Commentary — June 27, 2012, 10:15 am

From “Broken Heartland: The looming collapse of agriculture on the Great Plains”

Wil S. Hylton is a contributing writer at The New York Times Magazine. This excerpt is drawn from his July 2012 cover feature for Harper’s Magazine. Subscribers can read the entire story here. Sprawling beneath eight states and more than 100 million acres, the Ogallala Aquifer is the kind of hydrological behemoth that lends itself to rhapsody and hubris. Ancient, epic, apparently endless, it is the largest subterranean water supply in the country, with an estimated capacity of a million-billion gallons, providing nearly a third of all American groundwater irrigation. If the aquifer were somehow raised to the surface, it …

Commentary — June 7, 2012, 11:51 am

How Muscles Made the Man

My father’s first job after being expelled from college was managing a Gold’s Gym in Minneapolis. Later, whenever we visited him on Palm Beach or in Scottsdale, he would pull out photocopies he’d kept of the gym’s workout sheets and create a workout for each of us—me, my older brother, Darren, and my little brother, Pat. Then we’d “hit the gym, boys.” As long as he was alive, even after he’d told me he feared he was losing his mind, he would join gyms and work himself into shape. For his fiftieth birthday, he set up a photo shoot for …

Commentary — May 23, 2012, 3:44 pm

The Underearners Test

Underearners Anonymous, the mutual-aid group I write about in the June issue of Harper’s Magazine, includes a diagnostic test in its newcomers packet, consisting of the following fifteen questions: 1. Do you have little or no money left over at the end of the month? 2. Do you keep possessions that do not fully work or clothes that are threadbare? 3. Do you cycle from under-working to over-working? 4. Do you dislike your work, but take no actions to improve it? 5. Do you sabotage new income or work ideas? 6. Do you see the gross and not the net? …

Commentary — May 17, 2012, 11:18 am

From Ph.D. to Escort: How Debt Can Change Students

This is an excerpt from Thomas Frank’s “The Price of Admission,” which appears in the June 2012 issue of Harper’s Magazine. If you’re already a subscriber, you can sign in or register for access to the entire article. If you’re not, please proceed here to subscribe. For $16.97 per year, you’ll gain access to all of Thomas Frank’s columns, along with 162 years of one of America’s finest magazines. Massive indebtedness changes a person, maybe even more than a college education does, and it’s reasonable to suspect that the politicos who have allowed the tuition disaster to take its course …

Commentary — May 7, 2012, 10:09 am

The Death and Life of 1230 N. Burling

Ben Austen is a contributing editor of Harper’s Magazine. His article on Cabrini-Green, “The Last Tower: The decline and fall of public housing,” appears in the May 2012 issue of Harper’s. The last tower to stand at Cabrini-Green, a fifteen-story high-rise known by its address, 1230 N. Burling Street, was opened in 1962 and torn down in 2011. There were 134 families living there at its peak occupancy, then fewer than fifty, and, for a short time before its demolition last year, only the household of Annie Ricks, her children bouncing balls in their top-floor unit, blaring music, with no …

Commentary — May 4, 2012, 2:00 pm

The Real Lives of Italian Dubbers

Chiara Barzini is a screenwriter living in Rome. Her debut fiction collection, Sister Stop Breathing, was published by Calamari Press in February. In her May essay for Harper’s, “Read My Lips: The Italian art of dubbing,” Chiara Barzini traces the Italian fervor for film dubbing. Nearly all foreign films are dubbed in Italy, not to mention some Italian ones (Fellini was a fan of the technique), and voice actors are tracked with the same intensity as Hollywood stars in the United States. We asked Barzini to write a few stargazing sketches for us from Italy: Behind the Laughter Whenever Italians …

Commentary — April 30, 2012, 12:01 pm

Mapping Out May Day

  Nathan Schneider’s story “Some Assembly Required,” which traces the birth of Occupy Wall Street, appeared in the February 2012 issue of Harper’s Magazine. With exactly a week left before May Day, Occupy Wall Street organizers were coming and going from an East Village townhouse. In the basement, enormous banners were being painted for “mutual aid” stations. Upstairs, Ingrid Burrington and Chris Longenecker, both in their mid-twenties, sat on meditation cushions on the hardwood floor of a room where Longenecker and three other Occupiers were living. The walls were covered with posters calling for a general strike, and a record …

Commentary — April 23, 2012, 12:31 pm

An Excerpt From “Byzantium: Their ears were uncircumcised”

