The Age of Responsibility

Luck, Choice, and the Welfare State

In the postwar years, there was a consensus that many of the duties the state owed to its citizens were largely independent of the choices those citizens had made: For example, if people were hungry, it was the state’s job to feed them—even if their going hungry was the result of poorly managed finances. That’s no longer the case. Today, welfare commitments tend to be conditional on good, or “responsible,” behavior.

But when large swaths of the population feel that--despite their hard work and commitment to being “responsible citizens”--they are no longer making economic progress, and are seeing their standard of living deteriorate, that means we need to find new ways to think and talk about what the role of the welfare state is.

A new understanding of the welfare state must empower citizens facing the deep social upheaval of automation and globalization, and calm some of their well-founded economic anxiety. If policymakers are to re-establish the foundations for the broad-based prosperity on which democracy’s stability has always depended, they must overcome a single-minded focus on personal responsibility that has narrowed what kinds of policy ideas they take seriously, and what kinds of economic institutions they can envisage.

Please join Political Reform senior fellow Yascha Mounk, author of The Age of Responsibility: Luck, Choice, and the Welfare State, and program director Mark Schmitt for a happy hour conversation about the meaning—and indeed the promise—of responsibility.

Copies of the book will be available for purchase.

Refreshments will be served.


Yascha Mounk 
Senior Fellow, Political Reform Program at New America 
Author, The Age of Responsibility: Luck, Choice, and the Welfare State 


Mark Schmitt 
Director, Political Reform program, New America