Home » News » How Family Policy Impacts the Entire Economy with Dr. Veronique de Rugy

How Family Policy Impacts the Entire Economy with Dr. Veronique de Rugy


What is the impact of expanding government roles on family policies? This week, Dr. Veronique de Rugy, joins host Roger Ream for a critical conversation on economic freedom, including her takes on policy and ideological differences among the left and right. Dr. de Rugy compares their approaches to expanded government involvement in areas such as paid family leave, childcare subsidies, and tax credits. From economic insights involving women in the workforce to the future of Social Security, Dr. de Rugy provides a compelling assessment of federal intervention and challenges popular stances of modern economics.

Dr. de Rugy was the 2024 guest speaker for TFAS’s annual Lev Dobriansky Lecture on Political Economy. She is the George Gibbs Chair in Political Economy, the senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute. She was named in Politico Magazine’s 2015 Guide to the Top 50 Thinkers, Doers and Visionaries transforming American Politics and was a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute as well as at Atlas Economic Research Foundation. Dr. Rugy received her master’s degree from the Paris Dauphine University and her Ph.D. in economics from the University of Paris-Sorbonne.

Episode Transcript

The transcript below is lightly edited for clarity.

Roger Ream [00:00:02] Welcome to the Liberty + Leadership Podcast, a conversation with TFAS alumni, faculty, and friends who are making an impact today. I’m your host, Roger Ream. I am honored to be joined by esteemed researcher and writer Dr. Veronique de Rugy. Doctor de Rugy is the George Gibbs Chair in political economy and senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. On top of that, she is also a nationally syndicated columnist. Her research spans a range of topics including federal taxation, the budget, trade policy, homeland security, fiscal sovereignty, financial privacy and cronyism. Her writing is featured in Creators Syndicate as well as Reason Magazine and National Review. She has made appearances on Bloomberg Television’s Street Smart, CNN, C-Span and Fox News. On numerous occasions, Veronique has testified in front of Congress on matters concerning fiscal policy, trade, and regulation. To add to her long list of accomplishments, Veronique has previously held positions as a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and the Atlas Network. Veronique recently spoke to the summer 2024 TFAS students in Washington, D.C., giving our annual Lev Dobriansky lecture on Political Economy. As the founding director of the first TFAS program in 1970, Dr. Dobriansky devoted his life to fostering a freer and safer world for all. Since 1996, TFAS students have attended this annual lecture to hear from a prominent scholar on the topic of political economy. This year, Veronique spoke to the students on the topic “Should We All Be Housewives?: The Rise of the New Right and Women.” So, I’m looking forward to diving into the insights that she shared with our students. Veronique, it’s a pleasure to have you on the podcast today. Thank you for joining me and welcome to the program.   

Veronique de Rugy [00:02:26] Thank you for having me.  

Roger Ream [00:02:27] You recently gave the annual Lev Dobriansky Lecture in Political Economy to our students attending the summer programs over at George Mason. It was a fascinating lecture. Your focus was on the role of women in the economy and touched on the push by both Democrats and Republicans alike to expand what might be called family friendly policies. We can debate that, but policies that would include such things as paid leave, tax credits for having children, subsidized child childcare, etc. I’d like to begin the discussion by focusing on what I thought was a very interesting point you made about midway, or toward, actually, the end of your remarks on that important topic, and it had to do with the observation which you were sharing, I think came from someone else that prior to the Industrial Revolution, prior to what is called the Great Enrichment by Deirdre McCloskey now and others, most women performed what we would say are household chores and they were much greater back then. But they did a lot of labor that wouldn’t have been included in what we now calculate as GDP. They weren’t in a traditional labor force position. Of course, that began to change in the 20th century, fortunately, and more opportunities opened for women in the workforce. Now, we’ve arrived at a point where some people argue it requires two women to work for a family to even survive in our economy. So, could you talk a little more about that point?   