Epiphanius began to interrogate the Blessed One and said: “Tell me, please, how and when the end of this world shall occur? What are the beginnings of the throes? And how will men know that the end is close, at the doors? By what signs will the end be indicated? And whither will pass this city, the New Jerusalem? What will happen to the holy temples standing here, to the venerated icons, the relics of the Saints, and the books?” —Life of Saint Andrew the Simple, tenth century   Rafil Kroll-Zaidi is the managing editor of Harper’s Magazine. This excerpt …

Commentary — April 11, 2012, 12:51 pm

A New Front in the War Against Malaria

Matthew Power is a contributing editor of Harper’s Magazine. His article “Slipping Through the Net: Cambodia’s border war against drug-resistant malaria” appears in the April 2012 issue. In October 2007, Bill and Melinda Gates—benefactors of the largest private foundation in the world—stood before a packed audience of public-health experts and government officials in Seattle and announced their intention to free the world of malaria, a disease that has haunted all of human history. It was an audacious objective—one that met with public praise and private skepticism from malariologists who had spent their careers in an often-losing battle. The Gateses—and $1.75 …

Commentary — April 9, 2012, 1:12 pm

An Ideal Story Anthology

From an August 20, 1978, journal entry by Susan Sontag. As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh, the second of three planned volumes of Sontag’s journals edited by her son, David Rieff, will be published April 10 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Sontag died in 2004. “I, Etcetera,” another short excerpt from As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh, will appear in the May 2012 issue of Harper’s Magazine. An Ideal Story Anthology: V Woolf, “The Moment” or “The Unwritten Novel” Robert Walser, “Kleist in Thun” Paul Goodman, “Minutes Are Flying” [In the margin] Borchert, Kiš Landolfi, “W.C.” Calvino, “Moon” (from Cosmicomics) …

Commentary — April 3, 2012, 2:02 pm

Afghanistan’s Endless Private-Security War

Charles Glass is a journalist, author, and publisher who has frequently reported from the Middle East. His most recent book is Americans in Paris: Life and Death Under Nazi Occupation (Penguin). His feature “The Warrior Class: A golden age for the freelance soldier” ($) appears in the April 2012 issue of Harper’s Magazine The week of March 20 was supposed to have been Afghanistan’s first without private-security companies on its soil since the American invasion of 2001. However, a few months ago, the Afghan government delayed for a second time its implementation of Presidential Decree 62, promulgated in August 2010, …

Commentary — April 3, 2012, 1:11 pm

“The Warrior Class”: The Blackwater Videos

The April 2012 issue of Harper’s Magazine includes “The Warrior Class,” a feature by Charles Glass on the rise of private-security contractors since 9/11. The conclusion to the piece describes a series of videos shown to Glass by a source who had worked for the private-security company Blackwater (now Academi, formerly also Xe Services) in Iraq. Clips and photos from the videos are shown below, introduced by Glass’s descriptions: The first , identified as “Baghdad, Iraq, May–­September 2005,” showed Blackwater convoys racing through town. Suddenly, the door of a Blackwater SUV opened and a rifle fired at passing traffic. “They …

Commentary — April 3, 2012, 12:20 pm

Congratulations to Our 2012 National Magazine Award Finalists

The American Society of Magazine Editors has announced the finalists for the 2012 National Magazine Awards. Our congratulations to the three nominees from Harper’s Magazine: In the public interest category, Kathy Dobie, for “Tiny Little Laws,” from our February 2011 issue. In the news and documentary photography category, Ed Ou, for “Uncertain Exodus” ($), from our July 2011 issue. Also in the news and documentary photography category, Richard Ross, for “Juvenile Injustice” ($), from our October 2011 issue. The winners will be announced on May 3.

Commentary — March 19, 2012, 9:40 am

Correction: Letters, April 2012

The April 2012 issue of Harper’s Magazine includes a letter to the editor by performer Mike Daisey, who was featured on a January 2012 episode of This American Life called “Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory,” based on his stage show “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs.” On March 18, This American Life aired revelations that some of the details in Daisey’s story were untrue. Among the facts contradicted by his Chinese translator was the claim that he had interviewed hundreds of Foxconn workers. She estimated the number at closer to fifty. In “Killing the Competition” [Report, February], …

Commentary — March 15, 2012, 11:28 am

John Leonard’s Reading for My Life

Today marks the release of Reading for My Life, a collection of writings by the critic John Leonard, who authored the New Books column for Harper’s Magazine from 2003 until his death in 2008. The book includes reflections from Leonard on writers as varied as Joan Didion, Richard Nixon, and Salman Rushdie, as well as reflections on Leonard by a similarly distinguished cast. The introduction to the anthology is by E. L. Doctorow, who beautifully encapsulates Leonard’s literary calling: “With his love of language and his faith in its relevance to human salvation, our own inadvertent, secular humanist patron saint.” …

