From Samuel Adams to JFK, American Political Dynasties Have Floundered

Democracy’s Power Resides With the People, Not Elected Leaders’ Heirs

It’s been a dozen years since the publication of my friend and former colleague Seth Mnookin’s book Hard News: The Scandals at The New York Times and Their Meaning for American Media. But one quote from that book’s discussion of the Ochs-Sulzberger family that controls that newspaper has stayed with me:

“At some point you have to wonder if the bloodline thins,” James Goodale, a former Times senior executive, memorably told Mnookin.

As it goes with family newspaper dynasties, so too with family political dynasties. As I researched and wrote books about …

PTAs Are the Opposite of Community

How the Former Champions for All Kids Devolved Into Self-Serving Fundraising Machines

Here’s a quick quiz for anyone who has ever had kids or grandkids or nieces and nephews in school: Can you name all of the fundraising items you’ve purchased from …

How an Idyllic Italian Village Was Crippled by Family-Centrism

A Watershed Study Connects Nepotism to Poverty, Distrust, and Neglect of the Public Good

More than 60 years ago, an American family arrived in a seemingly idyllic town in Southern Italy. Stone buildings resembled “a white beehive against the top of a mountain.” Donkeys …

To Make Families Good for Democracy, Broaden the Notion of Family Itself

An Insular Focus on Our Closest Relations Can Distort Our View of One Another and the World

Since at least the time of Aristotle’s Politics, families have been considered the building block of society. Strong families produce the stability—and reproduce the future citizens—needed for society to flourish. …

Our Democracies, Not Our Children, Should Go to Boot Camp

Family Is Less a Barrier to Democracy Than Governance Itself

Imagine this heart-breaking scene in the Greek city-state of Sparta in the 6th century BC: a 7-year-old boy from the best of homes, loving and intelligent, was torn from his …