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

Of Our Time: Globalism Bites Back

T he Asian financial crisis is a practical rebuttal to the naive internationalism that is America's foreign economic policy. Naive globalism includes these precepts: The freest possible movement of goods and services maximizes economic efficiency, hence human well-being. If free competition is good nationally, it is even better globally. With a few basic ground rules, such as respect for private property and equal access to markets, liberal capitalism is essentially self-regulating. At bottom, there is one true form of capitalism. It entails a relatively minimal role for the state. In principle, the size of the public sector and the level of taxation and public services are matters for national choice. The burden of proof, however, is always on government intervention, since taxation restricts individual choice and depresses incentives, while regulation distorts market prices. Above all, markets should be transparent and porous, and prices should be set by private supply and demand...

Globalization and Its Critics

W hat is Tom Daschle up to? "In this divided government," he declared upon becoming Senate majority leader, "we are required to find common ground and seek meaningful bipartisanship." He told the press he would not seek repeal of even the most ill considered portions of President Bush's tax cut. In an op-ed in The New York Times, Daschle added, "I believe the only way forward is to embrace a spirit of principled compromise." He invoked campaign finance reform as a bill on which both parties compromised and moved forward. Daschle seems to be up to several things. One is to be the non-Bush, distinguishing himself from the man who campaigned as a conciliator but has governed as a partisan. The second is to hold together his slender majority, which unfortunately contains several quasi-Republicans. The third is to give the media elite what they insist the public wants. Daschle's conciliatory June 10 op-ed piece echoed the Times's editorial advice of a week earlier: "Mr. Daschle can answer...

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...

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