Sachs is University Professor and Director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University.

Stewart J. Schwab is the Jonathan and Ruby Zhu Professor of Law at Cornell Law School.

J.H. Verkerke is the T. Munford Boyd Professor of Law and the Director of the Program for Employment and Labor Law Studies at the University of Virginia School of Law.

Paula B. Voos is a Professor in the School of Management and Labor Relations at Rutgers University.

David Weil is the Dean and Professor of the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University.


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