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

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...

The Choice in Kosovo

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Americans have been uncertain about the purposes that ought to guide our foreign policy, particularly our use of military power. Now that anticommunism no longer serves as an overarching cause, should we follow the dictates of national interest narrowly understood, or do democratic values and commitments to human rights oblige us to conceive of our role more broadly? Or is it a mistake even to distinguish sharply between national interests and humanitarian concerns because our security depends on an international moral order and the rule of law? And if we do intervene abroad with humanitarian aims, how far are we willing to go? Are we willing to put American soldiers at risk? When the Serbs began their assault on the Kos ovar Albanians this March, they posed a critical test for us, in some ways a more troubling one than Iraq did in 1991. In the Gulf War, we faced a clear act of international aggression...

The Executive-Class President

W e are so used to a politics of blurred class interests in America that clarity is actually confusing. Throughout our history, the major parties have been economically heterogeneous, and the basic tenets of the American creed have denied any legitimacy to class as a basis of political action--except, that is, for measures in aid of the great, sprawling middle class that is ideally supposed to embrace nearly everyone. Democrats lean to labor but regularly nominate multimillionaires for office, and Republicans lean to business but appeal to the moral traditionalism of many working families. In recent years, despite the unions' continued effectiveness in mobilizing their members to vote Democratic, a majority of white working-class men have often voted Republican--as they did in the last presidential election. This long history of muted class politics and working-class conservatism makes all the more striking the in-your-face program that President Bush is pressing Congress to adopt...

Bush's Luck, Clinton's Dilemma

T he final indignity of the Clinton presidency may bring yet another piece of good fortune to the man who just won the White House while getting fewer votes than his opponent. Although the Independent Counsel Act is defunct and will therefore never cause the least trouble for George W. Bush, the office created under the act to investigate Bill Clinton still survives and continues to trouble him. Indeed, Robert Ray, Kenneth Starr's successor, has been extremely busy of late and shows every sign of intending to indict Clinton for perjury in the Monica Lewinsky case after the president steps down. If Al Gore had won the election, Clinton's indictment would have presented Gore with an excruciating political choice. Not so for Bush. People in public life rarely have the chance to appear magnanimous, compassionate, high-minded, and bipartisan all at once. This is just the sort of opportunity that will fall into Bush's hands--that is, if Clinton does not preempt...

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