National Parks: a Case for Big Government

What Ken Burns' new Parks series says about the virtues of Big Government

Illustration by Francisco Caceres for TIME; Burns: Alex Wong / Getty

Ken Burns has a knack for making documentaries about some of the most contentious episodes in American history without saying anything that will tick anyone off. Over two decades, his PBS films have taken on the Civil War, feminism, World War II and, above all, race. They've been criticized for omissions: Hispanics in The War, modern artists in Jazz. But on the whole, they're substantive without being polarizing, passionately arguing positions almost everyone agrees with: Racism is bad, democracy is good, war is hell.

His latest, six-part PBS series — The National Parks: America's Best Idea, which debuts Sept. 27 —...

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