Five Best Thursday Columns

Daniel Gross on the consequences of tax hikes, Jeffrey Toobin on the fight for gay marriage, Bob Garfield on the golden age of journalism, Jonathan Mahler on Florida Gulf Coast University, and Avik Roy on the right to health care.

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Daniel Gross at The Daily Beast on the actual consequences of recent tax hikes For much of December, observes Daniel Gross, we were fretting about a set of automatic tax increases set to trigger on the first day of the New Year. "The notion was that putting these taxes on the rich and middle-class, taxing income and investments, at a time when the economy was going at a painfully slow rate, would cause people to stop spending and investing, go Galt, and send the economy into a recession," Gross writes. "To read the Wall Street Journal editorial page, you would have thought Hugo Chávez had been named to succeed Barack Obama." So what happened? Most simply, the economy has improved: "The good things happening in the economy are more powerful than the drag of higher taxes ... people are generally feeling more wealthy thanks to the soaring stock market and rising housing market."

Jeffrey Toobin at The New Yorker on the fight for — and against — gay marriage The fight for gay marriage is over — and gay marriage advocates have won. Having reported from the steps of the Supreme Court for the last two days, Jeffrey Toobin assess the mood around him: "Everyone knows that same-sex marriage is here to stay; indeed, it’s expanding throughout the country at a pace that few could have imagined just a few years ago. The Justices were not irrelevant to the process, but they weren’t central either. They knew that—and so did everyone else." Nowhere else was this mood more evident than in the oral arguments delivered in Tuesday and Wednesday, during which Justice Elena Kagan "had the temerity to tell what everyone knew to be the truth—that DOMA was a bigoted law designed to humiliate and oppress gay people."

Bob Garfield at The Guardian on the golden age of journalism Responding to Matthew Yglesias's contention that we are living in the "glory days" of American journalism, Bob Garfield takes a more cynical stance. "All of that fantastic content Yglesias was gushing about is paid for by venture capitalists making bad bets, established media companies digging into their savings accounts to pay the bills, displaced workers earning peanuts, amateurs, semi-pros, volunteers and monks," Garfield writes. He sees no hope the kind of free, widely-available content that characterizes the present day. "Anyone who cares deeply about quality, independent journalism should pray for paywalls and other subscription models to take hold. Because in the world of the smart and the desperate, desperate always has the last word."

Jonathan Mahler at Bloomberg View on the success of Florida Gulf Coast University So, about that fifteenth-seeded team from Florida Gulf Coast University that managed to trounce second-seeded Georgetown last week and move on to the Sweet 16. Jonathan Mahler takes a look at the school's economics department, where students are required to read Atlas Shrugged and whose faculty focus their attention on market capitalism, to figure out why we're talking about a college that was founded in 1991. "Don’t waste your time wooing Nobel laureates to your faculty or trying to recruit National Merit Scholars to a college they’ve never heard of," Mahler recommends, after studying the rise of F.G.C.U., whose leaders "recognized from the start that nothing would raise the young school’s profile like sports — men’s basketball in particular."

Avik Roy at Forbes on the right to health care "It’s a great applause line, isn’t it, to say that 'health care is a universal human right,'" acknowledges Avik Roy in a meditation on the nature of rights in the health care debate. "But after the applause has died down, we’re left with the question that the left rarely takes time to answer: what is health care?" Assessing health care in two different ways — as a negative right and as a positive right — he finds fault with both. As a negative right, Roy acknowledges that, under capitalism, the most vulnerable individuals will not obtain care. As a positive right, however, he wants to make clear — given the upcoming implementation of Obamacare — that "we could provide better, and more affordable, coverage for everyone if we understood the degree to which classical liberal principles, like choice and competition and voluntarism, can achieve a superior form of universal health care."

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