Winter, No. 55

In 1921, Dr. Frederick Banting and a team of researchers in Toronto discovered that insulin, a naturally occurring protein obtained from the pancreases of hogs and cattle, could stabilize the blood-sugar levels of diabetics. They won the Nobel Prize. But they refused to get rich from it. Much as Jonas Salk would say of polio years later, Banting declared: “Insulin belongs to the world, not to me.”

Now we use synthetic insulin, and it does not belong to the world. It belongs to Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk, and Sanofi. And Americans pay insulin prices that can only be described as immoral. You hear a lot of people talk about how insulin should be cheaper, as it is in Canada and other countries where the government can negotiate prices. We decided to do all that talk one better. Why not just make it free? Merrill Goozner, a veteran health-care journalist, lays out how it could work.

And here’s the surprise: It’s simpler, and less expensive, than you might think. Now for some political trivia: You likely know that the House of Representatives has 435 members. It’s had 435 since. . . ? The answer is 1912. The population of the country then was 92 million. Why was the line drawn there? Racism and xenophobia, basically. Thomas Downey, who served nine terms in the House as a representative from Long Island, argues that expanding the House—in the right way—can right that historical wrong and help reduce polarization, too.

We have two education-related articles in the feature well. Kevin Carey returns to our pages with an argument for radically reforming school districts to better equalize funding. And Rachel Cohen digs into the little-covered but alarming issue of cyberattacks on our nation’s ill-prepared school systems.

In the books section, editorial board member Isabel Sawhill reviews Binyamin Appelbaum’s important new book on how economists came to dominate the discourse. Stuart Whatley critiques the arguments of one prominent libertarian economist, Tyler Cowen. Vanessa Williamson reviews Ganesh Sitaraman and Anne Alstott’s book on the public option. And Lindsay Beyerstein reviews Steven Greenhouse’s new history of the American labor movement.

Back Issues Archive

Book Reviews

Public Futility

Public options in a range of areas can be part of a smart domestic policy mix, but choice alone is not enough.

By Vanessa Williamson


Sticking With the Union

The key to labor’s future: thinking beyond its own membership to the entire working class.

By Lindsay Beyerstein


It's the Economists, Stupid

How an obsession with markets has produced rising inequality and undermined democracy.

By Isabel Sawhill


Is Growth Moral?

Yes, economic growth is necessary. But does it produce a just society?

By Stuart Whatley



Beyond Compromise

By Jack Meserve


Back Issues Archive