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

Thy Kingdom Dot Com

T he rise of the new economy and skyrocketing prices of Internet stocks have caused a certain discomfort and ambivalence among older Americans, which in this case generally means anyone over 26. There is, of course, due acknowledgment of the great promise of e-commerce and even some national pride about the phenomenon (only in America!). But logic, historical experience, and the fact that they didn't anticipate the explosion of new-economy stocks have convinced a lot of people that it must be a bubble. They wouldn't mind seeing it burst, if only that would take the smirk off the faces of the kids being featured as geniuses in the business magazines and didn't bring down the rest of the economy. We're in new generational territory here. One day last year in a class at Princeton on American society where we were discussing the 1960s, I asked my students what the phrase "generation gap" brought to mind. If you think it had anything to do with sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll, you're...

What You Need to Beat Goliath

In Michael Mann's gripping new movie The Insider, the two central characters uphold the truth through acts of corporate disobedience—the moral equivalent of civil disobedience in an age when the threat to freedom so often comes from corporate rather than state power. Fired as head of research at cigarette-maker Brown & Williamson, Jeffrey Wigand (Russell Crowe) breaks a nondisclosure agreement to tell 60 Minutes about his former employer's deceit and malfeasance. But before the segment is aired, its producer, Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino), finds himself up against everyone else at CBS when the company's lawyers advise killing the interview for fear of a lawsuit from Brown & William son. In the movie's dark twist, Bergman turns out to be in the same position as Wigand: Both are insiders who confront a corporate decision to deny the public vital infor mation, and then choose to go public themselves. Repeating an early scene in which Wigand leaves Brown & Williamson, the...

How Low Can You Go?

How to Zero Out the Debt J . Fife Symington III, the Republican governor of Arizona, is so conservative that he has sought to abolish the state's Depart ment of Education. But, poor fellow, he's broke, as the Economist recently reported. When he was elected in 1991, Symington said he was worth $10 million. Three months later, he claimed his net worth dropped to a negative $23 million. These things happen. This past fall, in an unprecedented step for a sitting governor, Symington filed for bank ruptcy protection under Chapter 7, which allows him to stiff his creditors and get a fresh start in life. Now this is an imaginative new idea in state fiscal policy. Many conservatives say they are opposed to debt; only Symington has shown how to get rid of it entirely. We all sometimes need a fresh start, governments included. And Symington is doing it in a way that demonstrates personal responsibility by protecting home and family. His home is in his wife's name, and her fortune is beyond the...

The Deadly Marathon

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Healthy Compromise: Universal Coverage and Managed Competition Under a Cap

A promising strategy emerges to break the impasse.

T his is how the system might work: You would get your health insurance through a new, regional health insurance purchasing cooperative. The purchasing cooperative, bargaining on behalf of large blocks of subscribers, would contract with a variety of private health plans, including health maintenance organizations (HMOs), preferred provider plans, and one conventional free-choice-of-provider option. Each plan would have to offer a standard, mainstream benefit package to every prospective enrollee. Once a year the purchasing cooperative would ask you to choose among the health plans (or "networks," as Bill Clinton calls them) and inform you about their monthly charge and quality of care, including consumer satisfaction. Money would flow into the cooperatives from employers and employees, from other people according to their ability to pay, and from government. Money would flow out to the health plans according to their enrollment: The purchasing cooperative would pay each plan a...