I’m a big fan of the Hope Street Group, an organization of young businesspeople who are committed to expanding real economic opportunities for all. “Equality of opportunity in a high-growth economy” is their slogan; it draws nicely from the right (“high-growth”) and the left (“equality”), while subtly disparaging the Green idea that growth itself is bad. “Opportunity” here means a chance to create wealth, to build a business, to develop an idea. There has been a lot of such opportunity in the United States, but we’ve always left a large segment of our population with little chance to be creative and entrepreneurial, because they’ve lacked access to capital and education. People like Jack Kemp have talked about expanding opportunity even in the poorest urban and rural areas. I’m sure Mr. Kemp is sincere, but his ideas never seem to go beyond low-tax zones, and his constituency is small. Indeed, it’s hard to find really effective ways to expand opportunity for everyone. Usually it’s easier just to reduce suffering with cash transfers. However, the Hope Street Group has both the talent and the commitment to make progress. They recommend, for example, subsidies for low-income home-buyers and transferability of pensions from one job to another.
Now the Hope Street Group is offering a $5,000 prize for the best short essay that proposes a policy to build an opportunity society–specifically in the state of California.