Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

  • Law

Economic inequality, politics, and capital

Economic inequality and campaign finance are two of the hottest topics in America today. Unfortunately, the topics are typically discussed separately, but they are actually intertwined.

The rise of US economic inequality that economist Thomas Piketty chronicles in his renowned book Capital in the Twenty-First Century – starting in the late 1970s and continuing through today – coincides remarkably with the US Supreme Court’s decision of Buckley v. Valeo.

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Performing for their lives: LGBT individuals seeking asylum

The UN Refugee Convention promises safe haven to individuals who, having crossed an international boundary, can prove a well-founded fear of persecution based upon one of five categories. Least well-defined of these categories, and most ambiguous among them, is ‘membership in a particular social group.’ How does one prove lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender ‘membership’?

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Legal leadership and its place in America’s history and future

This past year, I wrote a book about lawyers’ service in the American Civil War, I argued that the lawyers’ part in the US and Confederate cabinets and in their respective Congresses made a civil war a little more civil, and allowed that out of horrific battle came a new respect for rule of law, as well as a new kind of positive, rights-based constitutionalism.

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Taxing donor-advised funds

Congress should extend two taxes to donor-advised funds which currently apply to private foundations. First, Congress should apply to donor-advised funds the federal tax on private foundations’ net investment incomes. Second, Congress should extend to donor-advised funds the federal penalty tax imposed upon a private foundation if it fails to pay out annually an amount of at least equal to five percent of its assets.

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The history and importance of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council

The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) signifies different things to different people. It is both a court and an advisory body. It rules on disputes ranging from the personal, such as the inheritance of a hereditary title amid accusations of historic infidelity, to those of great public importance, such as the validity of elections, or significant commercially, such as the ownership or control of Turkey’s largest mobile phone company.

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Which law applies to adjudicate litigation with a foreign element?

We live in a rapidly changing world with the constant presence of so-called “foreign elements” in legal cases. Take, for example, a car accident between an Ontario resident and a New York resident that took place in Mexico, or a contract signed in Japan between English and German residents with respect to delivery of goods in Brazil. Given the multitude of “foreign elements” in the factual bases of these cases, which state’s law should the domestic court apply to adjudicate the litigation? Should this be Ontario, New York, Mexico, English, German, Japanese, Brazilian law or even some other?

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Investment law leads to more investment: A faulty premise?

If a government ratifies investment treaties and provides foreigners with access to investor-state arbitration, they will receive additional foreign investment. This has been the premise of investment law for over 50 years. Is it true? Two decades of studies testing this premise have been inconclusive. Since statistics on foreign investment are notoriously unreliable, they are unlikely to provide a clear answer anytime soon.

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25 years of contemporary war crimes tribunals

Much as a single discovery can transform science, paradigm shifts in international law can emerge with astonishing speed. Twenty-five years ago, the UN Security Council sparked such a shift when it created a war crimes tribunal to punish those responsible for “ethnic cleansing” in the former Yugoslavia.

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WHO advances the right to health for universal health coverage

The World Health Organization (WHO) has been central to the development of human rights for public health, and as the Organization seeks to mainstream human rights in global health governance, this year’s World Health Assembly (May 21-25) comes at a unique time and provides a key forum to advance the right to health as a moral foundation and political catalyst to advance universal health coverage.

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First they came for Josh Blackman: why censorship isn’t the answer [video]

Having been thinking, reading, speaking, and writing about “hate speech” over the last four decades, I had come to believe that I had nothing new to say, and that all arguments on all sides of the topic had been thoroughly aired. That view began to change several years ago, as I started to see increasing activism on campus and beyond in sup­port of various equal rights causes.

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What does it take to be a non-state armed group?

Armed groups are involved in the vast majority of today’s armed conflicts and crisis situations, and this trend is likely to continue. It is suggested that over recent years the number of groups involved in armed conflicts has quadrupled. For instance, studies have found that at some point, hundreds or even thousands of different armed groups operated in Syria.

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Section 4968 and broad-based endowment taxation

Congress added Section 4968 to the Internal Revenue Code in the comprehensive tax legislation adopted in December. Section 4968 imposes a tax on the investment incomes of some college and university endowments. Critics of Section 4968 disparage this new tax as selectively targeting what are widely perceived as wealthy, politically liberal institutions such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, M.I.T., and Stanford.

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What if your boss was an algorithm?

The world of work is going digital: an ever-growing number of start-ups are setting up online platforms and mobile “apps” to connect consumers, businesses, and workers—often for jobs lasting no longer than a few minutes. What started out as a small niche for digital “crowdwork” on platforms like UpWork and Amazon’s Mechanical Turk has grown into a global phenomenon.

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The agonies of the Multilateral Trading System

As of late, the Multilateral Trading System has been beset by several serious agonies. The symptoms have been obvious. The 11th Ministerial of the World Trade Organization (WTO), which took place in December 2017 in Buenos Aires, has demonstrated that the WTO’s rule-making function is no longer performing as expected: with the exception of a shared willingness to collectively and constructively work further on the issue of disciplining fishery subsidies, it did not result in any new normative multilateral outcome. Likewise, the WTO’s dispute settlement function has been affected by a stalled selection process for its new judges. If this situation persists, the WTO might cease to be the Multilateral Trading System’s final legal arbiter.

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World Intellectual Property Day quiz

Every year on 26 April, the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) celebrates World Intellectual Property Day to promote discussion of the role of intellectual property in encouraging creativity and innovation. As demonstrated by French shoemaker Christian Louboutin’s recent appeal to the European Court of Justice to determine the validity of the trademark protecting the famous red sole, intellectual property law is as relevant as ever. Do you know your rights as a creator?

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The choppy waters of beach ownership: a case study

Martins Beach is a spectacular stretch of coastline south of Half Moon Bay in San Mateo County, California. It is a well-known fishing spot, a family picnic destination, and a very popular surfing venue. For nearly a century, the owners of the beach allowed visitors routinely to access the beach using the only available road. In 2008, billionaire Vinod Khosla bought Martins Beach and the surrounding property. After two years of complying with the county’s request to maintain access to the beach, Khosla permanently blocked public access. A California environmental organization filed suit against the property owner.

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