June 8, 2012
Last month, I posted a blog, "Do Immigrants Bowl Together?", an assessment of Robert Putnam's influential 2000 book Bowling Alone. Putnam presented a richly documented argument that America was enduring a decades-long weakening of the bonds of social capital that had commenced in the 1950s. Read more...
May 25, 2012
What is wrong with our country's formerly world-leading political and economic systems? Who can we consult to get some wisdom on this? Not withstanding 50 years in the academy, I have not yet given up hope that professors, once in a while, can help to shed light on our thorniest social dilemmas. Our most visible problems seem now to be both economic and political, but I confess that when this historian sought enlightenment on today's America, I assumed that few historians would have even started to untangle contemporary dilemmas. Read more...
April 10, 2012
Some public policy issues are so complex and controversial that Congress and president on occasion acknowledge that they cannot craft legislation or administer policy in the usual way. They may be drawn to the advice of a 1955 poem from Punch magazine by Geoffrey Parsons with a Gilbert and Sullivan lilt that runs:
If you're pestered by critics and hounded by faction
To take some precipitate, positive action
The proper procedure to take my advice is
Appoint a commission and stave off the crisis.
March 16, 2012
Arguably the last and least publicized social reform movement of the 1960s-1970s took organizational form in 1979 as the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). The Washington-based group was created to work toward smaller and better-selected immigration flows than had been authorized by the carelessly drawn immigration law of l965. The talk among the organizers quickly turned to potential allies to strengthen this smallish organization. Read more...
February 26, 2012
Everybody I talk to is in a foul mood about the condition and performance of American politics and government. And my topic in this blog does start out as another of the many discouraging malfunctions that would earn our politics a formal downgrade if political systems had to face the equivalent of a Standard and Poor's review. But read on. I argue in the end for the real possibility of corrective reform from within. Read more...