Veronique de Rugy [00:04:06] I want to give a little bit of a context for what I was talking about and it’s a concern I’ve been having, and I would say the last 5 or 6 years, where there’s a growing, kind of puff, I’d say, from the national conservative, mostly, but maybe conservative more broadly, but I think really the national conservative, about this idea that something has been lost because of capitalism. Those markets are fine, but the heyday of America was the 50s and 60s and you hear this a lot. That that was kind of the context of, it’s like me worrying about this kind of glorifying of the 50s and 60s, which, of course, you and I know that it may have been great. I can’t believe that I’m talking like a woke person, but, for white man, but it really wasn’t necessarily the best for women. It was a great if you were black, if you were a minority, if you were gay, probably not the best time, right? And so, it’s in that context that I was talking about. One of the things that’s recurring is how families could live on one income and now it’s just not possible. And one of the things that I said is, like I mentioned, the work by Claudia Golden, who got the Nobel Prize in economics this year, and she’s done a lot of work on looking at labor force participation for women. And one of the things that I didn’t know until I read her work was it’s what she calls the U curve of labor force participation for women. What effectively boils down to is what she said. It used to be a time long ago, before the Industrial Revolution, with most of the world, most of the economy was agricultural, right, and there was very little difference between the outside world, the work life and the home life, because a lot of it was taking place inside the home. And so, that changed as we moved towards a more industrial type of world. Women, and especially as wages start going up. There’s a specialization that happens, of course, not for everyone, right? U curve doesn’t mean that there was ever a time where no women were working. There were always women working in the service industry and then cleaning homes and things like this. But so, what happened is just it made a lot of sense, especially because culturally, women didn’t have the same opportunities and they had lower wages. Also, the cost of doing the kitchen appliances and all of that. So, it made sense that you see a division of labor and women were working more, especially in the second half of the 19th century, were working more at home, and then gradually they started reentering the labor force and the 50s and the 60s, as some of the lowest point, if not the lowest point. So, this notion that this time period, 50s and 60s, they were really an anomaly in a way, should be kind of the focal point of what life should be like for everyone, especially because women really kind of been happy, I guess, even if it’s hard to actually enter the labor force, as they were more educated, they had more varied and diverse opportunity to work. This idea that, really, everyone was better off when women were at home, it’s really kind of bothersome.  

Roger Ream [00:08:16] Well, I’m sure there are a number of factors at work when the opportunities for women open, just like there are a number of factors at work in terms of for blacks and other minorities like you mentioned. But is it fair? I mean, I recall once in remarks I was making to a large audience, I mentioned I credited capitalism with helping to liberate women, because of the prosperity created and the Hans Rosling example of the washing machine and completely liberated his grandmother and all these appliances and things that enabled both.   

Veronique de Rugy [00:08:49] Exactly.  

Roger Ream [00:08:51] That enabled both partners in a marriage to be able to work because things could get done without requiring one of them to do all those chores.  

Veronique de Rugy [00:08:57] Wage was going up and, I mean, the opportunity cost of staying home, especially considering all the innovation in the home, I mean, made that trade off just actually easy for many women to make. Not all of them, right? Many women decided they too wanted to enter back into the labor force, and they have continued ever since. But there’s another component, that’s kind of infuriating, in that narrative, it’s this notion of a two-income trap, right? In a way, it’s not at all what you’re saying that the market is provided all these opportunities and innovation that have allowed women to step away from home. It’s the opposite. As women were entering the labor force, they were supposedly a bidding war on the cost of things because there was more demand for middle class goods and services, right? As if the supply side was not moving at all and hence prices started to go up. Living life became so expensive that women then had no choice but to continue working. If you wanted to have a standard of living, if you wanted to be able to afford your life. So, it’s really kind of versus bad economics, but it’s also, once again, this notion that women were forced into this situation as opposed to entering the labor force because it was what they wanted to do, and also because they had all this opportunity granted to them by the free market, by capitalism, by a system that actually creates opportunities for lots of different professions and better wages.  

