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Boston University School of Law




In the standard paradigm of consumer law, a voluntary transaction is supposed to be welfare enhancing for each of the parties involved. We challenge this foundational presumption and ask to what extent many common consumer contracts are in fact extractive despite resulting from voluntary exchanges. With inequality growing throughout the world, to a degree that threatens the stability of both the economies and governments of even the wealthiest nations, we ask this fundamental question in an effort to identify root causes of inequality and to mark some guideposts for the articles that follow. Taken together, our speculations suggest that the seller-buyer relationship is a site of inequality and domination worth freestanding attention from equality’s champions.


This is an edited transcript of a conversation held to introduce the Symposium that this special issue now publishes. The editing aims to promote clarity without abandoning the informal, free-flowing, and speculative quality of the original conversation. The published re-creation also seeks to preserve the full set of observations made in the original conversation rather than to filter or shape them to accommodate all the authors’ views. We aspire, throughout our remarks, to raise questions and identify possibilities for further research rather than to report confident conclusions.

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