Throughout our history, Americans have turned to public options as a way to promote equal opportunity and reconcile markets with democracy. For example, public libraries allow anyone to read, check out books or surf the internet. This expands educational opportunities and guarantees access to information to everyone, but it doesn’t prevent people from buying books at the bookstore if they choose.

Public options also benefit competitive markets and make capitalism work better. Public options in the form of public schools guarantee that we have an educated work force, and services like public transit and the post office support economic activity. The public option also competes in the marketplace with private options, expanding choices for consumers and acting as a check on monopoly power in concentrated sectors.

And whether it’s a pickup game of basketball or a shared picnic table at a state park, public options bring together people from different walks of life. They also help make our democracy more vibrant by giving us a shared set of experiences and goals to talk over in the public sphere.