5 Best Wednesday Columns
On TV's forthcoming golden age, Zuckerberg the non-evil non-genius, and Americans "fracking"
Steven Pearlstein on the Costs of Economic Inequality The Washington Post columnist explains why America's rising economic inequality reduces the nation's global competitiveness and long-term growth. While there are many reasons why the top 1 percent of households control such a large percentage of the national income (technology, globalization, shifting attitudes), Pearlstein focuses on the economic reasons for caring about the income gap. "Concentrating so much income in a relatively small number of households has also led to trillions of dollars being spent and invested in ways that were spectacularly unproductive," he explains. Runaway inequality "undermines the unity of purpose necessary for any firm, or any nation, to thrive. People don't work hard, take risks and make sacrifices if they think the rewards will all flow to others."
Holman Jenkins on Americans 'Fracking' Do locals in places like New York and Pennsylvania want an economic boom? Well, they might just have gotten one thanks to the hydraulic fracturing (fracking) of the region's shale deposits, writes The Wall Street Journal columnist. "Hydraulic fracturing combined with horizontal drilling has given energy producers an economical way to release natural gas in this massive, dense formation," he observes. "So stupendous is the potential, it could transform global energy politics and economics." But the anti-fracking factions are moving in: "The political fight is now mutating into a battle of the cities, especially New York and Philadelphia, against their upstate watersheds." Still, Jenkins expects that "money and politics" will "reduce the opposition to manageable proportions."
Victor Davis Hanson on the Realities of American Foreign Policy The standard liberal talking point in the months leading up to the last two presidential elections was that George W. Bush had squandered America's credibility and emboldened its enemies on the global stage. Nearly two years into Barack Obama's first term, writes the National Review columnist, it's obvious the situation is much more complex. From pirates to predator drones, "Obama’s efforts, and the global reactions to them, are reminding the world that global tensions still arise out of perceptions of self-interest, regardless of who is in the White House." For all the talk of restoring America's credibility, Obama and Bush have charted similar courses on foreign policy. This is not because they are kindred spirits, but because the fundamental threats facing America remain the same no matter who occupies the Oval Office. Obama has quickly learned that "when nations act contrary to American interests, they can be finessed somewhat by empathetic American officials, but they remain largely unaffected by apologies, bowing, promulgations of pseudo-history, and therapeutic mythologizing."
Robert Wright on the Non-Evil, Non-Genius of Mark Zuckerberg Was the founder of Facebook just in the right place at the right time? That's the contention Wright makes on his New York Times blog. Zuckerberg's success, he contends, is less attributable to Machiavellian boardroom maneuvers and more the result of "positive network externalities." ( "In English," Wright helpfully explains, "it means that the more members a network has, the more valuable membership in the network is.") Facebook only succeeded because it got a jump start on the competition. "An early lead in market share," writes Wright, "feeds on itself; the bigger your market share, the more valuable your service, and thus the bigger your market share and so on." It doesn't answer the question of whether Zuckerberg stole Facebook, but it helps explains how Facebook became something worth stealing.
Jeff Bewkes on the TV's Forthcoming Golden Age Television is emerging as the dominant medium of the digital age, contends the Time Warner CEO. But the medium is at a "critical moment" in its evolution: content creators need to "stay apace of consumer needs and make strategic decisions that favor long-term sustainability over short-term dollars." For Bewkes the path to the future is clear, in broad ideas like Time Warner's and other companies' "TV Everywhere" strategy, which "operates on a simple but powerful premise: If you have access to television in your home--whether through rabbit ears or a paid cable, satellite or telco subscription--you should be able to view all the channels you receive on demand on whatever broadband device you wish." Harnessing both new technology and the continuing power of television ("TV networks and video programming are among the only media to grow since the advent of the Internet") will help "redefine TV in the 21st century in a way that continues to give viewers the best possible experience, and ensures that great programming will continue to be created and enjoyed."