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, which will be out next year.

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...

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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