Charles Petersen

  • State of Suspended Animation

    One of the strangest spectacles in contemporary American politics is libertarians’ schizophrenic attitude toward the power of the state. We are supposed to hate the government, we are told, but mostly just the feds: One of Rand Paul’s big crowd-pleasers is to demand the return of power to the states—whether to legalize marijuana, ban abortion, or make marriage a religious rather than a civil institution. The great fear, for today’s pot-smoking readers of Ayn Rand, is of a distant and faceless government, all those bureaucrats in Washington, DC; the utopian dream is the return of face-to-face

  • culture May 11, 2012

    Lions in Winter

    In March 2008, the New York Public Library announced a $100 million gift from private equity billionaire Stephen Schwarzman and a sweeping plan to radically remake its landmark main building on 42nd Street. Six months later, Lehman Brothers collapsed; the plan, to no one’s surprise, was put on hold. Now, the administration has announced that the renovation, its budget increased from $250 to $350 million, is back on track. The proposed designs developed by British architect Norman Foster have not yet been made public, but the basic scheme remains the same: to tear out the steel stacks that occupy

  • West Toward Home


    IN HER NOVELS AND in her nonfiction essays, Marilynne Robinson's questions are always roughly the same: Who are we, and where did we come from? The first is a matter of metaphysics, the second of history. At least since the publication of her first collection of essays, The Death of Adam (1998), Robinson has been making it her business to remind us that these questions are not yet settled. We may be descended from apes, but that does not mean that we are essentially apelike. "It has been usual for at least a century and a half to think of human beings as primates," she writes in her latest

  • Search and Destroy

    It’s rare that anything of substance comes out of the Aspen Ideas Festival, that annual orgy of techno-triumphalism and political self-seriousness, the bastard child of Davos and TED. But something odd happened when Eric Schmidt, until recently the CEO of Google, appeared at the high-powered mogul gathering in 2009 to speak about Google and the future of the American economy. After Schmidt addressed the crisis in the American banking system and the need for improved regulation, Brian Lehrer, the host of a talk show on WNYC in New York, walked up to the microphone. “Is there ever a point at