5 Best Tuesday Columns

Susan Boyle, senators, and some very fair-minded chimps

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  • Jeff Wise on Chimps vs. Bankers  At The Big Money, Wise narrates a whimsical thought experiment: how do the behavioral ethics of mortgage bankers match up against those of chimpanzees? Wise pits the two groups against each other in variations of the Ultimatum Game, a psychological test often employed in economics research. The findings? "You could say that bankers behave in a more economically rational manner than either human or chimpanzee test subjects in a lab. Or, alternatively, you could say that bankers are greedier than jungle animals." Wise adds that bankers are also better at figuring out how to game the system, which probably skews the test results--not that this research was rigorously scientific to begin with.
  • William McGurn on Abortion Polling  In an arch Main Street column for The Wall Street Journal, McGurn notes that the mosaic of American opinion on abortion is more nuanced than the media generally acknowledges--and also that it leans further to the right than we usually hear. "Notwithstanding a pro-choice orthodoxy that dominates our film, our television, our press and our colleges and universities, strong moral qualms about abortion have not gone away," McGurn points out. "It's not as though we can't change our minds. The same Gallup survey which reported that Americans regard abortion as morally wrong showed that an even larger majority regard homosexual relations as morally acceptable."
  • Ben Macintyre on Susan Boyle and Harper Lee  On the anniversary of Susan Boyle's breakout extravaganza, the Times (UK) columnist compares Boyle to Harper Lee, author of To Kill A Mockingbird. As Macintyre writes, both Boyle and Lee have endured the hardships of sudden fame, although Lee had it easier. "Sheer willpower kept fame at bay. The celebrity industry would not permit that today," muses Macintyre. "Part of the Faustian pact demands that privacy be surrendered in return for fame, and success must be repeated endlessly, until failure comes along."
  • Bob Herbert on Our Epic Foolishness  In a rather blunt op-ed today, the New York Times columnist asks, "When are we going to stop behaving so stupidly?" Taking into account the many challenges that the country has faced in the past two years, he says, "For a nation that can't stop bragging about how great and powerful it is, we've become shockingly helpless in the face of the many challenges confronting us ... If a bank is too big to fail, it's way too big to exist. If an oil well is too far beneath the sea to be plugged when something goes wrong, it's too deep to be drilled in the first place."
  • David Firestone on Choosing Your Senator  In an editorial today, the New York Times contributer considers the Tea Party's campaign to repeal the 17th Amendment, which provides for direct popular election of United States senators. He says that many Tea Party members are "convinced that returning to the pre-17th Amendment system would reduce the power of the federal government and enhance state rights." Noting that "a modern appreciation of democracy should make the idea unthinkable," the columnist does consider the movement and brings about the point that to most of the authors of the Constitution, "allowing states to appoint the Senate was the linchpin of the entire federalist system and the real reason there are two houses of Congress."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.