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

The Middle Class and National Health Reform

With the recent flurry of proposals for universal health insurance, including a new plan submitted on June 5 by Majority Leader George Mitchell on behalf of the Senate Democratic leadership, a struggle that began three-quarters of a century ago in the United States entered another phase. Four times -- in the Progressive Era, during the New Deal, under President Truman, and again in the 1970s -- reformers believed passage of legislation was close at hand. Yet on each occasion the movement failed and receded. Should we expect anything different this time? And, bearing in mind the denouement of previous campaigns, what sort of legislation should we favor -- a comprehensive reform of health care finance or a measure that would achieve universal insurance with the minimum disturbance to established institutions? These are the general questions animating a pair of articles in this issue. Departing from the conventional wisdom in Congress, Senator Robert Kerrey of Nebraska argues that...

Collateral Gains

Even before the jubilation in Kuwait City died down -- indeed, even before the Gulf War ended in a decisive allied victory -- many who warned that the war would go badly were warning that the war's aftermath would go badly. That is a safe prediction. No one has ever won a nickel betting on peace and harmony in the Middle East or gained a reputation for political clairvoyance by predicting that a war in the region would end its ancient conflicts. But for all the postwar uncertainties, there ought to be no remaining doubt that the Gulf War was worth fighting and winning. In liberating Kuwait, we blocked the attempted murder of a country. In defeating Iraq, we averted the danger that an aggressive, militarist regime, hostile to liberty, might have continued to accumulate oil wealth, transform it into yet greater military force, intimidate and take over other nations in the region, and then -- as it acquired nuclear weapons -- reach a threshold of virtually impregnable power. Preventing...

The Cultural Enemy Within

In the past year, the opinion has gained currency, particularly in conservative circles, that the great ideological battles of our time are shifting to the terrain of culture. The controversies over free speech and the arts; multiculturalism and education; the relevance of gender, race, and class to the study of the humanities and society; the relation between popular and high culture; the prominence of violence and sexuality in popular music and the mass media -- these and other questions have been stirring stronger passions, at least on campuses and the opinion pages, than any dispute over economic policy or electoral politics. Indeed, in America today it often seems that genuinely interesting political issues are more likely to turn up in an art exhibit or a curriculum dispute than in an election campaign. When controversy shifts from economic to cultural questions, the right today becomes the party of alarm and indignation. To listen to some cultural conservatives -- not merely to...

A World Unlocked

"We make our vision, and hold it ready for any amendment that experience suggests. It is not a fixed picture, a row of shiny ideals which we can exhibit to mankind and say: Achieve these or be damned. All we can do is to search the world as we find it, extricate the forces that seem to move it, and surround them with criticism and suggestion.... Too far ahead there is nothing but your dream; just behind, there is nothing but your memory. But in the unfolding present, man can be creative if his vision is gathered from the promise of actual things." -- Walter Lippmann, Drift and Mastery It is a conceit of new publications that their appearance coincides with an historic change. By good fortune, ours does. A year ago, when planning this journal, we conceived it as an effort to renew the sense of political possibility that had faded in an era of fiscal gridlock and conservative sway in America. But that sense of possibility has now already been unlocked by distant events. The...

Can Government Work?

Americans may love their country; they may resent anyone showing the least disrespect for the flag. They may judge other countries to be better or worse depending on how closely those nations approximate the American political system. AR the same, they regard their own politicians and government with a mixture of skepticism and scorn. In the United States, especially since Reagan, distrust of the government has virtually become a mark of the authentic patriot. To show some confidence in government may not yet be subversive, but it does raise suspicions. Of course, skepticism about government is not an unreasonable impulse: a number of our recent leaders have seemed entirely worthy of it. A free people, moreover, ought not to be so taken with their government as to be taken in by it. But in a democracy, the government is their instrument for confronting problems that affect them collectively When the citizens of a nation give up on the integrity and efficacy of their government -- when...

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