5 Best Friday Columns

Paul Krugman on going to extremes, The Boston Globe on caloric landmines, and more

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  • Peggy Noonan on Political Rage  After briefly reflecting on America's history of political violence, the Wall Street Journal columnist plays the role of stern matron, chiding politicians to exercise prudence when reacting to the recent spurts of vandalism and threats against elected leaders. Noonan chides pundits and pols, both Democrat and Republican, for contributing to the "tenor and tone" of this moment in American history, singling out Democrats in particular for using public outrage as a "mere political opportunity" to undermine opposition to ObamaCare: "What I keep thinking of is a beehive. A modern, high tech, highly politicized democracy is a busy beehive, and sometimes the bees are angry, and sometimes someone comes by and sticks a big sharp stick in the hive. The biggest thing Washington should do right now is stop it, stop poking the stick."
  • Paul Krugman on Going to Extremes  While Krugman's article on recent violence echoes the points raised by Noonan, the New York Times columnist finds little reason to equally spread blame between Democrats and Republicans. Krugman provides a brief synopsis of the history of the "eliminationist rhetoric of the G.O.P.," starting with the Clinton years, before concluding that Republicans are responsible for the gridlock that has thrown American politics into a state of often-violent paralysis:

    For today’s G.O.P. is, fully and finally, the party of Ronald Reagan — not Reagan the pragmatic politician, who could and did strike deals with Democrats, but Reagan the antigovernment fanatic, who warned that Medicare would destroy American freedom. It’s a party that sees modest efforts to improve Americans’ economic and health security not merely as unwise, but as monstrous. It’s a party in which paranoid fantasies about the other side — Obama is a socialist, Democrats have totalitarian ambitions — are mainstream. And, as a result, it’s a party that fundamentally doesn’t accept anyone else’s right to govern.
  • David Brooks on the Economy's Transformation  Though the New York Times columnist offers his usual macro look at society, he does make an engaging argument about the future of economic theory. Presenting the history of economic thought in five acts (we're currently in Act IV: The State of Flux), Brooks argues the global financial crisis has caused economics to move "in a humanist direction." And as economists begin to look at emotional tendencies, they will find that "the moral and social yearnings of fully realized human beings are not reducible to universal laws and cannot be studied like physics." Hence Brooks's conclusion about the fundamental transformation in economics.

    Once this is accepted, economics would again become a subsection of history and moral philosophy. It will be a powerful language for analyzing certain sorts of activity. [...] At the end of Act V, economics will be realistic, but it will be an art, not a science.
  • Eugene Robinson on the Power of Words  Since the passage of health care reform, several legislators who supported the bill have been the targets of vandalism and intimidation. Horrified by these developments, the Washington Post columnist calls for a moratorium on "incendiary" vocabulary, especially among Tea Party members and anyone addressing them. "The tea party movement is fueled by rhetoric that echoes the paranoid ravings of the most extreme right-wing nutcases," Robinson writes. "Political leaders who appropriate and reinforce the extremists' language" -- like Sarah Palin, who urged "commonsense conservatives" to "RELOAD!" this week -- "are being reckless."
  • The Boston Globe on Caloric Landmines  The Globe editors applaud a new state standard requiring chain restaurants to post calorie counts of their menu items, though they expect it will deliver some nasty surprises to customers who thought "yuppie food" was a healthy alternative. "Cobb salad with bleu cheese, anyone?" the op-ed reads. "How about that caramel Frappuccino?" In a state with some 20 Whole Foods outlets, there's little doubt the editorial's message will leave a few readers unsettled.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.