The Wall and the Bridge: Fear and Opportunity in Disruption’s Wake
By Glen Hubbard
Yale University Press, 2022, 248 pp.
Hubbard uses the metaphor of walls and bridges to distinguish between public policies that seek to prevent economic change (such as import tariffs) and those that compensate people negatively affected by such changes (such as trade adjustment assistance for workers in the United States). The author celebrates the rising living standards and productivity growth made possible by the operation of markets and attributes support for the populist policies that hinder market dynamism, such as tariffs, to the inadequacy of compensation programs. He recommends strengthening existing compensation and adjustment mechanisms, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, and creating new ones, including community-college block grants and “Personal Reemployment Accounts” to support retraining workers in the wake of long-term job losses. Hubbard may be overly optimistic, however, about the ability of politicians to agree on such measures. He fails to explain why, if the case for them is so strong, compensation and adjustment programs have been chronically underfunded in the United States.