More than four years after the end of the Great Recession, America’s unemployment rate remains unacceptably high, and long-term unemployment in particular has become a genuine national crisis. In response, Democrats and Republicans both offer only timeworn mantras that have little to do with today’s circumstances. The left has no easy way out of its intellectual rut, but conservatives — if they apply their core insights to a serious understanding of the problems we face — could find their way to an innovative and effective employment agenda.
For most of our history, Americans responded to economic challenges by picking up and moving to parts of the country that offered greater opportunities. Geographic mobility’s potential to contribute to economic mobility is as great today as it ever was, but people's willingness to move is much diminished. By looking for ways to make it easier for Americans to move in search of work, policymakers could revive both the labor market and an important element of the American character.
The idea of government-funded universal preschool is fast becoming a mainstay of the left’s policy agenda — endorsed by liberals from President Obama on down. But studies of existing preschool programs suggest that the benefits of government-sponsored preschool hardly merit the investments already made, let alone billions of dollars in additional federal funds to vastly expand those programs. At the very least, the existing evidence raises crucial questions that must be further investigated before tax dollars are yet again sent chasing after failure.
Education policy in recent decades has been focused primarily on ensuring that all children attain at least a minimum level of academic achievement. As educators and policymakers struggle to close gaps and ensure equal opportunity through education, however, many of the country’s most talented young people — and especially high-ability poor and minority students — are left unable to surge ahead, languishing in classes geared toward universal but modest proficiency. We are now at grave risk of neglecting our most promising students, on whom America’s future depends.
Americans have always held physicians in high regard, but medicine today is a profession with an uncertain future, and doctors are often wracked with anxiety. Economic pressures, technological advances, and changing public expectations have resulted in a profound identity crisis for doctors. In confronting that crisis, they would be wise to consider how American medicine dealt with remarkably similar problems a century ago — by redefining the doctor.
As they have confronted unprecedented expansions in the size and role of government in recent years, conservatives have too often succumbed to the temptation to articulate a purely negative vision of American government. While they have been clear (and often angry) in laying out what government should not do, they’ve been less interested in what it should be doing and how. But to be both genuinely conservative and politically effective, the right needs to recover its own positive vision government.
Virtually every successful national political campaign, and every enduring political coalition, has revolved around one central question: How can we best give average people respect, dignity, and an opportunity to make their way in the world, tyrannized neither by government nor by private individuals? Too often, today’s Republican Party lacks a clear response to that question, and it can hardly hope to win the presidency until it produces an answer.
Niccolò Machiavelli’s masterpiece The Prince was written 500 years ago but has never ceased to fascinate people looking for advice about worldly success. In our age of how-to guides, it is hardly surprising that Machiavelli’s name has been marshaled in the service of self-help books on everything from parenting to fashion. But the greatest American Machiavellian is still the first one, Benjamin Franklin, and his approach to self-help illuminates the flaws in those of his successors.
The origins of neoconservatism have often been attributed to the rightward drift of a group of former leftist intellectuals (perhaps most famously among them Irving Kristol) in response to liberal excesses made apparent in the 1960s. That familiar story has proved convenient over the years for both the neoconservatives and their critics. Yet it does not stand up to historical investigation. Such an investigation, using primary sources and archival materials explored in some cases for the first time, reveals a much more interesting, impressive, and engaging story — especially with respect to Kristol and his wife, the historian Gertrude Himmelfarb.