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

Why I'm Not a Populist

I t was just about 100 years ago, after the defeat of William Jennings Bryan in 1896, that the original, agrarian Populist movement collapsed and gave way to the more broadly based Progressivism of the early 1900s that permanently altered American government and society. But Populism, despite its short and checkered history, survives in our political vocabulary, and there are a fair number of people who brighten up at the thought of a populist revival. I am, however, not among them. From the outset, the populist impulse has been to play upon one public emotion above all: anger. That anger has typically been directed at a diffuse enemy at the top--the monopolies, the interests, or elites of various kinds. The populist mind suspects conspiracies in high places, often in league with foreign influences, and appeals to a kind of insular Americanism that is suspicious of both immigrants and other countries. The grievances that populism taps are no doubt genuine. Its rhetoric and remedies...

The Morning After

I f, as seems likely but by no means certain, George W. Bush takes office as the next president, while the Republicans hold a one-vote margin in the Senate and control the House of Representatives by about four seats, this will be the strangest victory of any political party in our nation's history. The Republicans will have won control of federal power while losing the popular vote for the presidency, seats in both chambers of Congress, and eight of 11 races for governor. Exit polls indicate no enthusiasm for the tax cut that was Bush's priority in the campaign. Another Republican cause, educational vouchers, was resoundingly defeated in two state referenda. And the results of the presidential contest itself, hinging on disputed votes and irregularities in Florida, could end up seeming tainted. A split and potentially stalemated Congress, no party mandate, no presidential legitimacy--the Republicans may have won the election, but they have not won over the country...

Between a Swing and a Lock

T o their credit, the Republican leaders in Congress have had a highly strategic view of the uses of policy in consolidating political power. Newt Gingrich and his colleagues set themselves a clear agenda and they have stuck to it, conscious that their first priority, more important than any single piece of legislation, has been to demonstrate the capacity to govern and to make good on their word. They have put issues first that united them and deferred those that divided them. Rather than repeal liberal policies one by one, they have chosen broad legislative measures, such as block grants, that cancel out decades of legislation all at once. On everything essential, especially in the House, they have maintained party discipline--moderate Republicans may bite hard on some votes, but they have stuck with their leadership far more than conservative...

How Low Can You Go? Shoot Now, Think Later

Shoot Now, Think Later Conservatives everywhere are trying to outdo each other. Cut off welfare after two years? Make that just 60 days in some states. End social benefits to illegal immigrants? Make that legal immigrants too. Add the death penalty for some federal crimes? Why not for more? Revolutions often set off this kind of spiral. According to the New York Times , when a right-wing talk radio host in California recently proposed offering bounties to people who shot illegal immigrants after they crossed the border, a caller suggested shooting Mexicans before they entered the U.S. so Americans wouldn't have to pay for the funerals. Finally a right-winger who believes in prevention. Just Compensation In the debate over NAFTA, Michael Kinsley proposed compensation for Americans who lost $16-an-hour jobs to Mexicans making $3 an hour. A columnist in Forbes was unmoved. "Here we have an American who has for years charged the rest of us $16 for something we ought to have been able to...

Who Owns the Future?

T hey claim to be riding a wave of historical change. The wave is global in its reach and unstoppable in its force. Those who get in the way are representatives of an old, obsolete order; they may put up a fight, but they will be beaten in the inevitable transformation. So Newt Gingrich and other conservatives describe their movement and the fate of its opponents. If the picture sounds familiar, it is because it recalls other movements, notably Marxism, that claimed a mandate of historical inevitability as well as popular will. Just as Marxists consigned their liberal and social democratic opponents to the dustbins of history, so conservatives are now loudly and confidently doing the same. And just as many liberals lost self- confidence in the face of communism's triumphs in the first half of the twentieth century, so many have resignedly accepted the conservatives' claim to own the future. The recent history of the future suggests skepticism. Many once-popular visions besides the...

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