Five Best Monday Columns

On Jack Kevorkian, antibiotic abuse, and American jobs versus Chinese copyright

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Maryn McKenna on the Dangers of Antibiotic Resistance  Maryn McKenna argues at the Guardian today that "among all the urgent issues raised by [the European E. coli outbreak] outbreak, ... drug resistance should ring the loudest warning bells--and prompt serious consideration of curbing the vast overuse of antibiotics that has created it." McKenna notes that the resistance displayed by the bacteria in this outbreak is not the focus of concern because antibiotics are not used to treat this type of bacteria. Still, the fact this strand of E coli has become so resistant is important, and "demonstrates how freely resistance factors can leapfrog among organisms once they emerge. And that should underline how important it is to slow down the evolution of antibiotic resistance, but cutting back inappropriate use of antibiotics in everyday medicine and on farms."

Matthew Slaughter on Intellectual Property Protection and the Economy  Dartmouth business professor and former Council of Economic Advisers member Matthew Slaughter sheds light on recent report spotlighting the connection between American jobs and increased Chinese protection of American companies' intellectual property rights. Copyright infringement cost technological, publishing and software companies between $48.2 and $90.5 billion in 2009, Slaughter notes in today's Wall Street Journal. Clamping down on intellectual-property rights in China would improve such companies' annual revenue, "could eventually create up to 2.1 million U.S. jobs," and, as a result, even boost the construction industry as improved incomes will encourage more home building. "Oh, and it wouldn't cost taxpayers a dime in new government spending. Thanks to higher payroll tax receipts it would probably help close, not expand, America's massive fiscal debt."  Slaughter points out that "China may be on the rise, but the U.S. retains a comparative advantage in knowledge-intensive activities, thanks to such strengths as outstanding universities and a culture of risk-taking." Still, enforcing copyright protection would also help Chinese industries as well. "China will not become a global leader in innovation if its government does not safeguard the fruits of its research and development."

Mary Anastasia O'Grady on the Failed Drug War  The recent recognition by the Global Commission on Drug Policy, that the war on drugs has failed, is reminiscent of John D. Rockefeller Jr.'s admission, in 1932, that the prohibition experiment had, too, been a failure, notes Mary Anastasia O'Grady in The Wall Street Journal today. "Like Rockefeller, the commission members do not embrace a laissez-faire policy toward drug use. But they recognize, as he did, that the attempt to use force to halt consumption has been disastrous," O'Grady writes. "They recommend alternative approaches to controlling substances and more emphasis on treatment for addicts." The time and money spent on the drug war has done nothing to reduce the prevalence of mind-altering drugs in American society, as "school children report that they can easily access narcotics...American jails are taking in record numbers of young minorities and converting them into hardened criminals; gang violence is on the rise; organized crime is undermining U.S. geopolitical interests in places like Mexico, Central America and Afghanistan. Thousands of innocents, including children, have been killed in the mayhem." O'Grady suggests that the general attitude towards drugs in our culture could, perhaps, be changed through education--"stigmatizing use, as was done with cigarettes. But until then, victory is unlikely."

Natasha Kandic on Serbia's Need to Acknowledge and Relinquish Its Violent History  Although Ratko Mladic's recent arrest "represents the closing of a dark chapter in [Serbia's] history and a removal of the mark of shame that has stained the Serbian people for two decades," Natasha Kandic points to the lack of acknowledgement of the "many other perpetrators of genocide during the 1990s or of the responsibility the Serbian state bears for those crimes. Once again, it seems, we might lose the chance to open a painful but necessary debate about the past." Even after his arrest, which "brought relief to the families of victims," Mladic has been treated like a VIP prisoner. "Such adulation of murderers is dangerous in a region where the wounds of war have not yet healed," writes Kandic, director of Serbia's Humanitarian Law Center, in The New York Times. She cites several examples of nationalism's pervasiveness in the region and general disassociation from the crimes that have been committed in its name. She insists, "the region desperately needs an honest debate about the past. It is the only way to recognize all victims and to stop the lies we tell about ourselves and about others." She urges the creation of a genocidal victim's commission for all the former Yugoslavian states. "If adopted, it will put an end to the age-old Balkan practice of leaving victims nameless."

Ross Douthat on 'The Right to Die'  New York Times columnist Ross Douthat lays out lays out the case for assisted suicide, explaining why it is problematic. If we accept the late Jack Kevorkian's argument that suffering patients have a right to dictate the terms of their death, and hold that dispatching a patient in suffering is only allowable if the patient wishes to be dispatched, that "means that the moral case for assisted suicide depends much more on our respect for people's own desire to die than on our sympathy for their devastating medical conditions." He continues: "if participating in a suicide is legally and ethically acceptable, in other words, it can't just be because cancer is brutal and dementia is dehumanizing. It can only be because there's a right to suicide." But once this right is accepted, how do we determine when it may be exercised? "Not every unbearable agony is medical: if a man losing a battle with Parkinson’s disease can claim the relief of physician-assisted suicide, then why not a devastated widower, or a parent who has lost her only child?" Douthat points out that Kevorkian himself did not discriminate, "he helped anyone whose suffering seemed sufficient to warrant his deadly assistance."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.