Paul Starr

Paul Starr Paul Starr is co-founder and co-editor of the The American Prospect. and professor of sociology and public affairs at Princeton University. A winner of the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction and the Bancroft Prize in American history, he is the author of seven books, including most recently Remedy and Reaction: The Peculiar American Struggle over Heath Care Reform (Yale University Press, revised ed. 2013). Click here to read more about Starr.

Recent Articles

The Price of a Free Society

By Paul Starr These are times that try liberal spirits. On one side, the Bush administration has taken up the agenda of the Christian right and sought to use the power of the state to shape how Americans live and die. On the other, it is undermining many of the positive accomplishments of government, such as Social Security, labor and environmental regulation, consumer protections, and federal responsibilities for health care. Some of the challenges are overt, as in the privatization of Social Security. Others are less conspicuous, as in the quiet abandonment of regulatory enforcement. Conservatives love the Bush tax cuts because they have set us on a fiscal course that makes severe cutbacks in federal programs appear inexorable. Under assault is the core liberal idea that we can use government to provide for the common good and protect our safety, security, and well-being even as we prohibit government from controlling our private lives and compromising our liberties. Lately, however...

Their Sun Also Rises

Famously, on the last day of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Benjamin Franklin pointed to an image of the sun painted on the back of George Washington's chair and said that he finally had “the happiness to know it is a rising and not a setting sun.” Ever since then, Americans have had the same happy thought: Our sun has always been rising. And today, as we conceive things, that sun shines more brightly than ever. For in the governing narrative of our time, the United States is the world's only superpower, freedom is on the march, and the superiority of the American economic model has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. What threatens us, we believe, comes from the backward regions of undemocratic or failed states and the terrorist organizations that operate from them. September 11 showed us they can do grave harm. But unlike Soviet communism, they do not represent a general ideological challenge, an alternative economic model, or a great-power rival. In our governing...

Their Sun Also Rises

Famously, on the last day of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Benjamin Franklin pointed to an image of the sun painted on the back of George Washington's chair and said that he finally had “the happiness to know it is a rising and not a setting sun.” Ever since then, Americans have had the same happy thought: Our sun has always been rising. And today, as we conceive things, that sun shines more brightly than ever. For in the governing narrative of our time, the United States is the world's only superpower, freedom is on the march, and the superiority of the American economic model has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. What threatens us, we believe, comes from the backward regions of undemocratic or failed states and the terrorist organizations that operate from them. September 11 showed us they can do grave harm. But unlike Soviet communism, they do not represent a general ideological challenge, an alternative economic model, or a great-power rival. In our governing...

The Liberal Uses of Power

It is a shame there will never be a debate about foreign policy between the George W. Bush who ran for president in 2000 and the one who now occupies the office. As a candidate five years ago, Bush said that the United States should act as a “humble nation” toward the rest of the world and avoid any involvement of our armed forces in nation building. He could have had a lively argument with the current president over the use of the military for nation building in Iraq, and he might have raised an eyebrow over the president's declaration, at his second inauguration, that it is American policy to “seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.” The original Bush appealed to an insular Americanism with a constricted conception of the national interest; the new Bush appeals to a missionary vision of America's role. As much as the first understated America's obligations, the second risks...

Why We Need Social Security

For nearly three-quarters of a century, Americans have taken Social Security for granted. Now we had better learn how it works, what it has done, and what the true facts are regarding its future -- or else we are going to lose it. Superficially, Social Security resembles traditional employer pensions: Americans pay into the system during their working years and receive a monthly pension during retirement. But the differences are fundamental. Social Security benefits are based on a balancing of two principles: equity and adequacy. Equity means that what you put in is related to what you get out; in other words, workers with higher wages, who pay more into the system, receive higher benefits later on. But under the principle of adequacy, the Social Security benefit formula overlooks years of low earnings (for example, when a worker may have been disabled or unemployed), and it replaces a higher proportion of earnings for the poor than for the rich. That's why it's our most successful anti-...

Pages