Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1989

Abstract

The American political system is not good at choosing among worthy goals and then adopting programs well designed to achieve the desired purposes. Scholars and activists continue to debate the success and failure of the last quarter century of efforts to reduce inequality and achieve other social reforms.1 But we have no well developed methodology for evaluating proposed programs and attempting to predict their likely consequences.

This Article asks what we know about choosing legal structures for programmatic efforts that seek social change. In particular, it asks whether we can predict relationships between different ways of pursuing public ends and likely outcomes. It does so by exploring various models for additional government involvement in providing care to children with working parents. The subject is timely because many political leaders recognize that demographic changes in the labor force have made the nonworking parent a rare commodity, and that these changes seem irreversible. 2 It seems likely that even at a time of stringency for public budgets, government will make new and expensive commitments to child care. Indeed, at this moment major initiatives are pending in Congress.3 In addition, different states functioning, in this instance, as the social laboratories that Justice Brandeis championed-are operating child care programs that vary significantly in nature and approach.4 It therefore seems appropriate to view the choices among alternative programmatic structures for improving the system of child care as a case study in the attempt to predict the consequences of particular varieties of government intervention. What can we say about how the form of a new child care program will influence social ideas and arrangements in the future?

Comments

Please note that the copyright in the Journal on Legislation is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College, and that the copyright in the article is held by the author.

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