Paul Starr

Paul Starr is co-editor of the The American Prospect. His most recent book is Remedy and Reaction: The Peculiar American Struggle over Health Care ReformClick here to read more about Starr.

Recent Articles

The Perils of High-Mindedness

Even before this campaign, he was a familiar figure in our public life—the high-minded politician, detached from partisan passions, divorced from interest groups, devoted to higher purposes for the good of all, disdainful of image-making, fundraising, and negative campaigns. To varying degrees, Adlai Stevenson, John Anderson, and Paul Tsongas played the part; now it is Bill Bradley's turn, and we will see whether he plays it to the same conclusion—political defeat. High-mindedness is both a style of public self-representation and a way of dealing with the practical aspects of politics. As a style, it seems to appeal toaffluent liberals and independents who also feel uncomfortable with the practices of mass democracy. But the same detachment and aloofness may not go down nearly as well with Americans who are less well off and unashamed to ask, "What are you going to do for me?" They want to know whether a politician can deliver . But...

How Low Can You Go?

THE UPSIDE OF UNEMPLOYMENT Our last issue described PaineWebber's "happiness index" for bonds, which goes up when unemployment increases. But unemployment, we've now learned, can prolong your life too. Our impeccable source is a new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research: "Are Recessions Good for Your Health?" by Christopher Rohm (NBER Working Paper No. 5570). Rohm finds that recessions do indeed promote good health, at least if you're young; in fact, according to an NBER summary, "a one percentage point rise in unemployment lowers the predicted death rate of 20-44 year olds by 1.3 percent." Strangely, however, unemployment seems to have no effect on 45- to 64-year-olds and just a slight—though still positive—effect on those over 65. Here's the breakdown on the good news. With 1 percent more unemployment, deaths from car crashes drop by 2.4 percent, from homicides by 1.5 percent, from liver ailments by 0.8 percent, and from heart disease and cancer by 0.2 to 0.5 percent...

How Low Can You Go?

HAPPINESS IS . . . According to The Economist , PaineWebber has created an index of "happiness" for bonds that goes up when unemployment rises. If others would only follow this example and strike a blow against hypocrisy, we could have a series of more accurate social indicators: an index of happiness for hospitals that jumps when epidemics hit; one for journalists that goes up when scandals break out; another for lawyers and accountants that climbs whenever a company goes bankrupt. Ninety years ago, Ambrose Bierce defined happiness as "an agreeable sensation arising from contemplating the misery of another." Nothing has changed, except the Federal Reserve has turned Bierce's observation into national policy. If you get fired these days, you can at least take comfort in this consoling thought: You did your part to keep interest rates down, and to make bonds happy. THROUGH A GLASSMAN, DARKLY "If Bob Dole were a stock, I would be buying the hell out of it," the Washington Post columnist...

Rights under the Knife

T he Congress that made the impeachment of President Clinton its first item of business is now approaching its end with little to brag about. During the impeachment, I disagreed with liberals who thought the proceedings were an unmitigated disaster. Anything that distracted this Congress from actually passing legislation seemed to me worth public encouragement. Yet even after the impeachment frenzy was over, the danger of serious congressional accomplishment turned out to be minimal. The Republicans themselves have been too divided to get much done; as the saying goes, the right hand doesn't know what the far right hand is doing. Now, however, there is at least a faint possibility of a positive change in the political dynamics. Recall that as the 1996 election approached, a Republican Congress hoping to preserve itself produced a flurry of legislation that surprisingly included an increase in the minimum wage and the Kassebaum-Kennedy health insurance reforms. As the 2000 election...

Airpower and Our Power

W hen the war began in early October, no one knew how long and difficult it would be, and many pointed to the Russians' failed invasion of Afghanistan as a warning that the enterprise could prove to be a disaster. Two months later, as I write, the Taliban regime is in its final death throes in Kandahar, and the war itself--or, at least, the Afghan phase of it--may nearly be over. Although the curtain has not yet come down, it doesn't seem too early to explore why the war has progressed so fast and what it means for us and the world. Contrary to cautionary opinions in the early fall, it's now evident that the Taliban were in much worse shape politically and the United States in much better shape militarily than was generally supposed. War often clarifies the true condition of a regime. Before the fighting began, some observers did argue that the Taliban government had little popular legitimacy after years of oppressive rule and, therefore, that the American campaign would not meet the...

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