Home Economics But Honey, Childcare Isn't A Public Good

But Honey, Childcare Isn’t A Public Good



We have another go around at this insistence that really, government just must solve the servants problem. Middle class wimmins looking for interesting things to do with their time just can;t be expected to look after their own kids now, can they? They also can’t afford the wages that the proles want to be paid for taking care of the spoilt brats. So, the solution must be that everyone in the country is taxed so that power skits can indeed design diversity classes:

The first step toward lasting reform has to be a conceptual one, the sort that will have cascading effects on the entire sector and our society as a whole. We can start thinking of early child care and education the same way we think about public parks or sanitation or libraries or public schools: as a public good, foundational to a functioning society regardless of whether you directly benefit from its existence. Like other public goods, access shouldn’t be limited by employment, income, or location, and those who make it run should, at the very least, be paid a living wage.

That’s not what a public good is. That’s a public service.

A public good has a specific and exact meaning – something that is non-rivalrous and non-excludable. These two together – use doesn’t make it run out and it’s not possible to stop someone using it – mean that it’s something markets don’t deal well with. More specifically, it’s very difficult to make a profit by providing it therefore a pure market system will, according to some at least, underprovide it.

There are a number of solutions to these sorts of problems. Herd immunity as a result of vaccination is a public good. We can give everyone the vaccine – the English approach – or insist that if you go to a public school you must have had the vaccines – the American. Either works, in that it gets enough of the population vaccinated to give herd immunity. Inventions can be copied therefore peeps won’t make many inventions – now have patents and watch the eggheads beaver away. We’ve just made the invention excludable which solves the problem.

Kids can be kept out of day care, it’s excludable. If one kid has a place then another kid can’t have that one same place – it’s rivalrous. Therefore child care is not a public good. At which point all of the public goods arguments about why government must do something fall away.

What we’re left with as an argument in favour of universal and tax funded child care is therefore that certain vocal middle class women really do just insist that government solve the servant problem. Our response should also be to that argument.

No, obviously.

There are additional delights as she continues to try to make her argument:

the idea of child care as an individual responsibility was, however inadvertently, supported by feminists as well.

Don’t you love that assumption that caring for your own children is not an individual responsibility?

“They stopped fighting for child care, and other sorts of collective issues, and really focused on individual professional success,” Halperin tells me. “When you think of child care as a personal choice, it creates all of these new inequalities. Women of color, Black and immigrant women — they end up caring for the children of professional women. Those professional women, in turn, don’t want their whole paycheck going to child care, so it gets undervalued and underpaid.”

That’s going to be different if the government takes it over? That it will not be lower paid women taking care of the kids of the higher paid?




  1. It was entertaining to see the lady state that it was better for black children to be cared for by blacks.

    But of course I see no reason at all why I should pay taxes to provide professional women with servants to care for their children. Being selfish, I naturally prefer to spend my money on myself.

  2. “use doesn’t make it run out and it’s not possible to stop someone using it – [….] therefore a pure market system will, according to some at least, underprovide it.”
    If those who really want it are prepared to pay for it then they need not worry about the cost of free-riders. People will pay different prices for the same thing;, for fancy brands and packaging, to have the latest fashion. A Public Good is just the end point of this, some pay top price, some pay nothing, it only looks odd if you start with the assumption that there is a one-true, just price.

  3. @djc. The rich already pay top dollar – it’s just that they don’t pay for others to have it. Just as with healthcare, the rich had it and the poor did not. Obama lied and told people that they could keep their insurance, but in reality allowed the insurance companies to drop some plans and get the middle class to pay for a bit of Obamacare.

    Public goods are those that cannot be provided without the free rider problem – national defence, a working judicial system. Once provided, it applies to all. Many public services are not public goods – healthcare and education for example. Their provision is more a matter of income redistribution and social insurance.

  4. @Ken No, a free rider problem is not part of the definition: “A public good has a specific and exact meaning – something that is non-rivalrous and non-excludable.”


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expunct (ɪkˈspʌŋkt)
VERB (transitive)
1. to delete or erase; blot out; obliterate
2. to wipe out or destroy

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