For the Many, not the Few: Building an Inclusive Economy in the Age of Free Markets

New Roosevelt issue brief argues that America’s markets-first approach is failing and it is time for the government to provide essential goods and services in direct competition with private firms

NEW YORK, NY—Building on Franklin D. Roosevelt’s second bill of rights, today, Roosevelt Institute co-authors William A. (“Sandy”) Darity, Jr., (senior fellow and executive director of the Cook Center on Social Equity), Darrick Hamilton (fellow and executive director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at The Ohio State University), and Rakeen Mabud (fellow), released “Increasing Public Power to Increase Competition: A Foundation for an Inclusive Economy,” an issue brief that rethinks the relationship between the state and market competition.

With an eye toward building an inclusive economy that allows every American to live a healthy and fulfilling life, the issue brief explores why public options are necessary to combat high-cost, low-quality provision by private actors for foundational sectors, such as employment, health, housing, education, and financial services. Key to this argument is that private businesses will not be prohibited from offering any of these goods and services; introducing a public actor into the market, however, will set “floors” on wages and quality and “ceilings” on price for private actors who are intent on providing Americans’ essential needs at excessive costs.

Insight from the Authors:

“America needs an economy grounded in the idea that everyone—free of undue resource constraints—can prosper,” said Mabud. “Because the government has a fiduciary and moral responsibility to the American people, it is better positioned to provide goods and services that constitute economic rights than private firms are.”

“Making the federal government the agent of increased competition will give it the power to be the agent of higher levels of well-being, health, and opportunity—for all,” said Hamilton. “Moreover, it will increase competitiveness within and across the US economy, making the nation’s economic system more effective in meeting the basic needs of the American people.”

“Public options should directly compete with—and crowd-out—inferior private options that do not ensure a universal and adequate base level of quality jobs, medical care, housing, schools, financial services, and monetary endowment,” said Darity. “Let’s be clear: Private businesses will not be prohibited from offering any of these goods and services; but—for the first time—they will need to compete with the quality and price of the public offering.”

The issue brief builds on Roosevelt’s latest report, New Rules for the 21st Century: Corporate Power, Public Power and the Future of the American Economy, which offers a progressive “one-two punch” for building an inclusive economy—curbing corporate power in markets and politics, while deploying public power to meet individual needs and national goals. As Nell Abernathy (Vice President of Policy and Strategy) explores in her Why This Matters, progressive policymakers need a worldview that connects laundry lists of individual policy solutions to people’s daily lives. This new issue brief is a perfect example of how the public sector can begin to make this change, successfully.

About the Roosevelt Institute

The Roosevelt Institute, a New York-based think tank, promotes bold policy reforms that would redefine the American economy and our democracy. With a focus on curbing corporate power and reclaiming public power, Roosevelt is helping people understand that the economy is shaped by choices—via institutions and the rules that structure markets—while also exploring the economics of race and gender and the changing 21st-century economy. Roosevelt is armed with a transformative vision for the future, working to move the country toward a new economic and political system: one built by many for the good of all.

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