Why it's harder for families to "thrive"
Blame relative price shifts, not wage stagnation
In her autobiography, Agatha Christie writes about living in London in 1919 with her husband while expecting their first child. The couple already had a live-in maid but were looking to hire a nanny when the baby was born.
“Looking back, it seems to me extraordinary that we should have contemplated having both a nurse and a servant,” she writes. “But they were considered essentials of life in those days, and were the last things we would have thought of dispensing with. To have committed the extravagance of a car, for instance, would never have entered our minds. Only the rich had cars.”
I thought of this anecdote when I read Scott Winship from the conventionally free market-ish American Enterprise Institute debating a claim made by Oren Cass from the right-populist group American Compass. Cass argues that something he calls the Cost of Thriving has risen over time, and if you review the debate, I think Winship is clearly correct. He at times undermines his position by incorporating some ideas that miss Cass’ point and make the dispute seem more even than it is. But I wrote about a version of this claim back in 2020, and on the key points, Winship is right and Cass is wrong — he counts health insurance incorrectly, for example. The fact that Cass has persisted in some of these errors suggests that the exercise is not on the level.
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