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

Liberty Since 9-11

W artime generates violations of civil liberties. Wartime justifies restrictions of civil liberties. So we have heard since September 11 from people variously trying to explain or to defend departures from standing protections of individual rights. A historical perspective suggests, however, that we have reason for vigilance but not for resignation about liberty's fate--and at this point no grounds for believing doom is at hand. America's wartime history is actually mixed. Four presidents--Adams during the undeclared war with France in 1798, Lincoln during the Civil War, Wilson during World War I, and Roosevelt during World War II--were responsible for egregious violations of the Bill of Rights. The Adams administration tried to shut down the opposition press and succeeded in closing major Jeffersonian papers. Lincoln suspended habeas corpus and used military control of telegraph lines to impose a strict censorship on wire-service news. Roosevelt, of course, approved the Japanese-...

Computing Our Way to Educational Reform

The new technology may not only make progressive educational ideas more appealing; it may also help them work.

Illustration by J. T. Morrow The New Media and Learning With this issue we inaugurate a series of articles on the new media and learning, drawn from a conference sponsored by The American Prospect on June 4th at the MIT Media Laboratory. The aim of the conference and the series is to explore whether the new technologies offer genuine promise for improvements in learning or are merely a diversion from the real problems of education, and to ask what approaches to policy and the new technologies hold the most promise. In addition to the authors of articles in this issue, the conference featured: Congressman Edward Markey of Massachusetts on why the Federal Communications Commission should adopt an "e-rate" under the Telecommunications Act of 1996 that would make a basic level of internet access free to schools; Mitchell Kapor, who served on the President's National Information Infrastructure Advisory Council before resigning in protest, on what went wrong with the NII initiative; Seymour...

What Killed the Boom?

T he worry is obvious: just as an expanding high-tech sector contributed to strong growth in the 1990s, so might a deepening slump in technology drag down the entire economy. High among the sources of concern is the recent meltdown in the telecom industry. Even after the dot-com collapse, a broadband upgrade of the Internet seemed sure to be the next big thing, and investors continued plowing capital into the companies supplying and building the new infrastructure for high-speed digital communications. But now telecom too has seen staggering losses, bankruptcies, and layoffs. The specter that haunts telecom goes by the ominous name of "dark fiber." According to The New York Times, companies in the past two years have spent $35 billion worldwide laying 100 million miles of optical fiber for broadband networks, but only 5 percent has been "lit" (that is, made operational). And while long-haul lines appear overbuilt, local access remains unavailable for millions of potential customers...

The Electronic Commons

W hile the rise of electronic commerce excites visions of a new economy, the Internet continues to produce explosive growth in free, public communication. The sheer scale and variety of the electronic public domain are staggering, but the promise is not simply an information cornucopia. Despite all its problems, the Internet has the potential to remedy some historic defects of public communication. It has already begun to do so, and with additional capital and new forms of organization, it can do much more. Several distinct developments contribute to the transformation of the public domain: First, much work in the public domain in the legal sense (that is, not subject to copyright or patent) has been traditionally available to only a few. Government data may be buried in files; literary works, out of print. The Internet can make genuinely public what has only been nominally public. Second, the...

The War about the War

"If something is defined as real, it is real," goes a common dictum of the social sciences. The passive voice, however, conceals an uncertainty: Defined by whom? What if, for example, two antagonists define their conflict in opposing ways? As American forces strike in Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden and the Taliban say this is a religious war--a view that reportedly has resonance through much, though not all, of the Islamic world. If not merely our adversaries but millions of others define the war as religious, is that the reality? No, we say, we have no conflict with Islam. Muslims in America live in peace and enjoy the right to practice their religion more freely than in many officially Islamic countries. In Kosovo we intervened on behalf of a Muslim people. If there is prejudice in America against Arabs and Muslims, it violates our deepest principles and we mean to combat it. We frame the war in different ways. At the most general level, we say this is the War on Terrorism, a war...

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