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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

Catholic Crisis, Jewish Nightmare

T he sources of moral anguish are entirely different, and some on each side may reject -- and even resent -- the comparison. But as Catholics confront a sex-abuse scandal in the Church and Jews agonize over events in Israel, there are striking parallels between the moral crises the two groups are experiencing. A central question in both cases is whether institutions sacred to each group have failed to uphold fundamental ethical principles. And, in each case, the principles at issue have a singular symbolic importance. The Catholic Church has partly defined itself through its rules of celibacy for priests and nuns and its conservative teachings about sexuality. The protection of the young has always been a principal concern. In that context, there could hardly be a more grievous institutional failure than cover-ups by Church authorities of child molestation by priests. The Jewish tradition has upheld the importance of law, and modern Jewish identity is framed by the experience of the...

Peace By Other Means

I f Israel and the Palestinians cannot make peace with each other, what should the United States and the rest of the world do? Merely offering to mediate may not be enough. The descent into savage violence in recent weeks is not just another episode in a long -running dispute; it is a turn toward outright war between two commingled societies. With the suicide bombings (actually, suicide-homicide bombings), the Palestinians have crossed a moral threshold; nothing is forbidden to them. The Israeli military response has been understandable, but the logic underlying it is ultimately untenable: It is a delusion to believe that by temporarily occupying Palestinian areas, the army can root out the "terrorist infrastructure." The required explosives are impossible to control, and there is no shortage of volunteers willing to blow themselves up. Rather than quelling resistance, the military occupation has only solidified it. Every signal points to a continued spiral of vengeance. The Israelis...

Rethinking the Unthinkable

H istory seems to have cheated us out of the freedom from anxiety we expected after the Cold War ended. When the Soviet Union collapsed, no power on earth appeared capable of threatening our security. And for a decade, until September 11, we enjoyed the happy illusion that we had safely arrived in a future that belonged entirely to America. The shattering of that idyll may explain why so many of us who suffered no direct loss last September nonetheless feel we did lose something we had counted on. Victory in Afghanistan has scarcely put to rest anxieties about terrorism; the war, we are told, will move on to its next phase as America gears up for a long struggle with shadowy enemies. Meanwhile, the spiral of violence in Israel raises passions in the Middle East to a boil and increases the chances that terror will again reach halfway across the world to strike Americans at home. Scarcely a day passes without serious discussion about terrorists' potential acquisition of weapons of mass...

The Democrats' Energy Problem

I t is not much more than a year since the 2000 presidential election was finally decided, but it seems like an eternity. The Republicans have now accomplished what they were unable to achieve at the polls: They have gained decisive control of the national debate and virtually locked their agenda in place for years to come. The tax cut laid the foundation; then September 11 and the war on terrorism provided the functional equivalent of the Cold War. It is the Reagan formula all over again: tax cuts, huge increases in military expenditures, deficits, and the consequent exclusion of all the initiatives that liberals might offer. In the face of Bush's popularity, many Democrats have comforted themselves with the thought that his father also enjoyed stratospheric ratings after the Gulf War in 1991 but was beaten by Clinton the next year. In this year's elections, moreover, Bush won't be on the ticket, and the historical pattern favors the party out of the White House. In this reassuring...

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-...

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