5 Best Thursday Columns

On how capitalism saved the miners, the Nobel Peace Prize as subversion, and learning from Oman

This article is from the archive of our partner .
  • Joshua Green on the Big Money Fringe  2010 may well go down as the year of bizarre political candidate, writes The Atlantic senior editor in the Boston Globe. In New York, Carl Paladino is waging a "schizophrenic gubernatorial campaign" and Sharron Angle's bid to unseat Harry Reid in Nevada has been marked by "a string of bizarre pronouncements." Remarkably though, candidates like these who would have once been unsupportable are raking in major campaign contributions. In the past, notes Green, big GOP donors "weren't willing to take a flyer on a fringe candidate...when a more electable alternative was present." They were also "fickle benefactors, quick to withdraw their support and focus on other races if a candidate's prospects began to dim. In this way, the donor base acted as a moderating force." Tea Party candidates like Sharron Angle circumvent the party's traditional moneymen, amassing campaign war chests ($14 million this quarter for Angle) through grassroots fundraising. On the surface, this process bears a resemblance to Barack Obama's fundraising during the 2008 primaries. The difference, according to Green, is that while Obama "was never really an outsider; he is a mainstream politician and has governed as such," someone like Angle is a "true radical."

  • Gal Beckerman on the Peace Prize's Subversive Potential  The Chinese government's angry response to jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last week ("a blasphemy," said one government spokesman), reminds the author and Wall Street Journal guest columnist of Russian physicist Andrei Sakharov's win in 1975. "Like Mr. Liu today," writes Beckerman, "Sakharov professed democratic values that his Communist rulers dismissed as Western mores being forced on the rest of the world." Such is the power of the Nobel Prize to bring about change (or at least the threat of change) at home that China, like Soviet Russia before, is compelled "to resort to minimizing a man that the rest of the world was celebrating--the only tactic available to a threatened totalitarian regime worried about perpetuating its own power."
  • Daniel Henninger on How Capitalism Saved Chilean Miners  "The rescue of the Chilean miners is a smashing victory for free-market capitalism," contends The Wall Street Journal columnist. While it may seem churlish to make these claims amidst the joy of the miner's liberation, Henninger explains that if the miners had been trapped 25 years ago they wouldn't have been saved. The Center Rock drill bit, built by a company in Berlin, Pa., was the "miracle" that saved the men in Chile. This little piece of "tough" technology was built for profit. "This profit = innovation dynamic was everywhere at that Chilean mine," Henninger writes. "The high-strength cable winding around the big wheel atop that simple rig is from Germany. Japan supplied the super-flexible, fiber-optic communications cable that linked the miners to the world above." Most of the time no one notices these little innovations: all they do is create "jobs, wealth and well-being."
  • Nicholas Kristof on What We Can Learn From Oman  It's borderline cliché for education to be trumpeted as the key to de-radicalization, and The New York Times columnist concedes as much in his case study of the Arab country of Oman. Still, there are important lessons to be learned from a nation historically similar to Yemen, but which left the fundamentalist track in 1970. Oman today is "peaceful and pro-Western, without the widespread fundamentalism and terrorism that afflict Yemen," writes Kristof. "It's particularly striking how the role of women has been transformed." Many of the standout entrepreneurs in the nation today are female, and the reason is rising educational attainment. The unfortunate fact is that while America pays lip-service to the idea of a global education fund, "nothing has come of it." Instead, the president spends astronomical sums on "American troops in Afghanistan--even though military solutions don't have as good a record in trouble spots as education does."
  • Karl Rove on Why Secret Foreign Money Won't Steal the Election  "I Am No Threat To Democracy" blares the headline of the former Bush architect's latest Wall Street Journal column. President Obama and the Democratic National Committee are making unprovable claims that the Chamber of Commerce is "trying to 'steal our democracy' by funding campaign activities with donations from foreign contributors," argues Rove. These "smears" have already been dismissed by The New York Times and Factcheck.org, says Rove, so why does the president insist on disseminating them? "One explanation is that he is laying the foundation for an alternative narrative--the Democrats lost because Chinese campaign cash allowed Republicans to steal the election." Or perhaps "Mr. Obama hopes to intimidate contributors to the Chamber of Commerce, American Crossroads or Crossroads GPS. If so, his tactic is backfiring."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.