Robert Kuttner

Robert Kuttner is co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect, a professor at Brandeis University's Heller School, and a distinguished senior fellow of the think tank Demos. He was a longtime columnist for Business Week and continues to write columns in The Boston Globe. He is the author of Obama's Challenge and other books.

Recent Articles

State of the Debate: Peddling Krugman

Paul Krugman criticizes supporters of government activism as nothing but policy peddlers and economic illiterates, but describes himself as a liberal. What is MIT's prodigy really up to?

WORKS DISCUSSED IN THIS ESSAY: Strategic Trade Policy and the New International Economics (collection) (MIT Press, 1986). The Age of Diminished Expectations: U.S. Economic Policy in the 1990s (Washington Post Company, 1990). Peddling Prosperity: Economic Sense and Nonsense in the Age of Diminished Expectations (W.W. Norton & Co., 1994). Pop Internationalism (MIT Press, 1996). A generation ago, mainstream economics provided intellectual support for a mixed economy. Keynesianism gave legitimacy to macroeconomic intervention and public spending generally. The regulation of leading industries was anchored in the respectable economic ideas that many industries either were "natural monopolies" or displayed positive and negative spillovers not captured in market pricing. Social insurance and redistributive taxation enjoyed wide political support, and economists could explain why a more equal income distribution was good for growth as well as equity. Today, nearly all of the mainstream...

NAFTA-Style Trade Deal Bad for Democracy

This weekend's Summit of the Americas aims to extend a NAFTA-style free trade area to the entire Western Hemisphere. As Secretary of State Colin Powell recently put it, ''We will be able to sell American goods, technology, and services without obstacles or restrictions from the Arctic to Cape Horn.'' And foreign businesses will likewise be able to sell goods and services in the United States ''without obstacles or restrictions.'' But one person's restrictions are another person's vital social safeguards. Here is a short list of ''obstacles and restrictions'' that constrain American corporations - and represent a century of struggle to make America a more decent society: We allow workers to organize unions. We limit the pollutants that corporations can dump into the environment. We have regulations protecting employees from unsafe working conditions. We assure consumers safe food, and drugs, and drinking water, and other products. We require business to partly underwrite social...

Ralph Nader: A Conversation

Robert Kuttner: I am sympathetic to much of your diagnosis of the dependence of both parties on corporations. But I am skeptical about what you can really accomplish tactically. Historically, what have American third parties accomplished in the past, and what do you hope to accomplish? Ralph Nader: Well, in the past, third parties have marched early and consistently with social justice movements before either major party came on. Whether it was the antislavery drive or women's right to vote, the trade union movement or the populist-progressive farmers movement, third parties in effect politicized the initiative and told the major parties that they either had to respond or they were going to lose part of their margin to the other major party. So if we can build a Green Party that goes over 5 percent, the Democratic Party won't be the same again--because it will have to take into consideration losing, because of that...

Let's Grant Amnesty to Ralph Nader

Ralph Nader's name has mercifully dropped from the headlines. Democrats are so enraged at George W. Bush's attempt to run the clock on a recount that Bush, rather than Nader, has become the object of Democrats' wrath. It's probably premature, but I'd like to be the first to propose an amnesty for Ralph. By way of disclaimer, I voted for Gore. Like many other liberals, I did so with little enthusiasm. That wasn't Nader's fault, it was Gore's. I also thought Nader's campaign was misconceived, and in the end mischievous. As ill feeling rose between Nader and the Democrats, it became clear that many Greens and perhaps Nader himself hoped that Bush would defeat Gore. Nader deliberately chose to campaign in the tightest battleground states. In the end, Gore squeaked through in all of them, thanks largely to the loyalty of the labor movement. If indeed Gore lost the election, he lost it in Tennessee and Florida, both states where Nader did not...

Nader is Getting a Bum Rap

I would like to put in a kind word for Ralph Nader. To the extent that Al Gore has lately gained some traction by campaigning as a Trumanesque progressive, we have Nader substantially to thank. You don't have to agree with all of Nader's views, or even to think he is serious presidential timber, to appreciate how he has energized this campaign. Conventional politicians and commentators seem to think the two major parties have a God-given right to have no serious minor candidates complicating their lives. They take offense that Nader and Pat Buchanan run at all. Our Constitution and the winner-take-all electoral system certainly bias American electoral politics against third parties. That has contributed to America's political stability. But whenever the two major parties are oblivious to issues that trouble voters (slavery, corporate abuses, insecurity in old age, excess deficits), third parties have played a very useful role, if only to refocus...

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