Discourse in Progress: The Experts Behind the Issues

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Age of Ambition

Under a sliver of moon, on an island off the coast of China, a twenty-six-year-old army captain slipped away from his post and headed for the water’s edge. He moved as calmly as possible, over the pine scrub to a ledge overlooking the shore. If his plan were discovered, he would be disgraced and executed…


If violent deaths fell and prosperity rose after the Roman conquests, we could conclude that Cicero was right; war was good for something. If the results came out the other way, then obviously Calgacus understood his age better, and war made only wastelands. But reality is rarely that convenient.

Bad Pharma

Before we get going, we need to establish one thing beyond any doubt: industry-funded trials are more likely to produce a positive, flattering result than independently funded trials.

What Money Can't Buy

Nobody likes to wait in line. Sometimes you can pay to jump the queue and in recent years, selling the right to cut in line has come out of the shadows and become a familiar practice.


Joshua Dubler is the author of Down in the Chapel: Religious Life in an American Prison, which follows a group of prisoners serving life sentences at Graterford Prison. FSG published Down in the Chapel earlier this month.

During this Thanksgiving season, I cannot help but think about how our national feast day only reinforces a limited view of our nation’s origins and European-Indian relations during the colonial period.

“Harper’s columnist Thomas Frank, author of the book Pity the Billionaire, joined us for a live chat. Read the full transcript here. Plus, read Frank’s piece on how billionaires are putting capitalism and democracy in chains.  

“How bad are the pharmaceutical companies, and how are they misleading doctors and harming patients? Read the transcript of our live chat as Dr. Ben Goldacre shows us the flaws in our drug-prescription system.  

“What do the Supreme Court hearings of President Obama’s health-care act mean? Questions about the individual mandate?   MIT economist Jonathan Gruber joined us to discuss the true cost of health-care reform in this country. Read the transcript here. To continue the conversation and learn about other author chats in this series (including with Jonathan […]

Ishmael Beah, former child soldier and author of A Long Way Gone, joined us to discuss KONY 2012 and his own experiences. Read the transcript here.