Robert Kuttner

Robert Kuttner is co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect, as well as 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

Of Our Time: Rules That Liberate

R ecently, I participated in a new television program called Debates, Debates, in which two teams have an hour to argue an issue of the day. The proposition under debate that day was whether trade sanctions should ever be used to advance human rights. For the opposition, the team captain was Eugene Rotberg, former vice president of the World Bank. Rotberg, cross-examining my debating partner, William Greider, expected to score a nice point on Greider with the following exchange: Greider : We all have our choke points. I wouldn't trade with a country that used slave labor. . . . Rotberg : Who's "we" here? Greider : Americans. This is a political question. Rotberg : Do you know where the parts to the car that you're driving are made? Greider : What's that got to do with it? Rotberg : Do you know that the car parts are made with child labor? Greider : But, see, you're starting from the position that governments are incapable of addressing these questions, so us poor consumers are...

Of Our Time: The Age of Trespass

[T]he system of private property is the most important guaranty of freedom, not only for those who own property, but scarcely less for those who do not. F. A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom , 1944 [A] government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take everything you have. Ronald Reagan, 1984 C onservatives today seem awfully confused about what threatens, or safeguards, personal freedom. Earlier in this century, principled conservatives worried that collectivism embraced in the name of social justice would erode individual liberty. Hayek, writing during World War II, believed that the "democratic planning" then in vogue in Britain and the United States was a slippery slope to totalitarianism. He had Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia as vivid cautionary examples for naive or fellow-traveling collectivists in the British Fabian movement and the American New Deal. Has history proven Hayek right? Not really. Soviet planning certainly collapsed of its own...

Of Our Time: Rescuing Democracy From "Speech"

T he several pillars of political democracy each seem inviolable first principles, but they exist in necessary tension with one another. Viewing any one principle in isolation, we too easily conclude that it is the indispensable element—the trump. For example, democracy entails both liberty and equality. But neither ideal can be taken to its logical extreme without wrecking the other, and wrecking democracy. Perfect equality requires dictatorship. Perfect liberty is anarchy. As our cover suggests, one such tension operates between free elections and free speech. In their zeal to get money out of politics, reformers stand accused of menacing free speech and thus undermining democracy. But conversely, if money buys elections, democracy is also impaired. Democracy needs both things: free, vigorous debate; and elections relatively uncorrupted by the special power of money. Happily, as I will suggest in this essay, this seeming dilemma is largely a false dichotomy. At our constitutional...

Comment: After Ideology

I n late March, leaders of European Union member nations agreed at their annual summit meeting, in Lisbon, on a program of sweeping economic liberalization aimed at bringing Europe into the Internet age. For the most part, the talk was of sweeping away the remnants of state regulation and welcoming the bracing winds of private enterprise. The European leaders, still facing double-digit unemployment, set a target of the creation of 20 million jobs and an annual economic growth rate of 3 percent, relying primarily on market forces. The European Union is taking a "new direction, away from the social regulation agenda of the '80s ... [toward] innovation, competition, and employment," declared one Tony Blair, the British prime minister and the leader of a center-left party, at least nominally. Though most European leaders are from the labor or social democratic parties, the rhetoric and program of the EU summit were almost entirely in...

Comment: Should Gore Do a Humphrey?

Does Al Gore need his own China policy? What do Republican kingmakers do if George W. bombs big-time?

When we last visited the campaign fallout from President Clinton's deal to admit China to the World Trade Organization (WTO), the AFL-CIO was gearing up to make the deal's defeat a top legislative priority, even at the cost of weakening the Democratic nominee. That would presumably be Vice President Gore, whom labor has endorsed. Meanwhile, House Democratic Leader Dick Gephardt, frantically working to avoid a NAFTA-style donnybrook, was trying to broker some kind of compromise that would keep labor on board. Now Gephardt and Democratic Whip David Bonior are proposing this: The White House should insist that China embrace core labor rights as part of the deal, both for itself and as a WTO standard, and in return labor would support China's entry to the WTO. This would effect a major rapprochement between Gore and the AFL-CIO, but there are two obstacles to the deal—the People's Republic of China and the president of the United States. ...

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