Roger Ream [00:11:07] As your colleague and one of our professors Dr. Donald J. Boudreaux has shown, the prices of all these goods were coming down considerably, and the quality was going way up. He’s analyzed the Sears Roebuck catalog from the early 70s, I know, to show that quite the opposite was taking place, even though demand was increasing as these became available to the middle- and lower-income groups in our society, the prices were falling.   

Veronique de Rugy [00:11:34] But the other thing is that people take for granted and I think I told this to the students: “Take for granted how much more we have now and how many more choices we have.” I think there’s this kind of fantasy about the 50s and the 60s and to the extent the 70s of family life and everything was peaceful, but it was also not at all this life at all that people take for granted. So, MIT did research where they looked at how many weeks of work you would have to do to be able to afford the standard of living. So, they went through the 1990s: 95, 85, 75, 65 and 55. The one I remember and I’m sure of was the 75. You could live on one income, you could live that life, afford that, if you were 23 weeks out of the year, right?   

Roger Ream [00:12:42] On today’s wages. So, we’re half a year today and you could live like the average person in 1975.   

Veronique de Rugy [00:12:52] It’s like if you want a house, the scale of the 70s, if you want it one car, not one car for every person in the house, one landline hooked to the wall, a big TV, but only one after you had saved a lot, and it was black and white or I don’t know what it was at the time.  

Roger Ream [00:13:16] It had four channels. 

Veronique de Rugy [00:13:16] It had four channels and could absolutely afford exactly that life, working 23 weeks. What it tells me effectively is that other income is paying for a lot of the stuff we take for granted, like, a computer in our pockets, all of us, even children who are, for better or worse, are ten. It’s like after school programs. It’s vacation. 

Roger Ream [00:13:45] Central air conditioning.  

Veronique de Rugy [00:13:46] Central air conditioning, much larger homes that we have today. I mean, people used to have a much smaller home, one bathroom. We live very, very different lives. And most people wouldn’t be willing to go back if they were asked. But there’s another thing. So, Oren Cass at the American Campus says: “yeah, well and fine, but we do take all of these for granted and all of these things are much more expensive now than they were in the past,” and he built this cost of thriving index that it shows that life was much more affordable in 1985 than it is today. And that too has been debunked, actually, by very serious research by Jeremy Horpedahl and all at the University of Arkansas and Scott Winship, showing that, actually, if you adjust and you’re properly measure things like some of the mistakes that were made, it’s counting just two sides of the health care costs, the employer and the employee as opposed to just the employee cost. We make all these adjustments. There’s no affordability issue, and to the extent that they are in some areas, they’re created by the government.  

Roger Ream [00:15:13] Yeah. You can’t consider the qualitative improvements. I mean, I’m old enough that when I was a kid, we had a car where you had to crank the windows up and down. You had an Am radio with a few stations and didn’t have air conditioning in your car. You just rolled down all the windows and we had a TV with those four channels, but you had to get up and walk to the TV to change the channel. You couldn’t push a button.  

Veronique de Rugy [00:15:42] I moved here 25 years ago, and people don’t realize that Starbucks didn’t exist or all those different coffee chains. People didn’t have an espresso machine at home to make their own kind of specialized coffee. I remember moving here from France. The only thing that resembled the kind of bread that I was used to were bagels, right? I would buy bagels and use it as bread, and I mean, I loved it. I didn’t expect America to provide me with the stuff I had in France, otherwise I would have stayed in France. Now, everyone has access to good bread, like any grocery store in America, people are used to drinking their coffee, all different sorts of ways. It’s just amazing how much things have changed in the last 25 years that I’ve been here.  

Roger Ream [00:16:43] I heard a podcast with the founder of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, this weekend, and he actually said, according to his people, there are 100,000 varieties of drinks you can get at Starbucks because they’ll make a drink however you want it, and there Baristas have never made because people have not ordered all the combinations of 100,000 you can make out of a drink.  

