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 Disengaged

David Hackett Fischer's new book, Paul Revere's Ride , is a cautionary tale for Democrats who expect their heroes to produce results overnight. The story of Paul Revere has come down to us as a tale of individual daring. In our national memory, he rides through the night single-handedly spreading the alarm about the redcoats to individual farmhouses. But, as Fischer shows, Revere was part of an extensive network. He was a member of five political organizations in Boston (only Joseph Warren belonged to as many), and he had served as a rider and emissary before. As we might say today, he was an organizer and a networker; he knew, quite literally, which doors to knock on. On the night of April 18, 1775, Revere and many fellow riders did not simply alert individuals; they "awakened the institutions of New England." Fischer explains: The midnight riders went systematically about the task of engaging town leaders and military commanders of their region. They enlisted its churches and...

The Undertow

As the 1990s began, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. argued that America was due for a new era of affirmative government in keeping with the cycle of liberal and conservative periods that runs through our history. Uncannily, Bill Clinton's election came right on schedule, roughly 90 years after Theodore Roosevelt became president, 60 years after Franklin Roosevelt, and 30 years after John F. Kennedy. But if Clinton benefited from a change in the political tides (and it is still an open question whether he really has), he now faces a powerful undertow that threatens his ability to lead. By the undertow I mean the current of deep distrust, of suspicion of evil purposes and hidden crimes, that has emerged from the margins of political respectability to become the everyday language of the press and political debate. Although Clinton's critics say the problems he faces are of his own making, the undertow has not struck him alone. The frenzy of suspicion that hit the presidency in 1994 hit the...

Seductions of Sim: Policy as a Simulation Game

For those who always thought public policy was a game anyone could play, it finally is. But beware of what the game assumes.

S tanding around the computer, my two older daughters, nine and eleven years old, scan the picture of the city we're creating and debate whether it needs more commercial or residential development. My six-year-old son suggests we look at the city budget. In just a few weeks he has learned enough to ask the critical question: "What's the cash flow?" This is SimCity, one of a series of computer simulations that turn public policy and ideas into popular entertainment. With the advent of dramatically improved graphics and powerful, low-cost multimedia computers, a new generation of "edutainment" software has finally begun to fulfill the long-touted promise of computers in education. Most of the new programs use interactive multimedia to make games out of traditional subjects such as arithmetic or geography. In MathBlasters, for example, children solve math problems in order to fuel up a rocket and find a villain in outer space. However, the Sim series, produced by California-based Maxis,...

How Low Can You Go?

Gambling on the Presidency T he College of Business Administration at the University of Iowa runs the Iowa Electronic Market, a futures market on this year's presidential election. Anyone can buy a contract on President Clinton, the yet-to-be-designated Republican candidate, or someone else. It's a winner-take-all market: Contracts on the winner pay off at $1 on November 6, while others expire worthless. On the day of the New Hampshire primary, Clinton's contracts, which had risen in recent weeks, were bid at 51.1 cents, while those of the Republican stood at 39.3. Political insiders watch these Iowa numbers closely: In the two last presidential elections, the Iowa futures market accurately predicted the results at the ballot box. Gambling used to be considered deeply reprehensible, especially by conservatives. Gambling casinos were shunned by respectable people and politicians (who we do not...

An Emerging Democratic Majority

The conventional wisdom is that the Democrats are now merely the reflecting "moon" of American politics and Republicans the "sun." But demographic and voting data suggest the Democrats could create a new majority without sacrificing progressive concerns.

T he 1994 election devastated the self-confidence of the Democratic Party, and 1996 only partially restored it. After narrowly escaping the "Republican revolution," many Democrats have lowered their expectations and become resigned to the prospect of center-right government. And now President Clinton's budget and tax deal with the Republicans in Congress has left his own party without a clear long-term agenda or any resources for new initiatives. Especially on the party's liberal side, Democrats are thoroughly demoralized, gloomy about the prospects for recovering control of Congress in 1998 and reviving momentum on what at least used to be the party's distinctive progressive concerns. Skepticism about progressive possibilities does not simply reflect the latest voting returns, opinion polls, or signals from the White House. Even sympathetic observers don't see why the underlying trends in American society and politics should return the Democrats, much less liberals, to a majority...

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