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

Why Immigration Reform Matters

From our July/August print issue: If there is a deal to be had on immigration in this Congress, liberals and progressives should be part of it.

When immigration legislation stalled and possibly died on the Senate floor on June 7, some progressives were just as pleased as Lou Dobbs. But passing even an imperfect compromise of the kind the Senate had been debating would be far better than doing nothing. Among all the conflicting concerns about the issue, there is one that ought to drive change: The presence of 12 million people without legal or political rights in our society is fundamentally inconsistent with the principles on which a liberal democracy rests. While a small number of illegal residents or temporary workers may raise ethical questions, a large population with no rights or security undermines the rule of law, the rights of citizens, and the working of democracy. The law cannot offer equal protection to all when there are millions of people for whom it offers no protection whatsoever. For example, if employers can hire illegal immigrants who fear the authorities and therefore cannot call on them to enforce minimum-...

The Sunlight Solution

Increasingly, the law lets the public know what's in the clothes it wears, the air it breathes, and the water it drinks.

Full Disclosure: The Perils and Promise of Transparency by Archon Fung, Mary Graham, and David Weil ( Cambridge University Press, 282 pages) Public policy has its fashions -- styles of government that come and go -- but now and then there are genuine and durable strategic advances in how we attack public problems. In recent years, Congress and state and local governments have responded to a wide variety of concerns by adopting the same promising idea: Require businesses and public agencies to disclose information about their performance so that consumers can make smarter choices about what they buy, and citizen groups and the press can identify and publicize organizational failures and push for improvements. In their new book, Full Disclosure , Archon Fung, Mary Graham, and David Weil call these measures "targeted transparency policies," and according to their count, the federal government alone adopted 133 of them from 1996 to 2005. Alarm about SUV rollovers, for example, led...

Offering the Young a New Deal

This article originally appeared in CampusProgress.org . A few years ago, watching TV with my teenage son, I was struck by a point that financial-advice guru Suze Orman made to an audience of college students. What assets in America, she asked, are undervalued? Certainly not stocks, nor residential housing. The prices for both of those had skyrocketed. No, she said, pointing to the audience: You're the asset that America is still undervaluing. And she was right. Orman's point was that in order to get ahead, young people have to invest in themselves, which is certainly true. But that kind of investment isn't only an individual or family responsibility. America benefits when it invests in its young. After World War II, the GI Bill enabled young veterans and their families to obtain higher education, job training, health care, and home mortgages. The Greatest Generation got a great boost, and the investment paid off not just for the members of that generation, but for the country as a...

Is Rising Inequality Reversible?

New figures came out at the end of march showing that income inequality in 2005 reached the highest levels since the 1920s. By coincidence, presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani that same day declared his support for the flat tax and received the endorsement of Steve Forbes. That the current front-runner for the Republican nomination could believe it was in his political interest to call for an end to progressive taxation says a lot about how far his party has to go in recognizing one of the central economic and moral challenges of our time. Although the basic story of growing economic disparities has become depressingly familiar, the latest report on trends in income is so shocking that it ought to serve as a political wake-up call. During 2005 (the most recent year for which data are available), total income reported to the Internal Revenue Service rose by 9 percent, but all the gains went to the richest tenth. Income for the other 90 percent of Americans declined by 0.6 percent. In...

Why Liberalism Works

Liberalism is deeply rooted in American soil, so much so that in the years after World War II, many historians and social scientists regarded the liberal project and the American civic creed as more or less the same. The proposition that each of us has a right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" remains as good a definition as anyone has ever come up with of liberalism's first principle and America's historic promise. For some time, however, contemporary liberalism has been under political siege in the United States, and even liberals have at times appeared uncertain about what they stand for. In recent decades, national political leaders who are unquestionably liberal have often been unwilling to say so and unable to articulate a compelling public philosophy, while public-opinion surveys show that many Americans who support liberal positions do not identify themselves as liberals. Lately, though, the right has been facing its own loss of confidence. No one, not even...

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