From the Executive Editor
This political moment is defined by a paradox: On the one hand, disciplined and ideologically coherent political parties helped first the Republicans and now Democrats gain power. On the other hand, voters value independence, and politicians are obligated to represent the unique interests of their districts. In this issue, Tim Fernholz profiles two young freshman representatives as they navigate this dilemma: 34-year-old Democrat Tom Perriello, who displaced a far-right Republican in Virginia, and 27-year-old Aaron Schock, an Illinois Republican trying to be a pragmatist in a party that makes it difficult.
Elsewhere in this issue, Robert Kuttner shows how the Federal Reserve System has had the ability to act aggressively in response to the financial crisis (which it helped cause) while more democratically accountable institutions have been paralyzed. Gershom Gorenberg warns that Israel's decision to look the other way as religious orthodoxy takes hold of its military could leave the country unable to negotiate peace. And Ezra Klein demonstrates that health-care reform is really an economic imperative -- other policies are necessary to improve health. While this article will not be Ezra's last in this magazine, this is sadly the last issue in which he appears on the masthead. After four years at the Prospect, The Washington Post has recruited Ezra to write about economic policy, health reform, and politics. I first noticed Ezra just as the progressive blogosphere was getting started in 2003 -- when other bloggers were just insulting President Bush, Ezra was undertaking a cross-national comparison of health-care systems. His contributions to the Prospect have always reflected an intense curiosity about policy and how it shapes and is shaped by politics. That spirit will continue to inform this magazine even as we congratulate Ezra on his next steps.
-- Mark Schmitt
Caught in The Net
In response to Jacob S. Hacker's piece from our May cover package on the future of risk, "A Strong Safety Net Encourages Healthy Risk-Taking," reader Dave Lynch writes, "Unfortunately actual evidence suggests the contrary. Those Western countries with the strongest and deepest social safety nets tend to be the most risk averse with economies underperforming the rest in both good and bad times. ... Today's progressive collectivists ignore 100 years of efforts to make central planning work. It has been tried in the extremes by Mao, Stalin, and Hitler, in more moderate forms in the EU, and around the edges in the U.S. It fails because it requires the destruction of individual differences. It requires the sacrifice of individual liberty for a presumptive public good."
Senior correspondent Michelle Goldberg's feature about female genital cutting, "Rights Versus Rites," ignited widespread debate -- and many comparisons of the practice to male circumcision. Reader Ryan Hashi writes: "If you want to understand the power of cultural influence, look no further than our own American tradition of strapping down day-old boys and cutting off their genitals. Male genital mutilation started in the U.S. as a cure for masturbation. The excuses for continuing it change to suit the times."
Driven to Comment
Duncan Black, who blogs at Eschaton, links to contributor Ben Adler's feature, "A Tale of Two Exurbs." Black writes, "It's almost impossible to imagine now, but right now we build highways to nowhere in advance of development. That drives the development patterns, and makes it difficult and perhaps pointless to later add in any kind of mass transit. Back in the good old days before widespread automobile use, train lines drove the development patterns, including in the original streetcar city, Los Angeles."
Reader Bryan Bolea disagrees with David L. Kirp's argument in his review of Richard E. Nisbett's Intelligence and How to Get It: Why Schools and Cultures Count. Bolea writes, "Folks who desire to diminish the genetic role in intelligence point to studies which demonstrate, for instance, that infants adopted out of Romanian orphanages develop higher intelligence levels than do their peers who are not adopted. ... [But] the evidence supports the opposite ... that an inadequate environment (the notoriously understaffed Romanian orphanages) can impair development -- including intellectual. When kids are taken out of these damaging environments, they can recoup some of this damage. However, no data suggests that there is anything we can do to boost the intelligence of children who are already adequately nourished, stimulated, etc."
Reason to Believe
At Reason magazine's blog, Damon W. Root takes issue with Doug Kendall and Simon Lazarus' assertion in "The Next War Over the Courts" that "conservative federal judiciaries have stymied change-minded administrations." Root writes, "It's extraordinarily misleading to blame the failures of Reconstruction on 'conservative' federal judges. In The Slaughter-House Cases, the 1873 decision that gutted the Privileges or Immunities Clause from the 14th Amendment and thus helped cripple Reconstruction, it was the conservative/libertarian Justice Stephen Field who authored the Court's most stinging and eloquent dissent."