Cover: The Public Option: How to Expand Freedom, Increase Opportunity, and Promote Equality, from Harvard University PressCover: The Public Option in HARDCOVER

The Public Option

How to Expand Freedom, Increase Opportunity, and Promote Equality

I hope every 2020 presidential candidate—yes, I’m being optimistic about President Trump—reads the policy book of the summer… The two law professors are not interested in government taking over everything. On the contrary, what they seek is to expand choice.—E. J. Dionne, Jr., The Washington Post

Their proposal is not that the public sector should displace the private sector, but rather that offering a publicly-run alternative would expand everyone’s choices and ensure that no one is left too far behind.—Simon Johnson, Project Syndicate

Makes a compelling case for affordable government-funded services that coexist with private options.ProMarket

An enthusiastic, accessible, and convincing case that more ‘public option’ government services would significantly improve the quality of life for average Americans.Publishers Weekly (starred review)

We are so accustomed to arguments that government only infringes upon freedom that we forget how government, when intelligently deployed, can expand our choices—and yes, make us more free. In this important book Ganesh Sitaraman and Anne Alstott make a brilliant, clear, and accessible case for how public options in areas such as banking, health care, and child care can improve lives, especially for those whom the marketplace marginalizes. We already celebrate many public options, such as our great public universities and libraries. Sitaraman and Alstott urge us to think inventively about other areas where public options could make our nation both better and fairer.—E. J. Dionne, Jr., coauthor of One Nation After Trump and author of Our Divided Political Heart

Timely, important, and convincing, this book is pretty much the definition of ‘fresh thinking.’ Key reading for a political generation that is on the search for new ideas for old problems.—Tim Wu, author of The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age

At a time of widespread debates about the role of public provision, Sitaraman and Alstott make a vibrant case for developing and preserving public options in education, health care, child care, broadband access, banking, and retirement benefits. To get beyond slogans and move toward real and practical proposals to improve the daily lives of Americans, and strengthen our commitments to others, read this book.—Martha Minow, author of Partners, Not Rivals: Privatization and the Public Good

In this timely and stirring call for reform, two of our nation’s smartest policy thinkers recapture our past to chart our future. Sitaraman and Alstott remind us that Americans have long supported policies that offer a choice between government and the private sector, and they show us how this model—the public option—could provide innovative solutions to perennial challenges facing child care, retirement savings, higher education, and much more.—Jacob S. Hacker, author of The Great Risk Shift: The New Economic Insecurity and the Decline of the American Dream

From Our Blog


Who We Might Have Been, and Who We Will Become

Who among us hasn’t considered what our lives would be like if we had taken alternate paths, made different decisions? Storytellers of every stripe write of the lives we didn’t have, says Andrew H. Miller, author of On Not Being Someone Else: Tales of Our Unled Lives. As we live through a worldwide pandemic, the ideas of what might have been are even more appealing. Much like the adolescents on the verge of adulthood in Sally Rooney’s novel Normal People, Miller tells us, we wait to see what comes next.