How Prosperity, Democracy, and Experts Divided America
Thirteen years after he authored The End of Ideology, Daniel Bell would argue in The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism that rising affluence and changing values would result in greater social fragmentation and create a crisis for democratic governance. What Bell did not foresee was that all that heterogeneity would ossify into a new polarization: the enforcement of orthodoxy by powerful ideological institutions, the narrowing of partisan platforms, and gridlock on many of the most serious issues facing the country. This issue of Breakthrough Journal is dedicated to understanding the forces behind wicked problems, including ideological polarization itself, and what can be done to overcome them.
On Justice Movements
Why They Fail the Environment and the Poor
The theory of climate justice tells us that the gap between rich and poor and the looming threat of catastrophic climate change are not simply unfortunate circumstances that demand our attention and action, but rather the result of active efforts on the part of rich nations, wealthy elites, and powerful corporations to profit on the backs of the global poor and the environment. But demands for climate justice too often ignore basic practicalities of energy, poverty, and climate change, directing our gaze away from the issues that really matter to the future prospects of both the global poor and the planet and toward issues that don’t.
The Affluent Economy
Our Misleading Obsession with Growth Rates
Nostalgia for the boom economic growth years of the 1950s and 1960s is misplaced. Americans of all classes have grown materially richer every decade since. The lower growth rates today are a function of the slower metabolism of large economies, not a sign that American capitalism is fundamentally broken. Higher rates of economic growth might be desirable, but whether or not they materialize, the stagnation discourse misrepresents the country's economic health. We will be better at solving unemployment and poverty by starting from the recognition that rising prosperity remains the norm of American economic life.
The Making of the Obesity Epidemic
How Food Activism Led Public Health Astray
In the 1990s, many public health advocates homed in on food availability as a significant influence on obesity. Major anti-obesity campaigns now center on radically remaking school and neighborhood food environments by reducing access to unhealthy foods and improving access to healthy ones. With this approach advocates have fostered a reductive story about obesity that appeals to liberal audiences but doesn’t comport particularly well with the evidence. Against the popular discourse, those most at risk for obesity would be far better served by strategies demonstrated to improve overall health than calls for more grocery stores and farmers’ markets.
Issue 3 in the News
Julian Morris, "The Bogus Public Health Attack on Sugar," May 15, 2013
Ronald Bailey, "'Climate Justice' Is Largely Just A Progressive Plot Against Capitalism," April 29, 2013
Megan McArdle, "How Public Health Experts Turned Corporations into Public Enemy #1," March 27, 2013
Ross Douthat, "A World Without Work," February 23, 2013
Andrew Sullivan, "Does the Middle Class Really Have It So Bad?" February 21, 2013
Ryan Avent, "Growth: The Age of Diminished Expectations," February 20, 2013
Tyler Cowen, "Our Obsession with Growth Rates," February 20, 2013
Reihan Salam, "Absolute Change, Relative Change, and America’s Economic Future," and "Leisure vs. Worklessness," February 19, 2013
Ronald Bailey, "Do We Live in a Post-Truth Era?" February 1, 2013
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