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: After Triumphalism

W hat a wonderful world it seemed in the 1990s. The United States had not only won the Cold War; it had demonstrated the economic, political, and moral superiority of its own system, the free market. Those abroad who had long resented U.S. global policies were finally revealed to be self-defeating nationalists or superannuated Marxists. Even the Latin Americans were scrambling to catch the laissez-faire wave, firing their planners, hiring Chicago-trained economists, slashing antiquated welfare outlays, privatizing state enterprises, and, above all, opening themselves to foreign private capital. The world's truly destitute were easily written off as hopeless cases; they were simply mired in their own corruption and lassitude. In every society, the most nimble and alert were precisely those who most wanted to be like Americans. Indeed, weren't two million of them sneaking across our borders every year as millions more were turned away? America was now the sole superpower in every sense...

US Needs New Thinking On Global Trade

The administration is trying to move a global trade agenda that was blocked two years ago in Seattle by protesters in the streets and skepticism in the Third World. This time, the World Trade Organization talks have been moved to the Persian Gulf state of Qatar, a despotic oil emirate where protesters, foreign and domestic, are simply not permitted. But it remains to be seen whether the current talks will produce what the US government considers progress and whether such progress is really in the national or the global interest. At the Qatar meetings, one big issue dividing the Americans from developing countries is access to cheap drugs. Poor countries cannot afford the huge markups pharmaceutical companies charge for a few cents worth of chemicals. If they pay the price, their people do without. India and Brazil have defied American conceptions of intellectual property by producing cheap generic versions of drugs that are patented in the United States. But most of the world...

Of Our Time: Rescuing Democracy From "Speech"

T he several pillars of political democracy each seem inviolable first principles, but they exist in necessary tension with one another. Viewing any one principle in isolation, we too easily conclude that it is the indispensable element—the trump. For example, democracy entails both liberty and equality. But neither ideal can be taken to its logical extreme without wrecking the other, and wrecking democracy. Perfect equality requires dictatorship. Perfect liberty is anarchy. As our cover suggests, one such tension operates between free elections and free speech. In their zeal to get money out of politics, reformers stand accused of menacing free speech and thus undermining democracy. But conversely, if money buys elections, democracy is also impaired. Democracy needs both things: free, vigorous debate; and elections relatively uncorrupted by the special power of money. Happily, as I will suggest in this essay, this seeming dilemma is largely a false dichotomy. At our constitutional...

Of Our Time: Rules That Liberate

R ecently, I participated in a new television program called Debates, Debates, in which two teams have an hour to argue an issue of the day. The proposition under debate that day was whether trade sanctions should ever be used to advance human rights. For the opposition, the team captain was Eugene Rotberg, former vice president of the World Bank. Rotberg, cross-examining my debating partner, William Greider, expected to score a nice point on Greider with the following exchange: Greider : We all have our choke points. I wouldn't trade with a country that used slave labor. . . . Rotberg : Who's "we" here? Greider : Americans. This is a political question. Rotberg : Do you know where the parts to the car that you're driving are made? Greider : What's that got to do with it? Rotberg : Do you know that the car parts are made with child labor? Greider : But, see, you're starting from the position that governments are incapable of addressing these questions, so us poor consumers are...

Of Our Time: The Age of Trespass

[T]he system of private property is the most important guaranty of freedom, not only for those who own property, but scarcely less for those who do not. F. A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom , 1944 [A] government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take everything you have. Ronald Reagan, 1984 C onservatives today seem awfully confused about what threatens, or safeguards, personal freedom. Earlier in this century, principled conservatives worried that collectivism embraced in the name of social justice would erode individual liberty. Hayek, writing during World War II, believed that the "democratic planning" then in vogue in Britain and the United States was a slippery slope to totalitarianism. He had Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia as vivid cautionary examples for naive or fellow-traveling collectivists in the British Fabian movement and the American New Deal. Has history proven Hayek right? Not really. Soviet planning certainly collapsed of its own...

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