Robert Kuttner

Robert Kuttner is co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect, and professor at Brandeis University's Heller School. His latest book is Debtors' Prison: The Politics of Austerity Versus Possibility. He writes columns for The Huffington Post, The Boston Globe and the New York Times international edition. 

Recent Articles

Cant and Recant

Milton Friedman's latest research on the Federal Reserve challenges key assumptions of a very prominent economist: Milton Friedman.

More than any other individual, Milton Friedman was the intellectual inspiration of the conservative counterrevolution against activist government as an engine of economic efficiency and social justice. In his scholarly work contending that government intervention invariably makes things worse, and in his popular polemics equating capitalism with human freedom, Friedman inspired conservative academic economists and movement activists alike. He is the high priest of the ideology that can be reduced to a bumper sticker: Markets work; government doesn't. More narrowly, Friedman is famous for the economic theory known as monetarism and the corollary view that the Federal Reserve System works best when it is essentially passive, contenting itself with maintaining stable prices. Now in his 94th year, Friedman has just published new research with implications that are curiously double-edged. On one level, his study, in the latest issue of the Journal of Economic Perspectives , confirms his...

Interview with Milton Friedman

RK: You have obviously had the enormous satisfaction of seeing your ideas influence a revolution, both in the thinking of economists and in the premises of politics and the role of government. Does this make you any more optimistic about the ability of the political process to work, and of government to learn over time? MF: I've always been realistic about this. I do not think you can change that. RK: Well at least it seems to prove that ideas have influence. MF: There is no question that they have influence. You know I agree very much with the famous quotation from Keynes. Sooner or later, ideas matter. RK: Right. Let me get down to some specifics. You were the progenitor of the notion that we ought to move to floating exchange rates. MF: I was a promoter of that idea. I was in favor of it, but I was by no means the inventor it. That was an old idea. RK: Well, I guess I meant in the context of Bretton-Woods breaking down. MF: Well, sure I wrote and spoke about the desirability of...

Farewell, Filene's

Should we mourn the fact that this will be the last Christmas season with Filene's as a Boston landmark? I think so, and I was surprised at the lack of outcry when the giant retailing conglomerate, Federated Department Stores, announced last summer that it would close the flagship store and retire the Filene's name as part of an $11 billion deal to acquire Filene's owner, the May Company. Federated is not just ending the proud legacy of Filene's but also Chicago's equally storied Marshall Field, and Pittsburgh's Kaufmann's. All of these, as we have been told, will become (ho-hum) more Macy's. In one sense, this is no big thing. Retailers come and retailers pass away. When family businesses lack a suitable heir, or cease to be competitive, or just want to cash in, they typically sell out to a big chain. The chain, in turn, is free to do as it wishes. This has been going on for centuries. A famous New Yorker cover depicted a ghostly Manhattan scene with all the great retailers who have...

Search and Seizure

The New York Times recently reported that in a North Carolina strangulation-murder trial, prosecutors introduced as evidence the fact that the defendant's Google searches had included the words "neck" and "snap." The Times noted that the evidence had come from the defendant's home computer, but could just as easily have come from Google. Google's business model includes keeping track of users' searches by putting "cookies" (tracking devices) on users' own computers and then using the results to customize ad offerings that pop up when we use their ingenious free search service. In the era of the misnamed USA PATRIOT Act, which allows warrantless police searches that are not even disclosed to the target, Google plus Dick Cheney is a recipe for undoing the liberties for which the original patriots of the American Revolution bled and died. Under the PATRIOT Act, anyone suspected of enabling terrorism can be subjected to these fishing expeditions. Depending on a prosecutor's whims, that...

Woodward's Work

Editor's Note: It is astonishing that it took his current conflict of interest for the press to start questioning Bob Woodward's iconic status as an investigative reporter rather than an enabler of those in power. We are re-posting Robert Kuttner's Prospect review from last year of Woodward's book, "Plan of Attack," one of the very few exceptions to Woodward's adoring press notices. Future historians will point to two interrelated foreign-policy disasters that could make George W. Bush a one-term president, if the voters pay attention. The first is the well-documented failure of the Bush administration to take al-Qaeda seriously enough, both before and after the attacks of September 11, 2001. The other is the administration's obsession with toppling Saddam Hussein, based on one mistaken premise after another and followed by an equally disastrous failure to anticipate the likely aftermath. These two stories, of course, are increasingly connected, as mounting evidence ties the...

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