Robert Kuttner

Robert Kuttner is co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect, a professor at Brandeis University's Heller School, and a distinguished senior fellow of the think tank Demos. He was a longtime columnist for Business Week and continues to write columns in The Boston Globe. He is the author of Obama's Challenge and other books.

Recent Articles

Comment: The End of Citizenship?

For all of the carnival aspect of the Seattle protests, something very important has been stimulated by the World Trade Organization (WTO) sessions. For the first time, a coherent opposition program has begun to challenge the dominant consensus about global trade. For more than a century, the world's ordinary citizens and their elected leaders have struggled to make market systems socially bearable. At the center of this project is elected government based on democratic citizenship. Govern ment has two basic instruments available to tame capitalism: the power to raise revenues for social purposes and the power to regulate. In the advanced countries, these have served to temper, stabilize, and even energize capitalism. But now, parading under the banner of global trade, the world's banks, investors, and corporations want to revert to capitalism circa 1890—the property rights minus the social standards and stabilizers. As Margaret Thatcher famously said, "There Is No Alternative." "Tina...

State of the Debate: Peddling Krugman

Paul Krugman criticizes supporters of government activism as nothing but policy peddlers and economic illiterates, but describes himself as a liberal. What is MIT's prodigy really up to?

WORKS DISCUSSED IN THIS ESSAY: Strategic Trade Policy and the New International Economics (collection) (MIT Press, 1986). The Age of Diminished Expectations: U.S. Economic Policy in the 1990s (Washington Post Company, 1990). Peddling Prosperity: Economic Sense and Nonsense in the Age of Diminished Expectations (W.W. Norton & Co., 1994). Pop Internationalism (MIT Press, 1996). A generation ago, mainstream economics provided intellectual support for a mixed economy. Keynesianism gave legitimacy to macroeconomic intervention and public spending generally. The regulation of leading industries was anchored in the respectable economic ideas that many industries either were "natural monopolies" or displayed positive and negative spillovers not captured in market pricing. Social insurance and redistributive taxation enjoyed wide political support, and economists could explain why a more equal income distribution was good for growth as well as equity. Today, nearly all of the mainstream...

NAFTA-Style Trade Deal Bad for Democracy

This weekend's Summit of the Americas aims to extend a NAFTA-style free trade area to the entire Western Hemisphere. As Secretary of State Colin Powell recently put it, ''We will be able to sell American goods, technology, and services without obstacles or restrictions from the Arctic to Cape Horn.'' And foreign businesses will likewise be able to sell goods and services in the United States ''without obstacles or restrictions.'' But one person's restrictions are another person's vital social safeguards. Here is a short list of ''obstacles and restrictions'' that constrain American corporations - and represent a century of struggle to make America a more decent society: We allow workers to organize unions. We limit the pollutants that corporations can dump into the environment. We have regulations protecting employees from unsafe working conditions. We assure consumers safe food, and drugs, and drinking water, and other products. We require business to partly underwrite social...

Let's Grant Amnesty to Ralph Nader

Ralph Nader's name has mercifully dropped from the headlines. Democrats are so enraged at George W. Bush's attempt to run the clock on a recount that Bush, rather than Nader, has become the object of Democrats' wrath. It's probably premature, but I'd like to be the first to propose an amnesty for Ralph. By way of disclaimer, I voted for Gore. Like many other liberals, I did so with little enthusiasm. That wasn't Nader's fault, it was Gore's. I also thought Nader's campaign was misconceived, and in the end mischievous. As ill feeling rose between Nader and the Democrats, it became clear that many Greens and perhaps Nader himself hoped that Bush would defeat Gore. Nader deliberately chose to campaign in the tightest battleground states. In the end, Gore squeaked through in all of them, thanks largely to the loyalty of the labor movement. If indeed Gore lost the election, he lost it in Tennessee and Florida, both states where Nader did not...

Nader is Getting a Bum Rap

I would like to put in a kind word for Ralph Nader. To the extent that Al Gore has lately gained some traction by campaigning as a Trumanesque progressive, we have Nader substantially to thank. You don't have to agree with all of Nader's views, or even to think he is serious presidential timber, to appreciate how he has energized this campaign. Conventional politicians and commentators seem to think the two major parties have a God-given right to have no serious minor candidates complicating their lives. They take offense that Nader and Pat Buchanan run at all. Our Constitution and the winner-take-all electoral system certainly bias American electoral politics against third parties. That has contributed to America's political stability. But whenever the two major parties are oblivious to issues that trouble voters (slavery, corporate abuses, insecurity in old age, excess deficits), third parties have played a very useful role, if only to refocus...

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