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Rohan Grey

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I. Digitizing Money

My writing focuses primarily on how digital technologies and the internet are transforming the global monetary and financial system. For a high-level summary of my views on this topic, see “Digital,” in (J. d’Aspremont & J. Haskell, eds.) Tipping Points in International Law: Commitment & Critique (Cambridge University Press, 2022).

My first funded writing project, which was supported by a grant from the Institute for Global Law & Policy at Harvard Law School, explored the macroeconomic implications of mobile finance in developing countries. I completed this project in 2014, and in 2017 my results were published as a working paper by the Global Institute for Sustainable Prosperity.

In late 2015, I organized a seminar on “Payments Machines” at Columbia Law School through the non-profit organization I co-founded, the Modern Money Network, as part of a larger 5-part seminar series on the institutional and technological foundations of money and finance.

Through this seminar I was introduced to the team behind eCurrency Mint, who in early 2016 invited me to co-author a conceptual white paper with their CEO, Jonathan Dharmapalan, examining the macroeconomic policy implications of a government-issued digital fiat currency. This white paper was published in 2017.

In early 2017, I presented a paper titled “Banking Under a Digital Fiat Currency Regime” at a conference held at University College, London on “Blockchain and the Constitution of a New Financial Order: Legal and Political Challenges.” It explored the potential macroeconomic effects of a large-scale migration of retail depositors from traditional commercial banks to a government-administered digital fiat currency system. I later gave the same presentation at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis’s Economics of Cryptocurrencies and Blockchain Technologies Conference in August 2018. In 2019, it was published as a chapter in (P. Hacker et al, eds.) Regulating Blockchain: Techno-Social and Legal Challenges (Oxford University Press, 2019).

In 2018, I joined the International Telecommunications Union (ITU)’s Focus Group on Digital Currency including Digital Fiat Currency. I co-organized their second annual conference at Cornell Tech in New York City in July 2018, and between 2018-2019 was hired as a consultant to complete two reports for the focus group, titled “Regulatory Challenges and Risks for Central Bank Digital Currency,” and “Digital Currency Implementation Checklist for Central Banks,” which were both published in 2019.

In late 2019, following Facebook’s announcement of its proposed ‘Libra’ currency, I participated in a Congressional briefing on Libra, organized by Demand Progress. Shortly thereafter, I published an op-ed in the Nation titled “Facebook Wants Its Own Currency. That Should Scare Us All.”

In response to the outbreak of COVID-19 in early 2020, I helped draft the Automatic Boost to Communities (ABC) Act, which was introduced by U.S. Representatives Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Pramila Jayapal (D-WA). Among other things, the bill directed the federal government to establish both an account- and token-based version of the digital dollar to improve future efforts to distribute emergency cash relief in a universal and equitable manner.

I then helped draft the Stablecoin And Bank Licensing Enforcement (STABLE) Act, which was introduced by U.S. Representatives Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Jesús “Chuy” García (D-IL), and Stephen Lynch (D-MA), the Chair of the House Financial Services Committee’s Fintech Task Force. The bill updated the existing banking regulatory framework to require all stablecoin issuers to obtain a banking license and federal deposit insurance, among other things.

In June 2021, I spoke to the House Committee on Financial Services’ Task Force on Financial Technology at a Hearing on “Digitizing the Dollar: Investigating the Technological Infrastructure, Privacy, and Financial Inclusion Implications of Central Bank Digital Currencies.” In my accompanying written remarks, I argued in favor of a Treasury-administered, hardware-secured version of digital cash, building on an earlier proposal for a Mint-issued stored value card first articulated in 1997 by then-Director of the U.S. Mint, Philip Diehl. I later discussed this proposal with former Director Diehl in a recorded interview in October 2021.

Subsequently, I helped draft the Electronic Cash and Secure Hardware (ECASH) Act, which was introduced in March 2022 by Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA).

I am currently writing a book, titled Digitizing the Dollar: The Battle for the Soul of Public Money in the Age of Cryptocurrency.

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II. Law & Macroeconomics

A second strand of my writing focuses on the legal institutions and processes that undergird macroeconomic policymaking, including fiscal policy, monetary and credit policy, and banking and financial regulation.