Commentary — March 14, 2012, 1:34 pm

The DOJ’s Misguided Antitrust Attack

The Obama Administration tackles the victim in the fight over America’s book market Barry C. Lynn is the author of Cornered: The New Monopoly Capitalism and the Economics of Destruction. He directs the Markets, Enterprise, and Resiliency Initiative at the New America Foundation. His feature “Killing the Competition: How the New Monopolies Are Destroying Open Markets” appeared in the February 2012 issue of Harper’s Magazine, and is available for free online. A previous article, “Breaking the Chain: The antitrust case against Wal-Mart” (July 2006), is also available. In 1890, Congress passed America’s first federal antimonopoly law, the Sherman Antitrust Act, …

Commentary — March 5, 2012, 1:25 pm

The Empty Stomach: Fasting to Beat Jet Lag

Steve Hendricks wrote “Starving Your Way to Vigor: The benefits of an empty stomach” in the March 2012 issue of Harper’s Magazine. He is the author, most recently, of A Kidnapping in Milan” The CIA on Trial (W. W. Norton). An airplane is a conveyance whose purpose, like a reformatory’s, is to torment its inmates. If you are willing to encapsulate yourself in a plane for a long distance, its owners will assume you are of stronger stuff than the plebeian domestic passenger, and will put before you a meal calculated to break you. You, seeking relief from your torment, …

Commentary — February 23, 2012, 2:54 pm


A line in the March 2012 Harper’s Index incorrectly stated that 72 percent of political ad spending during the 2010 election cycle would have been prohibited before the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. In fact, 72 percent of outside political ad spending in the 2010 cycle would have been prohibited before Citizens United and a 2007 decision, Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right to Life, Inc. Although the item was sourced to the Center for Responsive Politics, the mistake was entirely ours. We regret the error.

Commentary — February 8, 2012, 12:16 pm

Web Content: The February 2012 Issue

Dear Readers, The February 2012 issue of Harper’s Magazine is with subscribers, for whom it is also available online, and it will be on newsstands for another few weeks yet. We’ve posted a number of pieces related to features in the issue since it came out. A summary is below, along with a few web links related to the issue. Thomas Frank‘s Easy Chair column, “Act of Contrition” (p. 6) focuses on Jack Abramoff and the genre of the Washington D.C. contrition memoir. Frank is a veteran Abramoff-watcher, having written about the disgraced lobbyist in his 2008 book, The Wrecking …

Commentary — February 3, 2012, 1:58 pm

Obama’s Big Shtick

Barry C. Lynn is the author of Cornered: The New Monopoly Capitalism and the Economics of Destruction. He directs the Markets, Enterprise, and Resiliency Initiative at the New America Foundation. His feature “Killing the Competition: How the New Monopolies Are Destroying Open Markets,” appears in the February 2012 issue of Harper’s Magazine, and is excerpted here on A previous article, “Breaking the Chain: The antitrust case against Wal-Mart” (July 2006), is available for free here. In December, President Obama did something very rare among today’s politicians—he acknowledged that America’s history did not begin with the New Deal. In a …

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $39.99

United States Canada



November 2014

Stop Hillary!

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

How the Islamic State was Won

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Cage Wars

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Everyday Grace

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content


Stop Hillary!·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"What Hillary will deliver, then, is more of the same. And that shouldn’t surprise us."
Photograph by Joe Raedle
Cage Wars·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"In the 1970s, “Chickens’ Lib” was a handful of women in flower-print dresses holding signs, but in the past decade farm hens have become almost a national preoccupation."
Photograph by Adam Dickerson/Big Dutchman USA, courtesy Vande Bunte Farms
Paradise Lost·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Suffering Sappho! Here we still are, marching right into yet another century with our glass ceilings, unequal pay, unresolved work and child-care balance, and still marrying, forever marrying, men."
Illustration by Anthony Lister
Off the Land·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Nearly half the reservation lives below the poverty line, with unemployment as high as 60 percent, little to no infrastructure, few entitlements, a safety net that never was, no industry to speak of, and a housing crisis that has been dire not for five years but since the reservation’s founding in 1855."
Illustration by Stan Fellows
Introducing the November 2014 Issue·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Doug Henwood on stopping Hillary Clinton, fighters and potential recruits discuss the rise of the Islamic State, the inevitability of factory farming, and more

Cover photo by Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

Number of countries thought to possess chemical weapons:


Placebos are more effective if the drugs for which they stand in are said to be more expensive.

In Torrance, California, an African grey parrot named Nigel, who once spoke English with a British accent and had returned home after a four-year absence, began asking for someone named “Larry” and speaking Spanish.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!


In Praise of Idleness


I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.

Subscribe Today