Democracy: A Journal of Ideas

New Issue of Democracy: A Journal of Ideas
Now Available
June 12, 2009

Dear Democracy Reader,

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the financial meltdown of 2008. It still doesn't take much imagination to transport oneself back to that frightening day and to remember the dire potential consequences of those events.

One year later, we're climbing our way back to solvency. But as we move from recovery toward a new sustainability, it's clear that we need a fully modernized economy to achieve broad and secure prosperity and growth. That means focusing attention on the obvious challenges like jobs and opportunity, but it also means looking for new ways to grow the economy in the years ahead. (And, by the way, new ideas: In his speech on Wall Street yesterday, the president again promoted his plan for a Consumer Financial Protection Agency, an idea first proposed in our pages by Elizabeth Warren in Summer 2007.)

That's why we've devoted a big chunk of our Fall issue to a symposium we call "The Race to Innovate." We all know that innovation means growth and jobs. And, unfortunately, we all know that the United States, once the unquestioned king of the jungle along these lines, lags behind many other nations in the innovation sweepstakes.

It's not an accident. The national governments of Japan, Denmark, and other countries have developed policies-designed and funded programs-to help spur broad-scale innovation. The United States has not.

Our symposium, produced in coordination with the Aspen Institute, the PBS NewsHour, and the Intel Corporation, features six articles by leading experts describing the things we could do. Simon Johnson and James Kwak, co-authors of the popular blog The Baseline Scenario, lay out a future course for innovation in the financial sector. Stephen Ezell of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation lays out how other countries have done it. Cornell's Susan Christopherson shows how innovation is working to save the manufacturing sector. Kevin Huffman of Teach for America describes the successful but small-scale innovations taking place in education and suggests ways to bring them to scale. Howard Wial of the Brookings Institution details his proposal for a National Innovation Foundation. And ITIF's Rob Atkinson makes the broader case for why those inside the Beltway need to educate themselves about innovation economics.

It's a timely and forward-looking package of articles that focuses squarely on the question of what government can do to spur innovation.

If the symposium is worthy of national policy-makers' attention, then Edward Gresser's "GEO-Politics" deserves to be read across the globe as environmentalists prepare to convene in Copenhagen in December. Starting with a robust defense of the too-often-neglected triumphs of international organizations, Gresser goes on to argue that the world needs a new Global Environmental Organization to set environmental standards and settle global disputes.

Elsewhere in the issue, we cover lots of intellectual waterfront. E.J. Dionne, Jr., the chairman of our editorial committee among his other titles, considers Alan Wolfe's important book The Future of Liberalism. Johns Hopkins philosophy professor Hilary Bok analyzes the recently discovered undergraduate thesis (on religion, no less) of John Rawls. Cultural critic Scott McLemee reviews a book about four seminal books on the Cold War and explains why we're still arguing about these things.

Also, in a particularly timely book review, the noted congressional historian Julian E. Zelizer asks the simple question: How do you solve a problem like the Senate? The Europe-based writer Joshua Hammer reviews Christopher Caldwell's book on Europe and Islam, arguing that the assimilation problems may be more Europe's fault than Muslims'. And Dayo Olopade of reviews Michelle Goldberg's book on the global culture war over reproductive freedom.

In this issue's Responses section, economist Robert Shapiro scrutinizes Michael Lind's argument from the previous issue on behalf of cartelism, and Michael Getler of PBS responds to Leslie H. Gelb and Jeanna-Paloma Zelmati's critique of Bush-era reporting with an original critique of Bush-era editing. Finally, our own Ethan Porter argues that the financial crisis is really a spiritual crisis-and suggests one solution that may surprise you.

Innovative (to borrow a word) policy solutions, and big ideas about history and the present. That's what we do, and in this issue, I think we do it pretty nicely. Thanks, and enjoy.

Michael Tomasky


The Race to Innovate

America and the World: We're No. 40!, by Stephen Ezell

Finance: Before the Next Meltdown, by Simon Johnson and James Kwak

Manufacturing: Up from the Ashes, by Susan Christopherson

Education: Bringing Innovation to Scale, by Kevin Huffman

Strategy: A National Innovation Foundation, by Howard Wial

Making Washington Focus: First, Re-Educate the Economists, by Robert Atkinson


GEO-Politics, by Edward Gresser


Dereliction of Duty, by Michael Getler

Big Isn't Beautiful, by Robert Shapiro

Book Reviews

Liberalism Lost and Found, by E.J. Dionne, Jr.

Islam at the Gates, by Joshua Hammer

Our Bodies, Our World, by Dayo Olopade

Partisan Reviews, by Scott McLemee

When Rawls Met Jesus, by Hilary Bok

Filibusted, by Julian E. Zelizer


Get Religion, by Ethan Porter

About Democracy: A Journal of Ideas

Democracy: A Journal of Ideas is a quarterly journal of progressive thought founded by Kenneth Baer and Andrei Cherny that serves as a place where ideas can be developed and important debates can be spurred. Democracy is the progressive analogue of conservative journals such as Commentary, the Public Interest, and the National Interest, and it showcases breakthrough thinking on the major domestic and foreign policy issues of our time. Democracy is sold in bookstores nationwide, and its readers-in print and at be found in 90 countries around the world. It was recently named Best New Publication by the Utne Independent Press Awards.


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