My interest in macroeconomics began with my undergraduate training in heterodox political economy at the University of Sydney between 2007-2008. This interest was developed further on exchange at the University of Pennsylvania in 2009, where I wrote my first attempt at a serious scholarly paper, exploring the influence of peak-body trade union governance structure on the relative successes and failures of the British labor government’s incomes policy in the 1970’s, known as the Social Contract, and the Australian labor government’s incomes policy in the 1980’s, known as the Accord.

In 2010 I spent a summer in Washington, D.C. as a government and public affairs intern with Americans for the Arts, the peak body arts advocacy organization in the United States. In that role I helped author a resource document titled “Artist as Entrepreneur: A Guide to Federal Economic Development Grants for Arts Organizations,” which identified pockets of potential arts funding in broader infrastructure and development programs. In 2012, I was invited by Americans for the Arts to help prepare the briefing report for the annual National Arts Policy Roundtable, which that year was centered around the topic “Leveraging the Remake: The Role of the Arts in a Shifting Economy.”

During law school, I authored and/or co-authored a number of opinion pieces on law and macroeconomic issues for the newly established law student newspaper, the Morningside Muckraker. One of these pieces, titled “Occam’s Schizer,” critiqued the theoretical underpinnings of recent tax policy article written by the then-dean of the law school, David Schizer, titled “Fiscal Policy in an Era of Austerity.” This critique was first published in 2014, and was later developed into a standalone paper, co-authored by Nathan Tankus and titled “Corporate Taxation in a Modern Monetary Economy: Legal History, Theory, Prospects,” which was published as a working paper by the Global Institute for Sustainable Prosperity in 2017.

In late 2014, I submitted my L.L.M. thesis at the London School of Economics, titled “Free Culture in a Monetary Economy: The Neglected Macroeconomic Dimension of the Copyright Debate.” The core argument, which explored the relationship between open access movements like the free software and creative commons movements, and macroeconomic considerations relating to public investment and job creation, was published shortly thereafter as another Muckraker opinion piece, titled “Free Culture? Free Finance.”

In 2016, I hosted a student reading group at Columbia Law School on Law, Money, Finance with Professor Jeffrey N. Gordon, for whom I had previously conducted research into the historical evolution of capital requirements in twentieth-century British banking regulation. In early 2017, one of the participants of that reading group, Ayowande McCunn and I co-authored a paper titled “Do Negative Interest Rates Live Up To The Hype?”, which was featured on the Oxford Law & Finance Blog and published as a working paper by the Global Institute for Sustainable Prosperity.

In early 2012, while a 1L at Columbia Law School, I wrote my second-ever law school term paper for Eben Moglen’s class on Law in Contemporary Society on “Money and Unemployment,” in which I argued in favor of, among other things, a “functional finance” approach to federal budget policy, and the use of high-value coin seigniorage (i.e. minting a “trillion dollar coin”) as a legal hack to overcome the pervasive toxic deficit and debt phobia in public policy discourse.

I then expanded on these ideas in my major writing credit paper, titled “How Does a Currency-Issuing Government “Borrow” Its Own IOUs? Coin Seigniorage, Semantic Obfuscation and the Legal Incoherence of the Federal Budget,” which focused on the constitutional and administrative challenges facing the President during periods of debt ceiling crises. The paper was supervised by Katharina Pistor and submitted in early 2013. Subsequently, I adapted parts of this paper into my academic job market paper and first full-length law review article, titled “Administering Money: Coinage, Debt Crises, and the Future of Fiscal Policy,” which in 2020 was finally published in the Kentucky Law Review.

In early 2020, I wrote an op-ed titled “We Can Afford to Beat This Crisis,” arguing that the federal government had the unique financial capacity to address the economic challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. This op-ed was featured on the front cover of the Nation magazine’s special edition on how to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Around the same time, I helped draft the Automatic Boost to Communities (ABC) Act, which was introduced by U.S. Representatives Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Pramila Jayapal (D-WA). Among other things, the bill directed the federal government to provide recurring emergency relief to every person in the United States for the duration of the pandemic, to be financed by the issuing of a series of trillion dollar coins under the same legislative authority I had previously written about in the context of debt-ceiling crises.

