Politics, Policy, and Public Options (edited with Ganesh Sitaraman)

A public option is a government-provided social good that exists alongside a similar privately provided good. While the public option is typically identified with health care policy, public options have been a longstanding feature of American life in a variety of sectors, ranging from libraries to swimming pools. Public schools, for example, coexist alongside private schools. However, there is surprisingly little research on ‘public options’ as a general category. Rather, over the last few decades, considerable scholarly and popular efforts to ensure access to important social goods have focused on market subsidies (like vouchers) or privatization – which both face increasing criticism. Uniting scholars from across disciplines, this volume delves into the theory of the public option, explores several important case studies, and shows how public options could be a corrective to the trend toward privatization and subsidies.

The Public Option (with Ganesh Sitaraman)

A solution to inequalities wherever we look—in health care, secure retirement, education—is as close as the public library. Or the post office, community pool, or local elementary school. Public options—reasonably priced government-provided services that coexist with private options—are all around us, ready to increase opportunity, expand freedom, and reawaken civic engagement if we will only let them.

Whenever you go to your local public library, send mail via the post office, or visit Yosemite, you are taking advantage of a longstanding American tradition: the public option. Some of the most useful and beloved institutions in American life are public options—yet they are seldom celebrated as such. These government-supported opportunities coexist peaceably alongside private options, ensuring equal access and expanding opportunity for all.

Imagine a low-cost, high-quality public option for child care. Or an extension of the excellent Thrift Savings Plan for federal employees to all Americans. Or every person having access to an account at the Federal Reserve Bank, with no fees and no minimums. From broadband internet to higher education, The Public Option reveals smart new ways to meet pressing public needs while spurring healthy competition. More effective than vouchers or tax credits, public options could offer us all fairer choices and greater security.

A New Deal for Old Age: Toward A Progressive Retirement


Inequality isn’t just for the young any more.  Some older Americans enjoy long lives, robust health, secure finances, and good job opportunities into their 70s and even 80s.  But lower-paid workers, on average, face shorter lives, poor health, and financial insecurity.  Social Security is a proud progressive achievement, but it wasn’t built to counter the new inequality in old age.  Without reform, Social Security will not bridge the growing gap — and may widen it.  A 21st-century reform agenda should include progressive retirement timing rules, a minimum benefit, and a phased retirement option. 

No Exit: What Parents Owe Their Children and What Society Owes Parents

Healthy children need parents who stay for the long term, and a just society should recognize the economic costs that good parents incur.  We can (and should) enact policies to support parents who meet their “no exit” obligations.

The Stakeholder Society

The Stakeholder Society

 Economic inequality in the United States has dramatically increased. Many seem resigned to this growing chasm between rich and poor. But what would happen if America were to make good on its promise of equal opportunity by granting every qualifying young adult a citizen’s stake of eighty thousand dollars? The distribution of wealth is currently so skewed that the stakeholding fund could be financed by an annual tax of two percent on the property owned by the richest forty percent of Americans. By summoning the political will to initiate stakeholding,  we can achieve a society that is more democratic, productive, and free.

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