Richard Parker

Richard Parker is the author of John Kenneth Galbraith: His Life, His Politics, His Economics. He teaches macroeconomic policy at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and served as an advisor to the Papandreou government. 

Recent Articles

Back To The Future

America Beyond Capitalism by Gar Alperovitz ( John Wiley & Sons, 320 pages, $24.95 ) The Pro-Growth Progressive by Gene Sperling ( Simon & Schuster, 326 pages, $25.00 ) These two books -- thick with prescriptions for America's future but ensnared in a briary thicket of often arcane facts, acronyms, abbreviations, and figures -- represent all the mixed virtues and vices of “pop policy” today (the perils of academic policy being another matter entirely). That is their less interesting feature. The greater is whether, once we've struggled through the thickets, they tell us something encouraging or alarming about the Democratic Party's -- and American liberalism's -- professional thought cadres, and their relevance to today's wars for political power. What Gar Alperovitz and Gene Sperling share is a belief that detailed policy ideas matter in those wars. But the two authors are from different branches of the modern liberal tradition (different generations as well), and their...

On God and Democrats

Shortly before the 2000 presidential race started, Gertrude Himmelfarb, the aging Athena of neoconservatism, found herself struggling to express what she felt were the core values differences between Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives. What she came up with was that America had become "one nation, two cultures." "One is religious, puritanical, family-centered, and somewhat conformist," wrote The Economist in describing her vision. "The other is tolerant, hedonistic, secular, predominantly single, and celebrates multiculturalism. These value judgments are the best predictor of political affiliation, far better than wealth or income." By the time the 2000 election was over, however -- even though Himmelfarb's candidate eventually won, with a little jurisprudential help -- her "two cultures" idea looked pretty poor as a description of what divides her friends from ours. True, just as she said, 91 percent of George W. Bush's voters had freely identified themselves as "...

A General Theory of Keynes

John Maynard Keynes: Fighting for Freedom, 1937-1946 By Robert Skidelsky, Viking, 580 pages, $34.95. J ohn Maynard Keynes was an economist, a policy adviser to the British government (and, at times, a coruscating critic), an influential figure in the Liberal Party, an intimate member of the Bloomsbury Group, a prolific journalist of opinion, a patron of the arts, a gentleman farmer, a wealthy investor, a prominent business executive, a fixture of Cambridge University's intellectual life, and a homosexual who, in his early forties, married a Russian ballerina and lived thereafter (by all accounts) a deeply fulfilling life with her. In vividly portraying that very complexity, biographer Robert Skidelsky has given us a great gift and has enriched our knowledge of the varieties and subtleties of Keynes's genius. In three definitive volumes crafted over two decades, Skidelsky has become the master of Keynes's life, a life made all the more extraordinary because it spanned seven...

Progressive Politics and, uh, ...God

When I tell politically progressive friends that I've started teaching a course at Harvard about religion's impact on American politics and public policy, I usually face one of two responses. The first is an awkward silence--and a quick change of subject. The second is also awkward but comes with an anxiously knowing, usually sotto voce, "So you're doing abortion and the Christian right--that sort of thing, yes?" When I explain that, no, in fact I'm devoting only a week of the course to the religious right and that I barely mention abortion, it's usually back to awkward silence again--and the search for a new subject. In the right mood, I'm sympathetic to my friends' reactions. After all, what comes to mind when someone mentions religion and politics nowadays? Aren't Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Gary Bauer, anti-abortion picketers, and antigay marchers probably the first images? Or is it perhaps Bill Clinton, lachrymose at a Washington prayer...

Screening a La Carte

Instead of a single TV rating system, why not let the PTA and the Christian Coalition -- and anyone else -- create their own?

I n a culture that is seen to be spinning out of control, the V-chip has generated an extraordinary alliance across conventional class and political lines, from the Christian right to progressive media reformers, and in Congress, from conservative Senator John McCain to liberal Congressman Ed Markey. According to a New York Times poll from last February, more than 80 percent of parents say they consider the V-chip (or something like it) an indispensable part of their families' information age future. To its most ardent proponents, the V-chip is a technological Statue of Liberty, the shining light that will help lead parents back to control over the morass that commercial television has become. To its opponents, it's rather less than that: one more example of the quick-fix gizmo worship to which Americans have long been prone. Worse, it's potentially a fundamental threat to civil liberties, part of a new and unwelcome Big Brotherism sweeping the country. But like it or not, the V-chip...

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