Direct

The Rise of the Middleman Economy and the Power of going to the Source

Finance expert, law professor and fellow overwhelmed consumer 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, investors and consumers enjoy an unprecedented degree of choice and convenience. But the rise of the middleman economy comes at a steep price. Drawing on a decade of research, Kathryn Judge shows how to fight back: Go to the source.

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 control over critical infrastructure to suppress innovation and competition. They use their massive profits and expertise to lobby lawmakers, tilting the playing field in their favor.  

As Judge reveals through research and stories from her own life as a parent and consumer, direct exchange fosters connection and community and helps promote a more just, resilient, and accountable economic system. As she 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.

 
"A fascinating and disturbing examination of the modern economy and how it works—and who benefits."
- Kirkus Reviews -
In Direct, Kathryn Judge gives us a rich, revealing chronicle of how corporate behemoths and bad public policy have put too much distance between farm and table and manufacturer and shopper - all while inciting consumer gluttony and pillaging the environment. It's a clarion call for the simple pleasure of conducting direct exchanges with makers who pour their hearts into sustainable products. If shopping at Walmart or Amazon has started to feel dangerously soulless, you must read this book.
- Brad Stone, author of Amazon Unbound and The Everything Store -
"In this brilliant contribution, Kate Judge turns the established notion of “progress” on its head. Middlemen have become too big, too pervasive, and too powerful. We need to understand when and how more direct connections work – and move our lives, our businesses, and our public policy in that direction. Essential reading for anyone who cares about the future of good jobs and the world we leave for our children."
- Simon Johnson, Professor, MIT Sloan, and co-author of Jump-Starting America and 13 Bankers -
"This book is a must-read for anyone who seeks to understand how markets work today. Judge's clear and revelatory book explains how the rise of intermediaries in practically every sector have led to market consolidation and lopsided market power. But this important story is not just about the alarming rise of corporate power. This is also a book that explains why rural communities are losing their small farms and businesses. This book is about how finance is slowly killing the American dream. It is a warning about the myriad harms the mono-crop and homogenized markets of the near future will impoverish community life and inhibit innovation. Judge is a top scholar in the field whose book will undoubtedly be a pivotal contribution to legal and business scholarship, but it is a refreshingly readable story that will resonate with every American who has stopped by a local grocery store or purchased an item online recently."
-Mehrsa Baradaran, author of How the Other Half Banks and The Color of Money: Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gap -
"The modern way we consume has led to tremendous efficiency and abundance. But at what price? In Direct: The Rise of the Middleman Economy and the Power of Going to the Source, Judge invites us to consider the human costs of losing touch with the source of the products and services in our lives. She makes a subversive argument that might just change how you see your next purchase."
- Arthur C. Brooks, Professor, Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Business School, and author of From Strength to Strength: Finding Happiness, Success, and Deep Purpose in the Second Half of Life -
"Though it yearns to give us everything, there is something deeply frustrating about our modern commercial economy. In this beautifully written and powerful book, Judge helps us see a different way forward.  With strategies that inform the policies of government and individuals alike, this is a blueprint for remaking the machine — and an urgent call that we get it done."
- Lawrence Lessig,  Professor, Harvard Law School, and author of Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress—and a Plan to Stop It -
"With Direct, Kate Judge shows us novel ways to reconnect in a world where powerful middlemen have pulled us apart. Going "direct" reduces reliances on omnipresent middlemen retailers whose long, global supply chains have proven fragile and exploitative. Judge explains how direct exchanges including between farmers and families, creators and collectors, through farmers markets and digital platforms can strengthen our economy and our sense of self."
- Jennifer Taub, author of Big Dirty Money: Making White Collar Criminals Pay -

 

Kathryn Judge

Kate is the Harvey J. Goldschmid Professor of Law at Columbia Law School. She has done extensive research on financial markets and regulation, regularly publishing her work in top journals and presenting to audiences in the United States and abroad. She served as a clerk for Judge Richard Posner and Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. She is a graduate of Stanford Law School and Wesleyan University. She lives with her husband and their two daughters in New York City.
 

Read Full Bio

Direct

The Rise of the Middleman Economy and the Power of going to the Source