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...

Squeak or Sweep?

A year ago in these pages, I described the 2000 contest as a "parliamentary election." With both the House and Senate so near the tipping point, the legislature and executive are genuinely at stake at the same time, as they typically are, though in a different way, in parliamentary systems. Indeed, with the Supreme Court so closely divided, all three branches are in play. The 2000 election could give Republicans control of the entire federal government for the first time since 1932, and it could give Democrats the same span of control without crushing economic and fiscal pressures for the first time since the 1960s. Despite tight polls as the campaign heads into the home stretch, either party could still sweep the election in the sense of ending up with at least nominal control of all the levers of power. But several possible squeaker scenarios could produce some strange political dynamics after November 7. A close...

War, Peace, and the Election

T he presidential debates this year were a failure by the standard we use to measure our public entertainments: their ratings were abysmally low. It was not really the candidates' fault. Boredom with elections is one of the luxuries of our time. Not only have long prosperity and a seemingly unthreatened peace lulled us into political somnolence; many people believe that the government in general and the president in particular have had nothing to do with America's good fortune. Technology alone has supposedly given us the new economy, and the collapse of the Soviet Union has seemingly removed the perils of war. So why pay close attention to what the candidates say? That sense of a world so secure that neither major-party candidate will endanger it may explain the near-total lack of interest this year in matters of war and peace. Those of us who are old enough may remember this as a subject that once got Americans stirred up. When Hubert Humphrey was vice...

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