In late 2018, I presented a paper on “Monetary Resilience” at a conference at Western New England Law School, titled “Anthropocenic Disruption, Community Resilience, and Law,” which focused on lessons that monetary and financial reformers could take from environmental resiliency movements with respect to coordinating local and systemic reform efforts. This paper was subsequently published by the Western New England Law Review in 2019.

I later drew on these ideas when advising over a hundred state and local elected officials on their “Local Bailout for the Many” campaign in 2020, which advocated for greater fiscal and monetary support from the federal government to state and local governments in light of the unique economic challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

They also partially inspired my co-drafting of the Public Banking Act, which was introduced by U.S. Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) in late 2020, and aimed to provide federal enabling legislation and financial support for the creation of state and locally administered public banks.

In March 2019, Scott Fullwiler, Nathan Tankus and I co-authored an op-ed in the Financial Times, titled “An MMT Response on What Causes Inflation,” in an attempt to counter widespread misinformation regarding the MMT diagnosis and suggested policy approach to managing inflationary risk.

At the end of 2019, I wrote an op-ed in the Nation, titled “RIP Paul Volcker, the Fed Chair Who Thought We Lived Too Well,” in which I criticized the harmful macroeconomic legacy of the recently deceased former Federal Reserve chair Paul Volcker, and called for a progressive re-imagining of the federal government’s inflation mitigation toolkit.

Around the same time, I secured a grant for my non-profit organization, the Modern Money Network (MMN), from another non-profit organization, OurMoney US, led by Reverend Dr. Delman Coates, to produce a full-length report outlining such a new inflation management framework. This report was eventually published in early 2022 under the title “The New Monetary Policy: Reimagining Demand Management in the 21st Century,” with MMN Research Director Nathan Tankus as lead author, and Michael Brennan as editor.

Following the release of the report in early 2022, I published an article titled “Financial Regulation, Price Stability, and the Future,” summarizing some of its core findings, as part of a blog series on inflation hosted by the Law & Political Economy (LPE) Project at Yale Law School.

I've also commented on the 2023 crisis centered around Silicon Valley Bank and its affiliates, including for an LPE Project blog roundtable, a Public Money Action-hosted Twitter Spaces discussion with Nathan Tankus, the Money on the Left podcast, an NPR-affiliated radio show called Oregon on the Record, and a solo webinar and joint panel at Willamette University.

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III. Job Guarantee

A third strand of my writing focuses on advocacy for and development of the concept of a job guarantee, i.e. a universal, enforceable right to participate in economic life through undertaking dignified and meaningful work, with good pay, working conditions and bargaining rights, in furtherance of public purpose.

I first wrote in favor of a job guarantee in a first-year law school term paper on “Money and Unemployment” in early 2012.

In early 2015, I was invited to contribute a chapter to a volume titled “The Job Guarantee and Modern Money Theory: Realizing Keynes’s Labor Standard,” edited by Mathew Forstater and Michael Murray. My chapter, titled “Who Owns the Intellectual Fruits of Job Guarantee Labor?”, argued for the licensing of all creative works produced via a job guarantee program under a Creative Commons or similar free and open source copyleft license, as part of a broader Polanyian project of decommodifying ‘land’ as well as labor and money. This volume was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2017.

In mid-2019, I and my co-author, Raúl Carrillo participated in a roundtable debate, published in InTheseTimes magazine, on the merits of a job guarantee versus universal basic income, alongside Matt Bruenig and Alyssa Battistoni (Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3).

Around the same time, I was invited to contribute to an edited volume on “Debating Equal Pay for All,” edited by Anders Örtenblad. My chapter, titled “Equality, Not Equal Pay: Distributional Justice Beyond Money,” argued for a combination of a universal job guarantee, tiered wage-based incomes policy tied to public production priorities, and the provision of public goods outside of market-based distribution mechanisms. This volume was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2021.

