Five Best Monday Columns

Alexander Nazaryan on the trap of literary jealousy, Anne Kim on the promise of on-shoring, Barbara Ellen on the rhetoric of povery, Arthur Brooks on the GOP's moral calculus, and Anya Kamenetz on the danger of universities' expansion overseas.

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Alexander Nazaryan in Salon on the trap of literary jealousy The New York Daily News's book critic weighs the two opposing imperatives of the literary mind: to write something good enough that others will read it, and to be aware of everything — especially the success of others — in search of inspiration. Burdened with the carcasses of several unfinished novels — "novelistic fetuses in various states of abortion" — Alexander Nazaryan turned to reviewing the kinds of books he wanted to write, only to savage their authors for falling short of his invisible, and unwritten, ideal. "As my own rejection letters piled up," Nazaryan writes, "it became unbearable to stomach the notion that others — many of whom seemed, from their biographies, to have sacrificed much less than I had — were being celebrated while I lurked in the byways of the literary world."

Anne Kim in the Washington Monthly on the promise of on-shoring Will on-shoring — the dynamic by which U.S. companies return their manufacturing departments to American soil — really manage to help the economy? Yes, according to Anne Kim, a policy analyst for the Corporation for Enterprise Development, but not in the way you might think. "Insourcing is unlikely to be the magic elixir for a job market that’s only slowly gaining steam more than three years after the official end of the Great Recession," she writes. "Only some jobs are coming back, and not in nearly large enough numbers to reverse the overall decline in U.S. manufacturing employment." But: "At stake is something much broader—America’s future capacity for innovation."

Barbara Ellen in The Guardian on the rhetoric of poverty The way the West describes the powerless and the poor is becoming increasingly brutal — and, at the same pace, acceptable, argues Barbara Ellen. "It didn't seem so long ago that most people would think twice about denigrating fellow citizens who were having a hard time. These days, it appears to have been sanctioned as a new national bloodsport, regularly slipping under the PC-radar as little else manages to," Ellen observes. Citing a study performed by three churches in Britain, she assesses how such rancor — among policymakers and citizens alike — came about: "At the risk of stating the bleeding obvious, the poor are poor. They have no money, no voice, no representatives, and no means to establish their own public profile," Ellen writes. "Poverty is a big domino – once it falls, everything goes."

Arthur Brooks in The Wall Street Journal on fixing the GOP's moral calculus Is the Republican Party — as we are so often told — the party of the rich? Acknowledging the rhetorical sleights of such phrases as "the 47 percent" and "makers and takers," Arthur Brooks frames his party's problem: "Conservatives are fighting a losing battle of moral arithmetic. They hand an argument with virtually 100% public support—care for the vulnerable—to progressives, and focus instead on materialistic concerns and minority moral viewpoints" such as "sexual purity" and "respect for authority." "The answer" to making up for the GOP's election losses, Brooks argues, "is to make improving the lives of vulnerable people the primary focus of authentically conservative policies."

Anya Kamenetz in Newsweek on the danger of universities' expansion overseas Can the outposts of major American universities — like Yale and NYU — match the academic rigor of their home campuses? Highlighting the financial arrangements that drive universities to hang their hats in countries like Abu Dhabi and Singapore, Kamenetz questions the ability of these American institutions to preserve their dedication to free speech and inquiry abroad. "For nearly every university branching out overseas," she writes, "there are faculty and students raising alarms—on discrimination, educational quality, civil liberties, academic freedom, financial motivations, and the political implications of trying to establish such a core democratic institution on nondemocratic soil."

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