Paul Starr

Paul Starr is co-founder and co-editor of the 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 seven books, including most recently Remedy and Reaction: The Peculiar American Struggle over Heath Care Reform (Yale University Press, revised ed. 2013). Click here to read more about Starr.

Recent Articles

Civil Reconstruction: What to Do Without Affirmative Action

The time is approaching when we will have no alternative but to find a new road to equal opportunity in America. With the confirmation of Clarence Thomas, the Supreme Court now will likely have a black justice among the majority when it votes to overturn Regents of the University of California v. Bakke , the 1978 decision upholding affirmative action at public institutions. The Court may also overturn or restrict the precedent set in United Steelworkers v. Weber , the 1979 decision approving private affirmative action plans. These cases, like others concerning affirmative action that came before the Court prior to 1989, were originally decided by narrow majorities that no longer exist. Bakke and Webe , for example, were both decided by 5-4 votes, and in Bakke no opinion represented more than four justices. In 1989 the Court seems to have taken a decisive turn when it voted 6-3 in City of Richmond v. J.A. Croson Co. to throw out Richmond's requirement that city contractors set aside 30...

Liberalism After Socialism

Some have long wanted to blend socialism and liberalism in a “third way”; that idea is now in ruins. But the alternative to a socialist liberalism need not be conservative. There is a liberalism that is serious, realistic, and where necessary even radical about liberal purposes.

Over the past century, many reformers and critics in the West have believed that liberal democratic capitalism was evolving, inexorably and appropriately, toward a socialist, planned economy. Liberalism even in its modern form has seemed to them transitional and incomplete, outdated in its individualism, unsatisfying in its conception of the good life and the good society, inadequate to the demands of justice. Socialism would take civilization to a higher stage; it would fulfill ideals that liberalism professed but failed to honor, as well as ideals that liberalism failed even to profess. Those who have taken this view have not necessarily been Marxists. Most have been devoted to movements of reform rather than revolution and sought an alternative system that they hoped would achieve the best of both worlds, preserving the political freedoms of liberal democracy while introducing the economic planning, public ownership, and economic equality of socialism. This is the synthesis that...

The Middle Class and National Health Reform

With the recent flurry of proposals for universal health insurance, including a new plan submitted on June 5 by Majority Leader George Mitchell on behalf of the Senate Democratic leadership, a struggle that began three-quarters of a century ago in the United States entered another phase. Four times -- in the Progressive Era, during the New Deal, under President Truman, and again in the 1970s -- reformers believed passage of legislation was close at hand. Yet on each occasion the movement failed and receded. Should we expect anything different this time? And, bearing in mind the denouement of previous campaigns, what sort of legislation should we favor -- a comprehensive reform of health care finance or a measure that would achieve universal insurance with the minimum disturbance to established institutions? These are the general questions animating a pair of articles in this issue. Departing from the conventional wisdom in Congress, Senator Robert Kerrey of Nebraska argues that...

Can Government Work?

Many Americans are convinced that there are no public solutions to national problems. Or if there are, that Congress could not enact them in rational form, and that we cannot afford the cost. Overcoming that pervasive skepticism demands a new era of political reform and a discriminating commitment to public remedy.

Americans may love their country; they may resent anyone showing the least disrespect for the flag. They may judge other countries to be better or worse depending on how closely those nations approximate the American political system. AR the same, they regard their own politicians and government with a mixture of skepticism and scorn. In the United States, especially since Reagan, distrust of the government has virtually become a mark of the authentic patriot. To show some confidence in government may not yet be subversive, but it does raise suspicions. Of course, skepticism about government is not an unreasonable impulse: a number of our recent leaders have seemed entirely worthy of it. A free people, moreover, ought not to be so taken with their government as to be taken in by it. But in a democracy, the government is their instrument for confronting problems that affect them collectively When the citizens of a nation give up on the integrity and efficacy of their government -- when...

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