This post was authored by Marc Goldwein, a Policy Analyst in the Fiscal Policy Program at the New America Foundation
In a piece for the History News Network, this week, I argue that former President Bush's "ownership society" is dead.
To understand this argument, we must first accept that the ownership society, as Bush presented it, is a real concept. It was not empty rhetoric, nor was it code for laissez-faire capitalism; rather, it was and is a genuine and coherent set of conservative ideas, modeled after Margaret Thatcher's "popular capitalism," which calls for activist government policies to expand asset ownership with the goal of ultimately supplanting social insurance and safety net programs. (It should be noted that this is distinct from the agenda being put forward by NAF's asset-building program, which would largely supplement existing programs).
Following Margaret Thatcher's footsteps, President Bush used these guiding principles in an attempt to greatly expand homeownership and replace part of the Social Security system with private retirement accounts. Ultimately though, both these initiatives failed -- Social Security reform, politically, and homeownership expansion, economically. With Republicans licking their wounds and President Obama disparaging the "ownership society" as the "on your own society," I have come to the conclusion that Thatcherian popular capitalism is dead in the United States.
My conclusion could certainly be disputed, and I look forward to a healthy discussion on this question. But if I am right, the policy implications could be large -- especially in the area of asset-building.