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...

Restoration Fever

M ost of us like to think that our views represent the innermost beliefs of the majority of our fellow citizens. Recent polls may show a ridiculous preference for a position we despise, our candidates may lose at election time, and the radio may broadcast music or talk that we abhor. But we know that all this is ephemeral: Deep in their hearts, the majority agree with us about what is right and good. And if they don't say so or act accordingly just now, the trend is moving in our direction. Let those who think differently tremble at the verdict of an awakened nation. Cultural conservatives have waited for a national awakening for at least 30 years, even longer. Through most of this century, Americans have become steadily more tolerant of practices that once met general opprobrium. Unmarried couples now live together unashamedly, divorce is easier and more common, and contraception and abortion have become legal and accepted. As censorship has effectively disappeared, the explicit...

Passion, Memory, and Politics, 1992

F rom its founding nearly three years ago, The American Prospect has sought to help reconstruct a plausible and persuasive liberalism. This issue's cluster of articles concerned with a public investment strategy for economic growth exemplifies that purpose: substantive, detailed thinking about how to solve the nation's problems, rather than symbolic gestures. Yet, as this political season has reminded us, there is another aspect to the conflict over public ideas in America that is inevitably and properly symbolic. It is a battle over cultural ideals, ways of life, the meaning of the past. And that conflict is inseparable from the hard choices in economics, social policy, and even foreign affairs. Clashes over cultural ideals and ways of life are hardly new in the United States. The passions aroused by the temperance movement as this century began were not wholly unlike those aroused by today's conservative crusades for "family values" and against abortion and gay rights. Temperance,...

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...

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