Veronique de Rugy [00:17:07] I mean, people take for granted the fact that a lot of people have Netflix on their phone, right? And back in the 70s, going to the movie theater was a big deal. Like, taking a family of four to the movie theater was very expensive. But now people just don’t even realize they take all of this for granted.  

Roger Ream [00:17:30] Yes. I always tell our students at orientation that in my pockets I carry two of the most powerful things ever invented, I’ll say. One is this thing. It’s the Declaration and the Constitution. And that gave us this thing: a cell phone that has a map of every city in the world. I was in a small town in northern England two weeks ago, using my GPS to figure out how to get from my hotel to a castle that was built a thousand years ago. It has my entire photo and record collection. It has just so much power in there. We do take it all for granted. Now, we come to the point where, despite this progress you’re describing, we have lawmakers in both parties that are not satisfied with things in terms of women and family who want to, use government to do much more to address the issues of paid family leave, child care, tax credits, credits to encourage people to have more children, and that was a big part of what you talked about. And you took on a very difficult subject by tackling those issues, but you had a lot of clarity about it. So, I’d like to shift and talk about that. Why do you think we’re seeing this call for these policies?  

Veronique de Rugy [00:18:55] It’s kind of interesting because it is one of the things that I fear the most. Because a lot of the new right is actually embracing policies of the left. I always worry that all these things that I think would be detrimental for the U.S. and in some cases for women, they’re going to form this unholy alliance, but now I’m a little less worried about this, because, as the New Right movement progress, they actually have a different mentality than the left. So, for instance, if you take paid leave, which is embraced by both sides, but for very different reason, the left mostly likes to encourage women to get into the workforce, and they want to kind of make life more affordable, easier and all this. The new right is moving away from actually paid leave because again, they want to encourage women to be at home, but there’s some people like Senator Rubio, for instance, in favor of paid leave, paid through Social Security, where parents would be able to tap into Social Security benefits before they’ve even accumulated all the work orders that makes you eligible for Social Security, and then you would pay back Social Security by retiring older, later. So, there’s some move, but it comes from a very different mentality, right?  

Roger Ream [00:20:23] Different motivations, but similar interest.  

Veronique de Rugy [00:20:28] One is, kind of like, we want more women in the workforce, and Senator Rubio was like: “We need to encourage parents to have more children.” There’s no evidence at all, in fact, that any of these big family policy encouraged fertility whatsoever, but what is clear is there is this move to actually create federal paid leave and some of the arguing that are used on both sides are this idea that the U.S. doesn’t have a federal paid leave program, which is true. It’s absolutely true. And then the other argument you hear all the time is like: “we were the only industrial nation that doesn’t have it.” Again, true. But the fact that we don’t have a government program doesn’t mean that there’s no paid leave programs in the U.S., and, and, in fact, we have a remarkable and extensive network of different ways that companies provide paid leave for their employees. The Bureau of Labor Statistics measures how many workers get paid leave through a program called paid leave, and that’s only like 21%, I think. So, that’s the number that people are always using to say how horrible it is that workers don’t have paid leave in America. But the government agencies have measured how many workers have paid leave programs and that way north of 65% and that’s because we have like most of the things that America does when the government doesn’t step in is this incredible network, a different way that employers provide paid leave. So, for instance, one of them is temporary disability insurance. But there’s also very private arrangement in the, mostly, small firms. And so, we could go into like all the other reasons why I’m against having the federal government provide paid leave. The first one of them being that I think it’s not the role of the federal government, but I wanted really to impress on this instinct that a lot of people have, which is if you want something, if you want to service, the government is the place to start, is actually not correct. But I also took the opportunity to also tell them: “You know, t’s it’s not great for the beneficiaries.” I mean, paid leave is a fantastic program. That’s not the problem. Not wanting to have the government provide, it doesn’t mean I’m against paid leave, I think it’s a wonderful thing I benefited from it, but the problem is that it has a real cost to have it provided, even by the private sector. And these tradeoffs, this idea that you’re going to mandate these tradeoffs and decide basically the mix of benefits, whether it’s fringe benefits versus wages, for instance, for everyone, or you’re going to actually say, like, we’ve seen in most European countries, that actually women are going to get fewer promotions because they have these paid leave benefits, mandated by the government. I think this is kind of unfair. It’s not fair to actually talk about the benefits of these programs without also talking about the cost.   

