Stephen Teles

Steven M. Teles is assistant professor of politics at Brandeis University and author of Whose Welfare? AFDC and Elite Politics.

Recent Articles

On the Politics of Virtue

THE LIBERAL VIRTUES Stephen Teles T he welfare state and the advocates of "virtue" have few friends in common. Those on the right want to save virtue from the welfare state, while those on the left want to protect the welfare state from the rhetoric of virtue. An exemplar of the latter tendency is James Morone's "The Corrosive Politics of Virtue" (May-June 1996). Morone suggests two ways in which morality and politics can mix. The first, the virtue approach, is directed toward groups and individuals, and is characterized by a politics of blame. The virtue approach divides citizens against one another, and thus undermines the social cohesion necessary for universal social provision. The second form of moral politics, which Morone advocates, is firmly universalist, oriented toward social conditions rather than individual attributes. This form of moral politics, which we might call social equity politics, "rouse[s] Americans to expand rights, overcome biases, attack inequity." The moral...

Escape from America's Prison Policy

C rime is a corrosive force in American society, creating and exacerbating social mistrust, political division, and racial animus. Doing something serious about it ought to count as a major objective, especially for those concerned with the plight of the poor and socially marginalized. The recent drop in crime rates, as welcome as it is, has simply returned us to the level of the early 1980s. Much deeper reductions in crime and disorder are necessary, most of all for the sake of poor city dwellers, who are the most victimized by crime and by the crime-avoidance behavior of those who choose to locate elsewhere, depriving the people left behind of nonpoor neighbors, job opportunities, and convenient access to goods and services. America's current criminal-justice policy, dependent upon incarceration as its only real punishment, cannot get us to the level of safety that should be a civic birthright for all Americans. What is more, the benefits we have reaped...

Can new Labour Dance the Clinton?

F or the first time in 18 years, Britain, barring some cataclysm, will soon elect a left-of-center government. Starting with their name and extending to a wide range of policy and rhetorical stances, Tony Blair's New Labour Party has much in common with Bill Clinton's New Democrats. Even before the recent changes in the Democratic and Labour parties, comparisons between the politics of the United States and Britain were commonplace, and both countries look for intimations of the future across the Atlantic. Just as Margaret Thatcher's victory over Labour in 1979 foreshadowed Ronald Reagan's victory in 1980, many in Britain see Clinton's repeated electoral success as evidence of a shift to the left in the public mood and as a weariness with conservatism, Clinton's own centrist drift notwithstanding. With all these similarities, it is too easy to forget just how different the two countries are, and in particular how different the Labour Party of Tony Blair is from the Democratic Party of...

No Deal:

So it has come down to this: The chief executive of the most powerful nation in the world will be determined by nine Supreme Court Justices' interpretation of the Electoral Count Act of 1887. As I write, it is hard to tell how the Court will decide, but one thing is clear -- the injection of the Supreme Court into this process is the final absurdity in the nation's fruitless attempt to solve an essentially political conflict by legal means. There is no reason to assume that the Supreme Court will succeed where lower courts have, as yet, failed. The candidates should have done a deal -- and would have if the United States' political system were different. Joe Lieberman could have become vice president, bi-partisan mechanisms could have been set up for the selection of Supreme Court nominees, and the parties could have negotiated a bi-partisan cabinet. In the end, with all of these bargaining chips on the table, it would have been much easier for either party to...