Paul Starr

Paul Starr is co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect, and professor of sociology and public affairs at Princeton University. A winner of the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction and the Bancroft Prize in American history, he is the author of eight books, including Entrenchment: Wealth, Power, and the Constitution of Democratic Societies (Yale University Press, May 2019).

Recent Articles

Rethinking the Unthinkable

History seems to have cheated us out of the freedom from anxiety we expected after the Cold War ended. When the Soviet Union collapsed, no power on earth appeared capable of threatening our security. And for a decade, until September 11, we enjoyed the happy illusion that we had safely arrived in a future that belonged entirely to America. The shattering of that idyll may explain why so many of us who suffered no direct loss last September nonetheless feel we did lose something we had counted on. Victory in Afghanistan has scarcely put to rest anxieties about terrorism; the war, we are told, will move on to its next phase as America gears up for a long struggle with shadowy enemies. Meanwhile, the spiral of violence in Israel raises passions in the Middle East to a boil and increases the chances that terror will again reach halfway across the world to strike Americans at home. Scarcely a day passes without serious discussion about terrorists' potential acquisition of weapons of mass...

The Democrats' Energy Problem

It is not much more than a year since the 2000 presidential election was finally decided, but it seems like an eternity. The Republicans have now accomplished what they were unable to achieve at the polls: They have gained decisive control of the national debate and virtually locked their agenda in place for years to come. The tax cut laid the foundation; then September 11 and the war on terrorism provided the functional equivalent of the Cold War. It is the Reagan formula all over again: tax cuts, huge increases in military expenditures, deficits, and the consequent exclusion of all the initiatives that liberals might offer. In the face of Bush's popularity, many Democrats have comforted themselves with the thought that his father also enjoyed stratospheric ratings after the Gulf War in 1991 but was beaten by Clinton the next year. In this year's elections, moreover, Bush won't be on the ticket, and the historical pattern favors the party out of the White House. In this reassuring...

Liberty Since 9-11

Wartime generates violations of civil liberties. Wartime justifies restrictions of civil liberties. So we have heard since September 11 from people variously trying to explain or to defend departures from standing protections of individual rights. A historical perspective suggests, however, that we have reason for vigilance but not for resignation about liberty's fate--and at this point no grounds for believing doom is at hand. America's wartime history is actually mixed. Four presidents--Adams during the undeclared war with France in 1798, Lincoln during the Civil War, Wilson during World War I, and Roosevelt during World War II--were responsible for egregious violations of the Bill of Rights. The Adams administration tried to shut down the opposition press and succeeded in closing major Jeffersonian papers. Lincoln suspended habeas corpus and used military control of telegraph lines to impose a strict censorship on wire-service news. Roosevelt, of course, approved the Japanese-...

What Killed the Boom?

The worry is obvious: just as an expanding high-tech sector contributed to strong growth in the 1990s, so might a deepening slump in technology drag down the entire economy. High among the sources of concern is the recent meltdown in the telecom industry. Even after the dot-com collapse, a broadband upgrade of the Internet seemed sure to be the next big thing, and investors continued plowing capital into the companies supplying and building the new infrastructure for high-speed digital communications. But now telecom too has seen staggering losses, bankruptcies, and layoffs. The specter that haunts telecom goes by the ominous name of "dark fiber." According to The New York Times, companies in the past two years have spent $35 billion worldwide laying 100 million miles of optical fiber for broadband networks, but only 5 percent has been "lit" (that is, made operational). And while long-haul lines appear overbuilt, local access remains unavailable for millions of potential customers...

The Electronic Commons

W hile the rise of electronic commerce excites visions of a new economy, the Internet continues to produce explosive growth in free, public communication. The sheer scale and variety of the electronic public domain are staggering, but the promise is not simply an information cornucopia. Despite all its problems, the Internet has the potential to remedy some historic defects of public communication. It has already begun to do so, and with additional capital and new forms of organization, it can do much more. Several distinct developments contribute to the transformation of the public domain: First, much work in the public domain in the legal sense (that is, not subject to copyright or patent) has been traditionally available to only a few. Government data may be buried in files; literary works, out of print. The Internet can make genuinely public what has only been nominally public. Second, the Internet provides incentives for commercial producers of intellectual property to shift from...

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