Five Best Wednesday Columns

Kate Losse on Sheryl Sandberg's Facebook feminism, Maureen Dowd on the legacy of the Supreme Court, James C. Capretta on explaining conservative economic policy, Matthew Yglesias on NIMBY-ism, and Jack Shafer on boy genius Nick D'Aloisio.

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Kate Losse in Dissent on Sheryl Sandberg's feminist vision By writing Lean In, Kate Losse declares, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg isn't just describing her own experience in corporate leadership, she's sketching out a feminist philosophy. As a former Facebook employee, Losse sees Sandberg's book as a way for Facebook to deal with women demanding equal treatment in Silicon Valley. "Feminism is a threat to Facebook," Loss writes, "just as Instagram or Snapchat were threats to Facebook's photo-sharing business." This Facebook feminism, Losse argues, is oriented around the idea that work is life, and life is work, making the liberation of women palatable to intense work environments like the one at Facebook. Lean In "teaches women more about how to serve their companies than it teaches companies about how to be fairer places for women to work."

Maureen Dowd in The New York Times on the legacy of the Supreme Court Heading into the second day of oral arguments on the topic of gay marriage, Maureen Dowd is less than optimistic that nine Justices of the Supreme Court can adequately assess the impact of marriage on the lives of Americans. "How could the nine, cloistered behind velvety rose curtains, marble pillars and archaic customs, possibly assess the potential effects of gay marriage?" Dowd asks. She says the Justices, besides suffering from a lack of empathy, also suffer from a lack of foresight — and, here and now, moral courage. "This court is plenty bold imposing bad decisions on the country, like anointing W. president or allowing unlimited money to flow covertly into campaigns. But given a chance to make a bold decision putting them on the right, and popular, side of history, they squirm."

James C. Capretta at the American Enterprise Institute on explaining conservative economic policy "American electoral politics suffers from wildly unrealistic expectations about the power of elected officials — especially the president — to determine the nation's economic performance," writes James C. Capretta. Still, "competing candidates and parties have no choice but to try to convince voters that their approach to economic management is far superior to the approach of the opposing party." On that note, Capretta argues, conservative politicians have failed to persuade voters because, like their liberal counterparts, they tend to ignore the complexity of our economic system. "The events and policies that led up to the financial crisis are too complex to lend themselves to simplistic talking points," he notes. "... But surely some articulation of what really happened would have been far better than implicitly accepting — through collective Republican silence — the argument that it was all 'Bush's fault.'"

Matthew Yglesias at Slate on the peril of the Not in My Back Yard philosophy of urban development Any urban dweller is familiar with campaigns to move bars and restaurants away from residential neighborhoods — after all, such establishments are often noisy, and increase cumbersome foot traffic. But pushing them away has unintended side effects, says Matthew Yglesias. Noting that such businesses are uniquely situated to occupy the irregular habitat of the city block, Yglesias argues that quieter retail stores can't just replace bars or eateries zones out of existence, since big box stores often need, well, big boxes — not a narrow store front that once hosted a hole-in-the-wall bar. Plus, bars and restaurants attract and supplement other businesses: concert halls and theater spaces, for example. "Cities need to recognize that bars and restaurants are not the ugly stepchildren of the modern urban economy: They are its greatest strength."

Jack Shafer at Reuters on 'boy genius' Nick D'Aloisio The $30 million sale of Summly, an app which algorithmically summarizes long-form text, attracted an A1 story in The New York Times not because of the amount of money (which is small, for Silicon Valley) but for the age of its creator, Nick D'Aloisio, who is 17 years old. But the story is a bit more prosaic, writes Jack Shafer, who highlights the "adult supervision" under which D'Aloisio worked, the fact that Summly generates zero revenue, and the age of other recent tech stars, like Mark Zuckerberg. "That a tech entrepreneur might be on the youngish side of the age divide is not something that should come as a surprise to anyone, especially at this late date in tech history," he argues. All of which should subtract from our awe of such a young person's success. But it won't: "The only way the Summly story could be better would be if D’Aloisio had been orphaned as a baby and was about to graduate from wizard school."

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