Malcolm Harris

  • Merit Schmerit

    When Americans talk about inequality, we prefer to skip over an important foundational question: Are richer people better than poorer people? In general the unspoken assumption is yes. Conservatives tend to believe richer people are better because capitalism is designed to reward goodness: Thrift and hard work make wealth, so wealthy people must be thrifty and hardworking. Liberals tend to believe richer people are better because capitalism provides them with more opportunities and access to experience, while poorer people are on average deprived of good education and international travel.

  • Are Your Commie Children Right?

    A specter is haunting the straight white liberal sixtysomething American dad—the specter of his damn socialist kids. A generation that grew up eating Cold War propaganda with their cornflakes confronts one in which socialism regularly outpolls capitalism, and it’s happening across the breakfast table. New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik’s new book, A Thousand Small Sanities: The Moral Adventure of Liberalism, is a manual for the dad side, a work of rousing reassurance for open-minded men who are nonetheless sick of losing political debates to teenagers whose meals they buy.

    The book is epistolary—though

  • Working Classes

    Most college students aren't just workers-in-training; they are workers. And they're members of the working class. But our national discourse doesn't imagine them that way, and neither do our policies.Temple University professor Sara Goldrick-Rab's book Paying the Price: College Costs, Financial Aid, and the Betrayal of the American Dream looks in detail at the day-to-day lives of struggling students. It's a needed intervention. Goldrick-Rab herself once assumed that a student named Stacey who fell asleep in her class had been partying too much. But when she asked her, she discovered a different

  • The Protesting Ethic

    Within the American Left, there’s a growing consensus that the gains won by postwar liberalism have been squandered or otherwise lost. A famous set of graphs by UC Berkeley economist Emmanuel Saez depicts a return to pre–New Deal levels of economic inequality, and commentators have bemoaned the advent of a second Gilded Age. The American working class is squeezed tight, while a tiny ruling elite lives larger than ever. And this time, proletarian institutional counterweights—labor unions, populist political organizations—have degraded to the point that they appear unable to do anything but lose