Robert B. Reich ’68

A public policy expert on what he’d like to fix

Notable: Author of 18 books; prolific commentator whose online presence attracts millions of readers and viewers; three-time class president; Dartmouth trustee, 1988-93 

Career: Retired from classroom lecturing as professor of public policy at U.C. Berkeley last spring after academic career at Harvard (1981-92), Brandeis (1997-2005), and Berkeley (2006-23). Previous jobs include assistant to U.S. solicitor general Robert Bork, positions at U.S. Federal Trade Commission, and U.S. secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton (1993-97)

Education: A.B., Senior Fellow; Rhodes Scholar, M.A., Oxford, 1970; J.D., Yale, 1973

Personal: Lives with wife, Perian Flaherty, in Berkeley and Port Reyes, California; father of sons Sam and Adam

“When I first went to Washington, I was in awe of the government. Despite the Vietnam War, despite Richard Nixon, it seemed to me there was no other institution capable of doing as much good. I still feel that way. It’s important not to succumb to cynicism.”

“People need to understand the system we’re living in, which is not just an economic system but a political economic system. There’s no such thing as a free market existing out there in a state of nature. The market is organized and enforced by government, and market rules are constantly being changed with very little discussion.” 

“The best way to understand what’s happened to our economy is to look at a wide variety of indicators. If you do that, there’s no question that inequality has surged in the last 40 years.” 

“As more and more people earn above the Social Security tax cap, we’re going to have to increase Social Security taxes. Maybe we do that by saying any income above $500,000 a year is subject to Social Security taxes.”

“The problem with Medicare is not Medicare itself. It’s that we have the most inefficient, complex healthcare system you can imagine. It would be far better to move to a kind of opt-in, Medicare-for-all system.” 

“We’ve got to move toward free public higher education. I’ve learned from my students, a third of whom transferred into Berkeley from community colleges, that public higher education can be a remarkable engine of upward mobility.” 

“One of the worst aspects of politics is the increase in so-called dark money. There’s no accountability, and that should be prohibited by law.” 

“The idea of universal basic income needs to be taken seriously. Most randomized experiments going on around the United States have provided $1,000 per month. Recipients have better health, more jobs, and generally better lives for their children. You wouldn’t think that $12,000 a year would make that much difference, but it does. As artificial intelligence begins to take over even professional jobs, we’re going to have to think about how to provide middle-class families enough money to live on and keep the economy going.”

“I applaud young people who are seeking work-life balance. That’s a sign of maturity. Whether they can achieve it is a different question entirely, because they’re facing greater challenges than my generation did.” 

“I fell in love with California early on. My perfect day involves hiking around the Port Reyes National Seashore, writing, and going into town for coffee, meeting a fariend. Nothing elaborate.” 

“High on my bucket list is meeting Dolly Parton. She’s just my height and the same age. Why shouldn’t this be possible?” 

“I’m writing a memoir of postwar America. What has happened over the last 75 years has been a major sea change. Some of the failures we’re seeing, particularly in our democracy, could have been addressed earlier.”

Portfolio

Alumni Books
New titles from Dartmouth writers (November/December 2023)
Fresh Takes
Blogger Ray Padgett ’09 covers the covers.
The Secret Life of the Brain

Michael Gazzaniga ’61 divulges the inner workings of the human mind. 

Gail Koziara Boudreaux ’82
A CEO on the state of the nation’s healthcare

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