In February 2021, I helped draft the Federal Job Guarantee Resolution, which was introduced by Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) as part of the broader Job Guarantee Now! campaign. In April 2023, I spoke about the Job Guarantee on a panel titled 'Labor Law at a Crossroads,' as part of the Law and Political Economy conference on Labor, Social Control, and Counterpower at Harvard Law School.

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IV. Law and Money: Theory & Pedagogy

A fourth strand of my writing, which is somewhat intertwined with my various other projects, focuses on developing a generative, robust, and useful conceptual framework for learning and teaching about law and money. Much of this work is inspired by and builds upon the macroeconomic school of thought known as Modern Monetary Theory, or MMT, as well as the legal realist tradition and its progeny, including the modern law and political economy movement.

I first became interested in money in the aftermath of the global financial crisis by following blog debates between economic and financial experts seeking to provide live-time analysis and commentary on current affairs. During law school, I organized conferences and seminar series that brought together economists, financial experts, policymakers and legal experts.

One of the more popular events I organized (the recording has 250,000+ views) was a debate held in June 2013 at Columbia Law School between financier Warren Mosler and economist Robert Murphy, titled “Modern Monetary Theory vs. the Austrian School: Macroeconomic Debates Among the Heterodoxy.” The following month, I published a five-part series, titled "An MMT vs. Austrian Economics Debate Post-Mortem,” on the popular MMT blog, New Economic Perspectives, including one post articulating my own “(Legal) Extension of the MMT case.”

In late 2015, I presented at my first-ever MMT conference, titled “Provisioning and Prosperity: Sustainable Full Employment and Transformational Technologies,” held at Denison University, and hosted by the Binzagr Institute for Sustainable Prosperity. My talk was titled “Is Money a Creature of the State or a Creature of Law?”.

In July 2017, Raúl Carrillo and I co-authored an article for the MMT blog, New Economic Perspectives, titled “A Memo from MMT’s Legal Department,” which identified potential areas of productive engagement between MMT economists and legal experts, and traced our recent attempts to make such engagement occur.

The largest event I helped organize was a 3-day conference, titled “Rethinking Economics New York 2014” that was jointly hosted at Columbia Law School, New York University Law School, and the New School for Social Research, and featured over 60 speakers and 450 attendees. The other co-organizers were Rethinking Economics, an international student movement advocating for greater pluralism in economics education, and the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET)’s Young Scholar’s Initiative (YSI). YSI and Rethinking Economics subsequently invited me to speak at a different conference, titled “Rethinking Finance,” held at Oslo Business School, Norway in mid-2018. An abridged summary of my remarks, titled “What is Money?”, was published in the accompanying conference publication.

I also authored or co-authored a number of articles for the Columbia Law School student magazine, The Morningside Muckraker, focusing on how law students and lawyers should understand and think about money. These include “Overcoming Money Addition: Why Lawyers Should Kick the Habit,” The Economy Game, Lawyers' Edition, “Between the (Balance) Sheets: Why Lawyers Need to Get Intimate With Accounting,” and “The Cost of Justice: Law Students Need Macroeconomics, and Macroeconomics Needs Us.”

In 2014, I was invited to join the Association for the Promotion of Political Economy and Law (APPEAL). Between 2014 and 2018, I participated in a number of events, projects, and initiatives organized by APPEAL. In 2019, a consortium of APPEAL members and I co-authored a joint article for Law & Inequality, titled "Eleven Things They Don’t Tell You About Law & Economics: An Informal Introduction to Political Economy and Law." My contribution was titled "Money Isn't Scarce-It's Infinite."

In May 2019, Lua Yuille and I co-authored an article titled “Money and Property,” as part of a symposium titled “Piercing the Monetary Veil”, hosted by the Law & Political Economy Project. In that article, we argued that money and property were mutually constitutive, and that pervasive pedagogical misunderstandings about money warranted a holistic reevaluation of how property law is taught in the law school curriculum.

I am currently co-authoring a book chapter on legal pedagogy titled “Law, Money, Technology,” for (Nicole Dyszlewski et al, eds.) Integrating Doctrine & Diversity: Inclusion & Equity Beyond the First Year (Carolina Academic Press, forthcoming 2023).

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