Paul Starr

Paul Starr is co-founder and co-editor of the The American Prospect. and professor of sociology and public affairs at Princeton University. A winner of the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction and the Bancroft Prize in American history, he is the author of seven books, including most recently Remedy and Reaction: The Peculiar American Struggle over Heath Care Reform (Yale University Press, revised ed. 2013). Click here to read more about Starr.

Recent Articles

Computing Our Way to Educational Reform

The new technology may not only make progressive educational ideas more appealing; it may also help them work.

Illustration by J. T. Morrow The New Media and Learning With this issue we inaugurate a series of articles on the new media and learning, drawn from a conference sponsored by The American Prospect on June 4th at the MIT Media Laboratory. The aim of the conference and the series is to explore whether the new technologies offer genuine promise for improvements in learning or are merely a diversion from the real problems of education, and to ask what approaches to policy and the new technologies hold the most promise. In addition to the authors of articles in this issue, the conference featured: Congressman Edward Markey of Massachusetts on why the Federal Communications Commission should adopt an "e-rate" under the Telecommunications Act of 1996 that would make a basic level of internet access free to schools; Mitchell Kapor, who served on the President's National Information Infrastructure Advisory Council before resigning in protest, on what went wrong with the NII initiative; Seymour...

What Killed the Boom?

T he worry is obvious: just as an expanding high-tech sector contributed to strong growth in the 1990s, so might a deepening slump in technology drag down the entire economy. High among the sources of concern is the recent meltdown in the telecom industry. Even after the dot-com collapse, a broadband upgrade of the Internet seemed sure to be the next big thing, and investors continued plowing capital into the companies supplying and building the new infrastructure for high-speed digital communications. But now telecom too has seen staggering losses, bankruptcies, and layoffs. The specter that haunts telecom goes by the ominous name of "dark fiber." According to The New York Times, companies in the past two years have spent $35 billion worldwide laying 100 million miles of optical fiber for broadband networks, but only 5 percent has been "lit" (that is, made operational). And while long-haul lines appear overbuilt, local access remains unavailable for millions of potential customers...

The War about the War

"If something is defined as real, it is real," goes a common dictum of the social sciences. The passive voice, however, conceals an uncertainty: Defined by whom? What if, for example, two antagonists define their conflict in opposing ways? As American forces strike in Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden and the Taliban say this is a religious war--a view that reportedly has resonance through much, though not all, of the Islamic world. If not merely our adversaries but millions of others define the war as religious, is that the reality? No, we say, we have no conflict with Islam. Muslims in America live in peace and enjoy the right to practice their religion more freely than in many officially Islamic countries. In Kosovo we intervened on behalf of a Muslim people. If there is prejudice in America against Arabs and Muslims, it violates our deepest principles and we mean to combat it. We frame the war in different ways. At the most general level, we say this is the War on Terrorism, a war...

How Low Can You Go?

THE PERFECT SPOKESMEN A lthough they get little respect from political analysts, the forces of irony have been hard at work in the new Congress. They showed their subversive influence when the House Republican leadership chose Representative Thomas Bliley of Virginia to chair the committee in charge of health legislation. Bliley, a long-time advocate of tobacco interests, is an undertaker by profession. The same hidden forces must have been responsible when Senate Republicans picked Alfonse D'Amato to spearhead the special investigation of Whitewater. Purity has never had more transparent representation than from Al and his pals. Was it also the forces of irony that put Representative Christopher Cox of California in charge of legislation to change the nation's securities laws to make it more difficult for investors to sue companies and their advisors for fraud? Cox is currently a defendant in just such a case stemming from his prior legal practice, in which investors in two real...

Liberalism After Clinton

W ill a conservative or liberal agenda be at the center of national politics during the next four years? No matter how centrist George W. Bush and Al Gore sound, that is what the fall election is still fundamentally about. Conservatives seem to understand the choice and have lined up behind Bush. Many liberals don't and are withholding their support from Gore. If that ambivalence persists--according to polls through July, Gore draws less support from Democrats than Bush does from Republicans--it could signal low turnout, defections to Nader, and disaster for the Democrats in November, with enormous consequences for the future. A Bush victory will give conservative causes new momentum and throw liberals on the defensive. Liberals will spend the next four years fighting a series of rearguard battles against regressive tax cuts, the privatization of Social Security and education, and the rollback of environmental and other protective regulations. In the Reagan-Bush era, liberals had...

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