Five Best Wednesday Columns

Hillary Clinton on trade with Russia, Tim Wu on free speech for computers, Noah Feldman on Egypt's looming crisis, Chen Guangcheng on his nephew's detainment, and Peter Orszag on compulsory voting.

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Hillary Clinton in The Wall Street Journal on trade with Russia With Russia set to join the World Trade Organization, Clinton argues for the repeal of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment, originally instituted to restrict trade with the Soviet Union because of its policies toward emigrating Jews. "Four decades after the adoption of this amendment, a vote to extend permanent normal trading relations to Russia will be a vote to create jobs in America. Until then, Russia's markets will open and our competitors will benefit, but U.S. companies will be disadvantaged," Clinton writes. She notes that some hope the Jackson-Vanik argument will continue to put pressure on Russia for its human rights abuses. "We disagree—and so do leaders of Russia's political opposition. They have called on the U.S. to terminate Jackson-Vanik, despite their concerns about human rights and the Magnitsky case."

Tim Wu in The New York Times on computers and free speech Wu highlights an interesting legal debate over the "free speech" of computer programs like Google's search algorithms or Facebook's friend finders.  "Is there a compelling argument that computerized decisions should be considered speech? As a matter of legal logic, there is some similarity among Google, Ann Landers, Socrates and other providers of answers," he writes, but, "The First Amendment has wandered far from its purposes when it is recruited to protect commercial automatons from regulatory scrutiny." He traces the legal argument's origins in a 2003 Google civil suit and worries that protecting computer speech could become a powerful anti-regulatory tool that would hurt consumers.

Noah Feldman in Bloomberg View on Egypt's looming crisis With Egypt's Islamists and its ruling military council increasingly at odds, Feldman wonders how the conflict could end without spoiling the promise of the Arab Spring. "The struggle could be peacefully resolved in several ways - - none very likely," he says. The Muslim Brotherhood could cede all power to the military. The public could again protest and force the military to cede power to democratically elected leaders. Or a power-sharing structure like Turkey's could be forged. He warns Egypt to avoid Algeria's example. "After the first contemporary Arab democratic experiment took place there two decades ago, the military reacted to Islamist victory by reversing the electoral results and declaring martial law. The war that followed lasted for years."

Chen Guangcheng in The Washington Post on his nephew's detainment The blind Chinese dissident once again takes to the op-ed pages to protest the Chinese government's treatment of his associates in the wake of his move to America. "In the month since my wife, children and I arrived in the United States from China, the extraordinary official surveillance and restrictions imposed on my family members who remain in our home village reportedly have started to abate," he says. "While some may derive cautious optimism from these developments, the situation cannot be rectified until the police release my nephew, Chen Kegui, who has been unlawfully detained for six weeks." Chen recounts his nephew's confrontation with unidentified "thugs" who broke into his home, portraying it as self-defense, and he warns that the government has risked "severe popular condemnation on the Internet and across social media platforms that will exacerbate political instability in our country."

Peter Orszag in Bloomberg View on compulsory voting As we head into another election cycle, Orszag argues for a compulsory voting system similar to one in Australia, where voting rates now stand at about 91 percent compared to our own less than 60 percent. Orszag presents political science research that claims a huge jump in participation probably wouldn't affect the party structure. But by minimizing the effect of turn-out-the-vote operations and negative ads, it "could alter the role of money in elections" and more symbolically, "it could allow the first president in history to be elected by a majority of American adults."

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