Roger Ream [00:24:09] Yeah. One cost is probably that it does hurt the employment of young women, if Employers require to give paid leave.  

Veronique de Rugy [00:24:18] Yeah. So, I think there’s several things are what you see when you look at the waste trajectory of women, right? What you see and that is clearly established is that men and women before they have children, usually they’re on par paid wise, right? And there is a gap that’s created after having children. That remains true even when you have a paid leave program, because a lot of people are saying: “You need to have paid leave,” but it is actually much more pronounced in countries that have government provided pay leave or government mandated pay leave. The gap is wider than in the U.S., and what you see is that the work hours are diminished for women and opportunities for promotions are diminished. So, it has a real cost, which is not nonexistent when the private sector provides it without any obligation by the government, but it is much less.  

Roger Ream [00:25:25] You mentioned in your talk in passing that there’s very few things that annoy you more than when someone calls for more government to address a problem that’s been caused by government in the first place. That is certainly true in this area, I think, when, as you pointed out, many of these areas, childcare provision, for instance, are much more expensive because of government, especially at the state and local level, where government interferes with childcare.  

Veronique de Rugy [00:25:55] And housing or higher education.   

Roger Ream [00:25:58] Housing, health care, education.  

Veronique de Rugy [00:26:03] So, basically, the best way to sum it up is to say what the government interventions tend to do and often at state and local level, but it’s also a lot at the federal level is like they tend to subsidize demand while restricting the supply. So, childcare is actually kind of a good example. Yes, it is true that the cost of childcare has gone up as women have entered the labor force. But what would it matter if the childcare supply had been able to expand as much as needed. Unfortunately, a lot of state and local government impose licensing requirements, education requirements, parking requirements, all sorts of things that actually, make the cost of childcare much more expensive, but also really restrict the supply when a lot of the childcare has been provided with people without education, as was a good kind of first step ladder. It’s the first step to income mobility and now you need to have a bachelor’s in education to be a childcare provider. Well, it restricts the supply.   

Roger Ream [00:27:13] One thing we haven’t touched on is the tremendous cost of a lot of these programs, and they’re being proposed at a time where our national debt is 34 trillion. The unfunded liabilities are over 100 trillion. We’ll be running close to $2 trillion annual deficits. I can just imagine a program like the one you mentioned, Senator Rubio proposed, where you can tap into your Social Security early. I can already hear a future president deciding to cancel those debts that people have from borrowing from their Social Security account, just like our current president is canceling student debt, in the name of fairness.  

Veronique de Rugy [00:27:55] But, also, I don’t understand. I mean, Social Security is insolvent as it is, and in 2034, the benefits are going to be cut by 20%, roughly, a little more if Congress doesn’t act. I’m worried that the way they’re going to act is to maintain the benefits as opposed to cutting some of the benefits, and basically pay all these benefits with debt. I’m just not exactly sure, basically, since you take more money, more benefits now than schedule, I mean, that basically the type of cutting benefits, is going to be way sooner than. So, that’s the first thing. And you’re right, the public choice side is that we know those same conservatives that are saying that parents should have paid leave and we should facilitate things for parents, they’re are going to be in the future saying: “It’s so unfair that those that that had children should be retiring later, just for the fact that they’ve had children, and there’s no way to tie the hands of future Congresses.” So, the cost is as high, but if you think about the child tax credit, right, which a lot of conservatives and a lot of Democrats and a lot of progressive love and a lot of them would like to expand it, it’s already $1 trillion, right, as it is, and they want to expand it just much, much more independently and because for the lower income families and parents basically it would be a payment, and there would be no work requirements. It’s, basically, going to create a lot of disincentives to work on top of the budgetary cost, and it’s weird. For the NatCons, they’re like: “if you’re going to be encouraging women to work through childcare subsidy, that’s very unfair. We should start paying women who decide to stay at home with their kids.” That is an enormous amount of money.  

