Stirring the Pot
Towards the end of Hillbilly Elegy, J.D. Vance writes that “We can build policies based on a better understanding of what stands in the way of kids like me. The most important lesson of my life is not that society failed to provide me with opportunities. . . . [Social welfare programs] are far from perfect, but to the degree that I nearly succumbed to my worst decisions (and I came quite close), the fault lies almost entirely with factors outside the government’s control.”
So that those who haven’t read the book yet will know, Vance grew up primarily under his grandparents’ care because his mother, for large portions of her life, was an unemployable addict. Without Social Security and other government programs, Vance’s hard life would have been much worse.
I’m curious, then: what kind of investment should governments make in the education and well-being of its children, especially those who are poor? If somebody like Vance concludes that personal choices dictate levels of success, then how should we prioritize government spending on educational and health institutions? Vance’s descriptions of his journey to success are compelling, so I am curious about your reactions to the conclusions he draws about government policies.