February 8, 2005

A Variant on Children's Allowances

David Brooks (free subscription) doesn't think private Social Security accounts will pass. (Dick Morris does.)

Brooks suggests that the government subsidize private accounts for the poor, on the analogy of the Homestead Act.

The French, long worried about their population decline, subsidize reproduction by providing small monthly payments to parents. Why not, instead, an annual payment, to be invested, for education or retirement? For a high-school graduate with poor parents, a few thousand dollars in an education account could make all the difference.

If you're going to redistribute wealth, do it. I'm not ready to sign on to this, but it's worth thinking about.

Of course, the more society invests, the greater the risk the rate of return will decline. And this won't sit well with small-government folks (like me, most of the time), or reactionary welfare-staters like Krugman, who says that the GOP wants to destroy Social Security by limiting it to the poor so it becomes politically possible to cut it -- and then (with no supporting evidence) says Medicare is next.

I'll leave Paul to the Krugman Truth Squad at National Review.

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