Roger Ream [00:29:59] Do you have any thoughts on how you would suggest addressing this coming fiscal and solvency of Social Security? You said: “Let’s not do it solely through, like, tax increases, but try to do some benefit reductions,” and I agree with you. Could you discuss some of those?  

Veronique de Rugy [00:30:19] I have a solution that is a political nonstarter, but I’m going to give it to you, nonetheless. When Social Security was created, when you stopped working effectively, you were poor. We didn’t have the miracle of capital markets. We didn’t have, whatever, how many years of enormous economic growth, accumulation of savings in the private sector, and we didn’t have any of this. Now, we do have this. And as it turns out, seniors are really overrepresented in the top income quintile. And effectively, what Social Security is, is a massive transfer of wealth from the relatively young and poor in society to the relatively old and rich in society, and what I would do, I would move away, the same is true from Medicare. Medicaid is transfer to poor people. So, to the extent, I mean, there are lots of reforms you could do there, because it’s actually not serving poor people well, but I’d be at least comfortable, I’m okay with continuing helping poor people, but I think I would move away from any age-based program. They make no more sense, and I would move to a need space program. So, that means that not every senior has enough money. 1 in 7 people, retirees, rely entirely for income on Social Security, where the cutoff would be, but I would move to a neat space system. That’s a no, I don’t think, even though I’m a firm believer that this is the way to go, we should go this way, but I think kind of the way we’re going to have compromise, is to do two means tests. I would do a means test as dramatically as possible, to limit the amount of taxes that are due. I mean, politically, it’s going to be probably a mix of both, and I worry that if we don’t start talking about Social Security reform very quickly, what we’re going to have, like the Republicans, who in theory would be not opposed to having better the cuts, which include increase in the retirement age, will be faced with, basically, the Democrats position, which is raise the debt and raise taxes on the rich.   

Roger Ream [00:32:58] Well, the counter argument is: “Hey, I paid this money in through my working career, it’s my account, I’m entitled to it,” but if you and I know the government spent it long ago on a lot of other things. The money doesn’t exist, except if they take it from people working now or print money.  

Veronique de Rugy [00:33:17] It’s amazing how successful they’ve been in selling this idea of an account with your name on it. It’s so not true. Like every tax you and I pay, they go to pay for current retirees, not for us.  

Roger Ream [00:33:30] Another issue you’ve written on, that is an important one, is the issue of free trade. We’ve certainly seen a sea change in the support for that, and it’s occurred throughout our history. It goes back and forth between the parties. The Democrats used to be free traders and then the Republicans were, and now it seems like we’re all protectionists except for a few brands of classical liberals that still understand the comparative advantage and economic lessons of why free trade benefits the country. Do you get frustrated and have to constantly write about that issue?  

Veronique de Rugy [00:34:12] Yes. I mean, not as frustrated as Don Boudreaux, our friend Don Boudreaux, right, who really spans and spent his life defending free trade and trying to educate people about free trade. But, I mean, it is really frustrating. And what’s most frustrating about, especially the change that happened on the right, is that I can sympathize with the concerns that the NatCon, for instance, have about men who have dropped out of the labor force. A lot of their agenda is driven, including the concern for one income household, is driven by the fact that there are men who’ve dropped out of the labor force. It’s like millions of men that just dropped out. They’ve given up on work, and that is disconcerting, but they claim that it’s the product of men not having access to manufacturing jobs. So, their solution is protectionism. But what’s frustrating about this is that 50% of what we import is import, if anything, you’re going to make manufacturing jobs even more expensive. Further, even if through industrial policy you managed to create someone of a manufacturing boom, it wouldn’t either bring back these men to the labor force because there’s just a bunch of issues, and there are also a lot of government incentives for them to not work, including disability insurance, including occupational licensing. There’s just a lot of things that are keeping people out of the workforce. But it’s also because most manufacturing now, the biggest factor for the decline in manufacturing jobs is automation. I mean, the future of manufacturing is even more towards innovation than not. So, it’s really frustrating because I can sympathize with their concern, but what they think the solutions are, which industrial policy, which is often protectionism and protectionism in the form of lots of tariffs, is going to make things worse. It’s not going to improve anything.  

