From the Executive Editor
The economic and financial crises are certain to change our world in lasting ways. In our April issue, we looked at the possibilities -- some of them healthy -- for a society in which we expect and consume less. The crisis will also change fundamental assumptions: Never again will we think about risk in quite the same way as something that can be measured, calculated, and wiped away solely by the markets. We know now that we got risk wrong, in a sweeping and systematic way, over the past three decades of market fundamentalism. But what would America look like if we started getting it right? For this issue, we asked five people who know their way around the worlds of finance, regulation, housing, and economic security to look into their crystal ball and speculate about how we'll manage risk in the future. (And, no, crystal-ball gazing itself is not the answer.)
Charitable foundations are also looking forward to seeing what the age of Obama holds for them. At their best, foundations have been an engine of innovation for progressive social policy, designing and testing ideas that government can then take up and expand. But in the long era of conservative ascendancy, that transmission belt was broken. Foundation leaders are convinced that the Obama administration will put them once again at the vanguard of public policy. But is it all talk? Lauren Foster, a first-time TAP contributor who previously covered philanthropy for the Financial Times, explores that question.
Also making her debut in the Prospect, Michelle Goldberg, a former senior writer at Salon and the author of The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power, and the Future of the World, explores the ways in which women's rights and global governance are intertwined in Africa, particularly around the issue of female genital mutilation. It's a lot more complicated than you might expect. We also welcome Goldberg as a regular contributor to TAP Online; look for her blogging on TAPPED and her column every other Tuesday.
-- Mark Schmitt
Back to Square One
In response to Robert Frank's cover story, which argues that consuming less can make our society better, Wonkette writes, "Maybe we won't ever have indulgent capitalist luxuries like homes or jobs anymore, like we did in 2007, but maybe that's cool now. Yeah, see, we can be happy -- happier, even -- without going back to the way we were. If you look at gross spending as something that's done to achieve actual goals -- buying $150,000 worth of Oscar de la Renta pantsuits from Neiman Marcus, for example, in order to look like you have a basic understanding of the US government. Anyway, when everyone buys $150,000 worth of pantsuits, then no one has a leg up, as it were, and we're back to square one. Well, back to not being able to afford our mortgages on square one."
Gold Stars, Red Pen
Dana Goldstein's "Education Wars," about the new alliances and potential for consensus on education reform, sparked a mini-war among education bloggers. Daniel Luzer argues in the Columbia Journalism Review online that Goldstein "does not indicate that anything is actually changing in American education. The Prospect article makes it sound as if these changing alliances are a matter of great import, rather than just a very routine part of policymaking. The piece fetishizes 'consensus--building' without stopping
To examine how consensus-building actually relates to education reform." Education Sector's Andrew Rotherham, blogging at Eduwonk, also waves a wary finger: "Luzer's a little too harsh on Goldstein's article, but he does point up a real risk for reformers: Namely that all this happy talk about how everyone is on board with reform now could lead to a superficial sense that things are changing or even some cosmetic changes when, in fact, not much actually changes for students in schools."
Goldstein responds on TAPPED, "I take issue with Luzer's critique that the outcome of the political 'education wars' will not affect real people's lives. To the contrary, how teachers are recruited and compensated, for example, will affect millions of American families during a time of recession."
The Mice in the Council
In response to Tara McKelvey's article on Richard Holbrooke and the future of U.S. policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan, reader G.M. Chandu warns: "The only way to confront the extremists is to impress upon them and convince them that they are not following the dictates of Islam, and this brings up the question ... of who among the present day Islamic scholars/leaders can dare 'bell the cat'" -- to attempt a seemingly impossible task, a reference to Aesop's fable, "The Mice in Council." Chandu answers his question: "Certainly not the Ayatollahs of Iran as they are considered 'apostate' by the leaders of al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Certainly not the moderate Sunnis of Afghanistan and the rest of the Islamic world as they are classified by these extremists as 'tools of the Western civilization.' Certainly not the female population of Afghanistan as they are considered 'mere chattels.' Certainly not Mr. Holbrooke who is a Christian and an American."