Five Best Friday Columns

Camille Standen on China's population control, Claire Vaye Watkins on Ivy League recruitment, Patrick J. Buchanan on American morality, Paul Ford on the hilarity of Bitcoin, and Jonathan Chait on the GOP's need for immigration reform.

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Camille Standen at Vice on China's population control "In China," writes Camille Standen, "women are the runt of society's litter." Established by the Chinese government in the late Seventies to clamp down on over-population, the country's well-known one-child-per-couple policy, which applies to a third of its citizens, has visited violence upon Chinese women, Standen shows, with both vivid anecdotes (accompanied by even more vivid imagery) and the hard data of China's gender imbalance. "This invasive method of population control—the answer to the legacy of overpopulation left behind by Mao Zedong—has created a long list of horrors that, besides child trafficking, includes infanticide, gendercide, infant abandonment, and forced abortions, all used by families desperate to meet the set child quotas."

Claire Vaye Watkins in The New York Times on Ivy League recruitment While the Ancient Eight continue to increase their racial diversity, one underserved segment of the population remains absent in Cambridge and New Haven: the rural poor. Claire Vaye Watkins argues that, in order to break the hardened class barrier of elite education, colleges should mimic the tactics of military recruiters, who vastly outnumbered college representatives at her high school in Pahrump, Nevada. "Is it any wonder that students in Pahrump and throughout rural America are more likely to end up in Afghanistan than at N.Y.U.?" Watkins asks. Like recruiters, she writes, college need to take the hand of talented but poor students in order to truly represent the country. "Competitive colleges have far more applicants than they can handle. But if these colleges are truly committed to diversity, they have to start paying attention to the rural poor."

Patrick J. Buchanan in The American Conservative on American morality The recent oral arguments before the Supreme Court on gay marriage cast light on the moral division of our country, argues Patrick J. Buchanan. "Traditionalist America has always held homosexuality to be unnatural and immoral, ruinous to body and soul alike," Buchanan writes. For others, "homosexuality is natural and normal. They were born this way. And to deny homosexuals the freedom to engage in consensual sexual relations, or the right to marry, is bigotry as odious as was discrimination against black Americans." Can the country survive without a common sense of what is right and wrong? Buchanan is skeptical. "If we no longer stand on the same moral ground, after we have made a conscious decision to become the most racially, ethnically, culturally diverse people on earth, what in the world holds us together?"

Paul Ford at Bloomberg Businessweek on the hilarity of Bitcoin The most talked-about currency isn't the Euro or the dollar — in fact, it's not really a currency at all. Invented in 2009, Bitcoin uses a distributed algorithm, not the backing of any government, to generate scarcity and thus value. To Paul Ford, this makes it something of an elaborate joke. "Given that the founder is nowhere to be found, it feels like a hoax, a parody of the global economy," he writes, referring to the reclusive author of Bitcoin's underlying code. "That the technology used to implement it has, so far, shown itself to be impeccable and completely functional, and that it’s actually being exchanged, just makes it a better joke." Bitcoin, he argues, doesn't subvert global capitalism — it embodies it. "Bitcoin isn’t tied to any commodity—besides trust. As a statement on the global economy, Bitcoin is hilarious. As a currency for the disenfranchised and distrustful, it’s as serious as can be."

Jonathan Chait at New York on the GOP's need for immigration reform Meditating on Congressman Don Young's recent use of the epithet "wetback" to describe migrant workers, Jonathan Chait says the incident further emphasizes the necessity of a GOP compromise on immigration reform. "One way to think about Young’s gaffe is as evidence of the cultural barrier that makes it so wrenching for Republicans to embrace comprehensive immigration reform," Chait writes. "But the better way to think about it is that comments like Young’s are why immigration reform will probably pass." Passing immigration reform, he argues, will greatly reduce the opportunity for Republican gaffes, and the cycle of outrage they occasion: "The uglier the debate, the more imperative it becomes that Republicans find a way to change the ending and prove that the Don Youngs don’t really speak for them."

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