Roger Ream [00:36:42] Yeah, I think at the same time that manufacturing employment has been falling, which is over decades, manufacturing output has mostly been rising.  

Veronique de Rugy [00:36:52] Yes.  

Roger Ream [00:36:53] Because of, as you said, automation and productivity of the manufacturing sector.  

Veronique de Rugy [00:36:58] Employment in manufacturing as a share of employment is peaked in 44.  

Roger Ream [00:37:03] At the same time, the number of jobs our economy has created is tremendous. We’re creating lots of jobs. They’re in other areas. And so, people who are in manufacturing have to look for jobs in other sectors and be willing to move, be willing to learn a new skill, be willing to find a different job. And so, as you said, there are government incentives that keep them from doing that in many cases.  

Veronique de Rugy [00:37:28] And some of NatCons are actually talking about this problem and they’re linked to the women issue in the sense that they actually think that as men were losing their jobs, their employment in manufacturing, then they became less attractive to women, especially as women themselves were finding more opportunity in the workforce, and that contributed to a lot of the marriage decline, which I mean, it’s quite significant, right? I can’t remember if it was in the 60s. It was like an enormous amount, like 80% of people between 25 and 34 were married. And now, it’s just 30%. It’s a big decline, but they’re saying: “All these women have these jobs, and they don’t want to marry men. And so, we will solve all these problems. The men problem, make them more attractive by keeping women at home.” They don’t go out and say exactly like this, but sometimes they’ll say: “Don’t applaud women getting in to the workforce because it’s the source of all of the problems and all of this.” I have a problem with that. I’m all in favor of trying to kind of lift men or solve problems, usually by removing government barriers. I’m not for doing it at the expense of women.  

Roger Ream [00:38:48] Let me follow up on that and then ask one other question. How would you describe the causes of opportunities for women vastly increasing in the 20th century? How would you weigh the importance of our prosperity, of what capitalism did to make us a prosperous country? Actually, we needed women to enter the workforce to feel the growth that was taking place. And to what extent were there also governmental or quasi-governmental types of barriers to women that kept them out of the workforce, certainly kept them out of some professions. Is there a role there to look at the role of government or other types of barriers that had to be removed?  

Veronique de Rugy [00:39:34] Culturally, obviously, there were many of them and some of these cultural barriers were backed by government regulations. But the role of women in economic growth in this country, there have been a bunch of studies that were done showing that actually the biggest share of the growth that we’ve experienced, in the second half of the 20th century is driven by women. And so, there are tradeoffs everywhere. So, yes, there’s a cost of women entering the labor force and benefits, but there’s like the contribution of women to economic growth and to the wealth of this nation is just not in question, in my opinion.   

Roger Ream [00:40:18] Well, I don’t want to end on a sad note, but I am, I guess. You and I lost a dear friend on June 7, David Bowes, the executive vice president and then distinguished scholar at the Cato Institute, passed away. I had met him in 1973 when I was a freshman at Vanderbilt. He was a pivotal person in my life, who introduced me just the very next day to David Jones, who was one of the founders of TFAS, and that led to me coming up here for a summer and David Jones hiring me to come work here. I remember him also introducing me to Ron Paul within months of his first election in 1976, I think, it was at a party Ed Crane had at his home for Ron. And then through David, I met F.A. Hayek later and Milton Friedman, a lot of marvelous classical liberals. You wrote a very beautiful tribute to him and talked about what: “A remarkable, generous person, always looking to make all of us better thinkers and better messengers for the fight for freedom.” I think that’s what captured most what he did for me. He made me a better thinker. He challenged things. If you made statements that he didn’t think were either expressed correctly or he disagreed with, he wouldn’t stay quiet. He challenged you, sometimes in a sarcastic, funny way, sometimes just with the right question.   

