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

Of Our Time: The Clinton Presidency, Take Three

B ill Clinton's first term effectively lasted two years, until the disastrous midterm elections of 1994. Then came the two-year Clinton-Gingrich government of national disharmony, ending in the President's miraculous revival. Now we have the third Clinton presidency, the second Gingrich Congress, and a gathering storm of investigations that may well dominate national politics for the next two years. Emotionally, this third phase has begun in a deceptively low key. The 1992 campaign generated high voter interest, and the election of a young president raised public expectations of reform, even of another Camelot. Although 1994 turned things upside down, emotions still ran high as Republicans talked revolution and that very talk aroused fear among a large part of the public. For liberals, the ascendancy of conservatives in Congress seemed to mean, as we said on our Spring 1995 cover, "the fight of our lives." But 1996 has been strangely flat. Political temperatures have been running...

How Low Can You Go?

SENSE AND SENSATIONALISM Throughout the scandals of recent years, the public has seemed a lot more sober than the reporters. Take the Dick Morris affair. You have to work yourself into a state of extreme delusionary rectitude to be shocked by a relationship between a political consultant and a prostitute. Indeed, when I first heard that Morris had been caught with a prostitute, I thought he might just have been by himself. What was surprising was not Morris's affair, but that it was treated as such a big story, even in the supposedly high-tone press. Time magazine put Morris on its cover two weeks in a row; I don't recall any world leader getting such back-to-back treatment. Reporters gave their profound opinion that the latest scandal could only damage the President. In fact, it didn't even cause a blip in the polls. Most people hadn't heard of Morris and, quite sensibly, didn't care. This was not Profumo betraying national security. Maureen Dowd, who devoted at least two of her...

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...

Parodies Lost

O n April 20, a federal judge named Charles Pannell, Jr., barred Houghton Mifflin from publishing Alice Randall's novel The Wind Done Gone --a takeoff on Gone With the Wind from a slave's perspective--on the grounds that the book's borrowings of characters and scenes constitute "piracy." The ruling has prompted widespread critical derision and may well be overturned on appeal, but it ought to serve as a wake-up call about the trend toward excessive protection of intellectual property rights. American law originally took a highly restrictive view of copyright. The Constitution authorizes Congress to give authors and inventors the "exclusive right" to their writings and discoveries, but it sets two important provisos: The rights are to be for "limited times," and the purpose of granting them is "to promote the progress of science and useful arts." Other provisions of the Constitution granting powers to Congress are silent as to purpose, but the copyright and patent clause explicitly...

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