Rick Stengel loves big government and it loves him back

Robby Soave Reporter
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Richard Stengel, long-serving editor of TIME magazine and preacher of the inherent goodness of government, was getting a long-needed promotion last week when he announced he would leave the venerable newsweekly for a State Department job.

The Obama administration officially hired Stengel as under secretary of public diplomacy for the State Department, the New York Times reported last week.

Stengel is a single-issue journalist who has relentlessly pushed compulsory national service as a panacea for the country’s social, moral and economic problems. In 2007, he wrote an article for TIME endorsing the view that “devoting a year or more to national service, whether military or civilian, should become a countrywide rite of passage, the common expectation and widespread experience of virtually every young American.”

To implement national service, Stengel proposed a vigorous expansion of federal programs like AmeriCorps, a new Cabinet-level service department and increased public funding for health and environmental advocacy. He estimated the cost of growing government to accomplish these initiatives would be at least $20 billion.

The article triggered a negative reaction from fellow TIME journalist Michael Kinsley who wrote, “As it happens, we already have a system for inducing truly voluntary activities that benefit the public. It’s called free-market capitalism.”

Stengel was particularly ill-served by free market competition. The magazine’s circulation dropped from 4.1 million to 3.3 million during his seven years in charge, while advertising revenue shrank from $295.8 million to $159.4 million, according to POLITICO.

This is not Stengel’s first foray into government. He was a speechwriter for the failed presidential campaign of far-left former Democratic Senator Bill Bradley in 2000.

Given his interests, Stengel may prove to be better at growing government than he was at growing TIME’s business model.

Before taking over at TIME in 2006, Stengel was briefly president of the National Constitution Center, a museum in Philadelphia. Prior to that, he worked for TIME in various roles. He has authored numerous books, and co-wrote the biography of Nelson Mandela, who was compelled to spend 27 years under direct state authority.

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