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

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,...

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...

The Perils of High-Mindedness

Even before this campaign, he was a familiar figure in our public life—the high-minded politician, detached from partisan passions, divorced from interest groups, devoted to higher purposes for the good of all, disdainful of image-making, fundraising, and negative campaigns. To varying degrees, Adlai Stevenson, John Anderson, and Paul Tsongas played the part; now it is Bill Bradley's turn, and we will see whether he plays it to the same conclusion—political defeat. High-mindedness is both a style of public self-representation and a way of dealing with the practical aspects of politics. As a style, it seems to appeal toaffluent liberals and independents who also feel uncomfortable with the practices of mass democracy. But the same detachment and aloofness may not go down nearly as well with Americans who are less well off and unashamed to ask, "What are you going to do for me?" They want to know whether a politician can deliver . But...

How Low Can You Go?

THE UPSIDE OF UNEMPLOYMENT Our last issue described PaineWebber's "happiness index" for bonds, which goes up when unemployment increases. But unemployment, we've now learned, can prolong your life too. Our impeccable source is a new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research: "Are Recessions Good for Your Health?" by Christopher Rohm (NBER Working Paper No. 5570). Rohm finds that recessions do indeed promote good health, at least if you're young; in fact, according to an NBER summary, "a one percentage point rise in unemployment lowers the predicted death rate of 20-44 year olds by 1.3 percent." Strangely, however, unemployment seems to have no effect on 45- to 64-year-olds and just a slight—though still positive—effect on those over 65. Here's the breakdown on the good news. With 1 percent more unemployment, deaths from car crashes drop by 2.4 percent, from homicides by 1.5 percent, from liver ailments by 0.8 percent, and from heart disease and cancer by 0.2 to 0.5 percent...

How Low Can You Go?

HAPPINESS IS . . . According to The Economist , PaineWebber has created an index of "happiness" for bonds that goes up when unemployment rises. If others would only follow this example and strike a blow against hypocrisy, we could have a series of more accurate social indicators: an index of happiness for hospitals that jumps when epidemics hit; one for journalists that goes up when scandals break out; another for lawyers and accountants that climbs whenever a company goes bankrupt. Ninety years ago, Ambrose Bierce defined happiness as "an agreeable sensation arising from contemplating the misery of another." Nothing has changed, except the Federal Reserve has turned Bierce's observation into national policy. If you get fired these days, you can at least take comfort in this consoling thought: You did your part to keep interest rates down, and to make bonds happy. THROUGH A GLASSMAN, DARKLY "If Bob Dole were a stock, I would be buying the hell out of it," the Washington Post columnist...

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