As a law professor at Columbia University, the author has studied the middleman economy for more than a decade and here dissects how it operates in the US — from retailers to estate agents and banks — and why people need to change habits and, where possible, start to go “direct”. — Read the complete FT review
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.