Season 2 Episode 6: Laboratories of Democracy
Play • 40 min

In the 1932 Supreme Court ruling, Justice Louis Brandeis popularized the phrase “laboratories of democracy“ to describe how “a single courageous state may, if its citizen choose, serve as a laboratory and try novel social and economic experience without risk to the rest of the country.”


Many states have looked to become laboratories to address some of the gaps in the US current retirement system that federal policy hasn’t yet been able to successfully solve. Josh Cohen and guest co-host Michael Kreps talk to two early experimenters, Hank Kim and Daniel Biss, to learn from their experiences turning policy ideas into legislation. 


Hosted by Josh Cohen, The Accidental Plan Sponsor podcast explores the history, evolution and future of employer-based retirement plants, including the 401(k), through the eyes of its creators -- providing unparalleled insights into an imperfect system that works for many, but not all.   

Key Takeaways:

[:38] Josh Cohen, your host, approaches the fact that some states have become laboratories to address some of the gaps in the current retirement system, which federal policy cannot tackle yet. 

 [3:44] How did states get involved in retirement policy when it is typically taken care of at a national level?

[4:32:] Michael Kreps, Principal at Groom Law, shares some of his recollections and experiences about the journey that some of the states have been going through.

[6:06] What drove some states to go down this path of turning policy ideas into laws? Who were some of the most important players?

[7:15] Hank Kim, Executive Director & Counsel at NCPERS, talks about Secure Choice Plans (a term he coined himself).

 [9:04] Hank talks about how he began working on pension issues, starting with the union of firefighters.

[9:37] Hank speaks of the history of NCPERS.

[11:32] Hank explains why NCPERS showed interest in the private sector.

  [16:08] Hank talks about the Californian, Oregon, and Illinois policymakers and how they couldn't get around political challenges as they defined the benefit pension approach.

  [21:27] Illinois was the first state to pass legislation approving the launching of an auto IRA program. Daniel Biss, Mayor of Evanston, explains how he plays a part in the story of retirement security.

 [33:40] Daniel explains why states can be the laboratory of democracy.

 [35:05] Michael shares his perspective about states being laboratories of innovation and if state experiments could contribute to a consensus around a national policy.


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The Accidental Plan Sponsor


Mentioned in this episode:

More about Michael Kreps

More about Hank Kim

More about Daniel Biss


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