From the Executive Editor
For Democratic politicos, presidential candidates most especially, all roads lead to Robert Rubin. The former Clinton treasury secretary bestrides the summit of power and wisdom, commending those Democrats he considers fiscally sound to Wall Street's mega-donors, while commending his own Wall Street perspectives -- free trade and balanced budgets are his holies of holies -- to the Democrats. Problem is, as our founding co-editor Robert Kuttner documents in our cover story, what Rubin is selling is neither good politics nor good economics, nor even very disinterested. How, Kuttner wonders, has an Eisenhower Republican become the Democrats' economic guru?
Elsewhere in this issue, Barry C. Lynn describes how giant corporate institutions such as Wal-Mart have all but banished the free market from much of our economy -- a staggering, epochal transformation that has, however, eluded the attention of economists, whose theories obstruct their observation of the actual world. (In a separate piece, I draw parallels between Wal-Mart's attempts to expand into Northern cities and a prominent earlier episode in American history, the Civil War.) Our other founding co-editor, Paul Starr, argues that two defining commitments of liberalism -- to broadly shared prosperity and to alliances with like-minded democracies -- have always made America a stronger nation. Tara McKelvey reports on some mob lawyers who have kept the government from redeploying soldiers to Iraq, even as the efforts of civil liberties attorneys have fallen flat. Garance Franke-Ruta, Sam Rosenfeld, and Matthew Yglesias debate the all-important Hillary question. And Theodore Sorensen remembers his Kennedy-White-House colleague, the great historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr., whose commitment to renewing and deepening the liberal project has been a constant inspiration to those of us who produce this magazine. -- Harold Meyerson
I am disappointed that you have chosen to discontinue the "Dispatches" section. I am sure I am not the only person who does much of her magazine reading in transit and in any case does not like to read from a computer monitor. I will miss those pithy but timely articles. Please reconsider.
New York, NY
In your March issue you announce the demise of the "Dispatches" section, as it moves to your Web site. Doesn't it occur to you that there are households not hooked up to the Internet, for whom Web sites are immaterial? The end of printed versions of news-papers and magazines is predicted. What better way of bringing them to pass than to give subscribers more reasons not to renew? Your most ardent readers are not chopped liver, so please don't treat them that way.
Orange City, IA
The executive editor responds: You're absolutely not chopped liver, but moving Dispatches to the Web enables us to run more in-depth feature stories.
I kept waiting for the creative new China policy James Mann ["America's China Fantasy," March 2007] recommends instead of our current one, but alas, it never materialized. Unfortunately, there are not many alternatives. Both the simplistic "containment" policies advocated on the right, and the routine denunciations of Chinese human-rights violations, promoted on the left, show little promise and would mostly just irritate the Chinese. China will likely continue to grow and may eventually be the biggest economy in the international system, with all that entails. The choice for the United States is not one of stopping that process, but how to encourage China's more admirable behavior while discouraging the less admirable.
Mann displays some very American assumptions in his analysis. He writes as if there are two kinds of countries in the world: good democratic countries and bad dictatorships. But with China it is more appropriate to think in terms of shades of gray or degrees or types of authoritarianism, not black and white. China has changed tremendously since the days of Mao, and is still changing at a rapid pace. After 60 years, Japanese democracy is very different from democracies in the West. The Chinese too will have a unique system because their culture is unique. They will be somewhere on a continuum between what they have now and what the West has.
Second, Mann is disappointed that China still hasn't democratized after 30 years of change. But democracy seldom develops in just three decades. The Americans are always in a hurry, but it would be closer to the mark to think in terms of a hundred years to democratize China. Like the Bush administration, Mann seems to forget that it was only recently that we got full democracy and equal rights in Alabama, after a struggle of several hundred years. Whether "democratic" or not, the Chinese will have to improve the information flow if they want to become a developed country. Let's give them some time, especially since we don't really have a choice.