Robert Kuttner

Robert Kuttner is co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect, and professor at Brandeis University's Heller School. His latest book is Debtors' Prison: The Politics of Austerity Versus Possibility. He writes columns for The Huffington Post, The Boston Globe and the New York Times international edition. 

Recent Articles

Comment: The End of Citizenship?

For all of the carnival aspect of the Seattle protests, something very important has been stimulated by the World Trade Organization (WTO) sessions. For the first time, a coherent opposition program has begun to challenge the dominant consensus about global trade. For more than a century, the world's ordinary citizens and their elected leaders have struggled to make market systems socially bearable. At the center of this project is elected government based on democratic citizenship. Govern ment has two basic instruments available to tame capitalism: the power to raise revenues for social purposes and the power to regulate. In the advanced countries, these have served to temper, stabilize, and even energize capitalism. But now, parading under the banner of global trade, the world's banks, investors, and corporations want to revert to capitalism circa 1890—the property rights minus the social standards and stabilizers. As Margaret Thatcher famously said, "There Is No Alternative." "Tina...

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...

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...

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...

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