Paul Starr

Paul Starr is co-editor of the The American Prospect. His most recent book is Remedy and Reaction: The Peculiar American Struggle over Health Care ReformClick here to read more about Starr.

Recent Articles

Parodies Lost

O n April 20, a federal judge named Charles Pannell, Jr., barred Houghton Mifflin from publishing Alice Randall's novel The Wind Done Gone --a takeoff on Gone With the Wind from a slave's perspective--on the grounds that the book's borrowings of characters and scenes constitute "piracy." The ruling has prompted widespread critical derision and may well be overturned on appeal, but it ought to serve as a wake-up call about the trend toward excessive protection of intellectual property rights. American law originally took a highly restrictive view of copyright. The Constitution authorizes Congress to give authors and inventors the "exclusive right" to their writings and discoveries, but it sets two important provisos: The rights are to be for "limited times," and the purpose of granting them is "to promote the progress of science and useful arts." Other provisions of the Constitution granting powers to Congress are silent as to purpose, but the copyright and patent clause explicitly...

The Choice in Kosovo

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Americans have been uncertain about the purposes that ought to guide our foreign policy, particularly our use of military power. Now that anticommunism no longer serves as an overarching cause, should we follow the dictates of national interest narrowly understood, or do democratic values and commitments to human rights oblige us to conceive of our role more broadly? Or is it a mistake even to distinguish sharply between national interests and humanitarian concerns because our security depends on an international moral order and the rule of law? And if we do intervene abroad with humanitarian aims, how far are we willing to go? Are we willing to put American soldiers at risk? When the Serbs began their assault on the Kos ovar Albanians this March, they posed a critical test for us, in some ways a more troubling one than Iraq did in 1991. In the Gulf War, we faced a clear act of international aggression...

The Executive-Class President

W e are so used to a politics of blurred class interests in America that clarity is actually confusing. Throughout our history, the major parties have been economically heterogeneous, and the basic tenets of the American creed have denied any legitimacy to class as a basis of political action--except, that is, for measures in aid of the great, sprawling middle class that is ideally supposed to embrace nearly everyone. Democrats lean to labor but regularly nominate multimillionaires for office, and Republicans lean to business but appeal to the moral traditionalism of many working families. In recent years, despite the unions' continued effectiveness in mobilizing their members to vote Democratic, a majority of white working-class men have often voted Republican--as they did in the last presidential election. This long history of muted class politics and working-class conservatism makes all the more striking the in-your-face program that President Bush is pressing Congress to adopt...

Bush's Luck, Clinton's Dilemma

T he final indignity of the Clinton presidency may bring yet another piece of good fortune to the man who just won the White House while getting fewer votes than his opponent. Although the Independent Counsel Act is defunct and will therefore never cause the least trouble for George W. Bush, the office created under the act to investigate Bill Clinton still survives and continues to trouble him. Indeed, Robert Ray, Kenneth Starr's successor, has been extremely busy of late and shows every sign of intending to indict Clinton for perjury in the Monica Lewinsky case after the president steps down. If Al Gore had won the election, Clinton's indictment would have presented Gore with an excruciating political choice. Not so for Bush. People in public life rarely have the chance to appear magnanimous, compassionate, high-minded, and bipartisan all at once. This is just the sort of opportunity that will fall into Bush's hands--that is, if Clinton does not preempt...

Mr. Bush Gets His Honeymoon

B efore the election, I wrote in this column that "several possible squeaker scenarios could produce some strange political dynamics after November 7" [ TAP, November 6, 2000]. Of course, I had no idea just how strange the outcome would be, though I started off with the possibility of "one candidate winning the electoral college and another winning the popular vote" and speculated that the Senate might end up tied 50-50. But where I really went wrong was in saying that if the popular vote went one way and the electoral college another, there could be a "crisis of presidential legitimacy." Perhaps the strangest aspect of the election's aftermath is that none of what happened, nationally or in Florida, seems to make any difference now. George W. Bush had, among winning presidential candidates, the biggest losing margin in history (more than half a million votes), and he almost certainly would have lost the electoral college too if the intentions of Florida voters were...

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