Robert J. Samuelson

The Limits Of Immigration

Americans ought to hope for the success of Vicente Fox Quesada, the new president-elect of Mexico. He broke the 71-year rule of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), creating a broader and more genuine democracy.

Money Falling From Heaven

We now have a curious situation in Washington. It seems to be raining money. Just the other day, the Clinton administration released new budget projections that raised the estimated surpluses over the next decade by more than $1 trillion.

Gliding To A Soft Landing?

Modern economics makes itself intelligible by adopting everyday analogies. If inflation worsens, we say the economy is "overheating." If the Federal Reserve raises interest rates, it's "applying the brakes." If it cuts rates, it's "stepping on the gas." The metaphor of the moment is "soft landing."   The economy slows enough to avoid higher inflation but not so much that it suffers a "hard landing" (a recession).

Delegating Democracy

One of the big stories of the past decade is how the lawyers have taken over government. By this I am not referring to lawyers' winning elections--something that dates to the republic's earliest days.

The Limits Of Materialism

American history abounds with apparent contradictions, but few loom as large as this: we are a people wedded simultaneously to materialism and spirituality, mostly (though not exclusively) religious.

Puzzles Of The 'New Economy'

It was an interesting week for the "new economy." On Monday, federal Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson declared that Microsoft had violated the antitrust laws by engaging in predatory tactics that discouraged technological competition.

A High-Tech Accounting?

We may have gotten a small foretaste last week of the endgame of the Internet investment boom. The hallmark of any boom is unbridled confidence, which conceals and condones practices that--in a less giddy climate--would seem sloppy, unethical or illegal.

Complete This Form, Please

Americans live in a permanent state of siege. We are bombarded by telemarketers, direct mail, commercials, faxes and e-mails. It is this constant assault on our time and sensibilities that most threatens what should be a national treasure: the once-a-decade Census.The Census Bureau plans to mail 98 million forms this week to most homes and apartments (an additional 22 million are being hand-delivered in rural areas).

Why Not Tax The Internet?

The internet is one of those subjects that make normally sensible people go squishy in the brain. Witness the debate over Internet taxes. We're told not to tax the Internet, and we're not supposed to wonder why.

Who Governs? Maybe Nobody.

You recall Clinton's 1996 State of the Union Address, when he declared that "the era of big government is over." The president knew this wasn't true and--practically speaking--couldn't become true.

Let Them Be Lame Ducks

The 20th century gave us activist government, which should (we came to believe) constantly lead us into projects of national self-improvement. The sense of urgency is now in full flower.

The Future Of Freedom

What 20th-century development most altered the human condition? There is no shortage of candidates: the automobile, antibiotics, the airplane, computers, contraceptives, radio and television, to name a few.

The Stealth Power Brokers

The most revealing thing about political scientist Jeffrey Berry's recent book ("The New Liberalism: The Rising Power of Citizen Groups") is that hardly anyone noticed it, even though its conclusion starkly contradicts conventional wisdom.

Economics As Statecraft

We should not mistake the latest trade agreement with China--allowing it to enter the World Trade Organization--for only a trade agreement. It is much more: a calculated effort by both the United States and China to fashion the world order of the next century.

Capitalism For The Multitude

The securities industry association and the Investment Company Institute--the trade groups for stockbrokers and mutual funds--recently released a survey showing that 48 percent of U.S. households now own stocks or stock mutual funds.

Myths Of The Uninsured

The plight of the nation's 44 million uninsured demonstrates--once again--that nothing in health care is as simple as it seems. Many Americans consider the medically uninsured to be a scandal demanding attention in the 2000 presidential campaign.

The Worthless Ivy League?

We all "know" that going to college is essential for economic success. The more prestigious the college, the greater the success. It's better to attend Yale or Stanford than, say, Arizona State.

The Gift Of A Great Teacher

If you are lucky in life, you will have at least one great teacher. More than three decades ago, I had Ed Banfield, a political scientist who taught mainly at the University of Chicago and Harvard University.

We Cannot Be 'Reassured'

The social security debate is about to take a big step backward. Starting this week, the Social Security Administration launches what it calls "the largest customized mailing ever undertaken by a federal agency." About 125 million workers over 25 will receive annual estimates of their future Social Security benefits.

Do We Care About Truth?

The furor over the study that attributes falling crime partly to abortion may tell us as much about America as about crime. If you missed it, the study--done by economist Steven Levitt of the University of Chicago and law professor John Donohue III of Stanford University--concluded that half the drop in crime since 1991 might reflect the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v.

Ambition And Its Enemies

We are a nation of ambitious people, and yet ambition is a quality that is hard to praise and easy to deplore. It's a great engine of American creativity, but it also can be an unrelenting oppressor, which robs us of time and peace of mind.

The Deficit In Leadership

It's been a bad time for good debate. Thomas B. Reed, speaker of the House a century ago, once remarked of two woeful colleagues that "they never open their mouths without subtracting from the sum of human knowledge." The same can be said of the budget debate.

Cheerleaders Vs. The Grumps

Call them cheerleaders and grumps--they're rivals in the debate over the economy. Cheerleaders are believers. They see today's boom as a glorious reward for superior U.S. technology, management and faith in markets.

Our Lifetime Job Prospects

Let's celebrate a quiet revolution: the return of "full employment." In the 1960s and 1970s politicians and economists clamored for it, defining full employment as an unemployment rate of 4 percent.