Veronique de Rugy [00:41:45] It’s remarkably sad, because I don’t think there are two David Bowes’. I mean, there will be another one. The reason why I really wanted to make that point in that piece is because David came across as harsh, sometimes. He was a harsh editor. I mean, part of it was his love of language, his love of grammar. He was darling bee champion. He was always very straightforward, and he just told you when he thought that what you said made no sense, but he always came off as kind of strict. But what was driving him, I learned quickly, actually, when you ignore that kind of stern look, ultimately everything he was doing was to actually promote the cause for freedom. And one way to do this is to grow the army of those who will be willing to fight for freedom and a better prepared army and an army that thinks well, in this case, and that writes well, I mean, is a better messenger for a message. And I think that ultimately was really what was driving him. And in the case of Cato, really, I mean, Ed Crane was remarkable, obviously, created this institution, but David was an essential participant in this task. And really, David, and his demeanor, not what you would think of a libertarian. He was just very proper, and they insisted that we were the same. He was the enforcer of our rules at Cato and he managed to herd a bunch of cats. This is what we all were and what makes us better prepared for the fight. For me, he was such an important figure because each time I was wondering, sometimes, I thought: “What’s the libertarian position on this?” I would just always think: “I wonder if David said anything about this.” Less policy question, but broader, and sure enough, he was an important person in my life.  

Roger Ream [00:44:27] Well, fortunately, he left a lot of writing behind him. I’ll conclude just by saying that I’ll dedicate this episode of Liberty and Leadership to David Bowes. Veronique, thanks so much for being my guest today. I think he would have agreed with everything we talked about, but he would have had some criticism, of course.  

Veronique de Rugy [00:44:51] Thank you, Roger.  

Roger Ream [00:44:52] Thank you and thank you for giving the Lev Dobriansky lecture to all our students, last week.  

Roger Ream [00:44:58] Thank you for listening to the Liberty + Leadership Podcast. If you have a comment or question, please drop us an email at podcast@TFAS.org and be sure to subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast app and leave a five-star review. Liberty + Leadership is produced at Podville Media. I’m your host, Roger Ream, and until next time, show courage in things large and small.  



TFAS has reached more than 49,000 students and professionals through academic programs, fellowships and seminars. Representing more than 140 countries, TFAS alumni are courageous leaders throughout the world forging careers in politics, government, public policy, business, philanthropy, law and the media.

Liberty + Leadership is a conversation with TFAS alumni, faculty and friends who are making a real impact. Hosted by TFAS President Roger Ream ’76, the podcast covers guests’ experiences, career stories and leadership journeys. 

If you have a comment or question for the show, please email podcast@TFAS.org.

View future episodes and subscribe at TFAS.org/podcast.


Recent Posts


Beyond the Law: Fighting for Liberty When Justice Fails with Diana Simpson

This week, another exceptional TFAS alumna joins us on the Liberty + Leadership Podcast: Diana Simpson, 2009 TFAS alumna and attorney.

Gary and Aldona Robbins Scholarship Established for Economic Education

The Gary and Aldona Robbins Scholarship at TFAS was established in 2024 to honor the work of a husband and wife who together made outstanding contributions to the field of economic policy. Upon Aldona’s passing in May, TFAS regent and friend of Aldona,…

Maintaining Our Republic: Mitch Daniels Delivers Annual Neal B. Freeman Lecture

The 2024 cohort of D.C. Academic Internship Program participants welcomed former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels at George Mason University for this year’s annual Neal B. Freeman All-Student Lecture on June 11.