Five Best Sunday Columns

On tiger economies, grown-up candidates, and Franzen on Facebook

This article is from the archive of our partner .

Jonathan Franzen on Technology and Love. "The ultimate goal of technology, the telos of techne, is to replace a natural world that’s indifferent to our wishes... with a world so responsive to our wishes as to be, effectively, a mere extension of the self," writes author Jonathan Franzen. Indeed, "our technology has become extremely adept at creating products that correspond to our fantasy ideal of an erotic relationship." One prominent example of the commodification of love is the Facebook "like" button. As the desperation to be liked in humans is manipulative, technology products are "great allies and enablers of narcissism." But the "world of liking is ultimately a lie... And this is why love is such an existential threat to the techno-consumerist order: it exposes the lie." It is "tempting to avoid love and stay safely in the world of liking," but "when you consider the alternative — an anesthetized dream of self-sufficiency, abetted by technology — pain emerges as the natural product and natural indicator of being alive in a resistant world. To go through a life painlessly is to have not lived."

Liam Halligan on Politicians at the IMF. "Lagarde has, with a depressing inevitability, secured the backing of most European countries," notes Halligan, "Europe seems determined to retain its prerogative of appointing the boss of the world's most important financial watchdog." However, he argues that the IMF "needs to reflect the extent to which the world has changed since it was launched" rather than choosing Lagarde. The next IMF boss, "while not hailing from the West, also shouldn't be a politician," particularly one "still hankering after high office," as was the case with Dominique Strauss-Kahn, and now may be with Lagarde. "If she lands the IMF job, which seems likely, Lagarde will be well placed, if she can avoid her own judicial pitfalls, to run for the Élysée in 2017. This will be on her mind every single day she spends at the helm of the Fund – which is precisely why she's unsuitable."

Nicholas D. Kristof on India vs. China. "India has been a bit of an embarrassment for those of us who believe in democracy, especially when compared with China," opines Kristof, because the "Communist Party in China did a much better job fighting poverty than democratically elected Indian governments." However, after his recent trips to both countries, he notes that things may be changing. "Despite the global economic slowdown, India’s economy is now hurtling along at more than 8 percent per year. Yep, India is now a 'tiger economy.'" While "India still lags far behind China, change is in the air due to three factors: "First, India’s independent news media and grass-roots civic organizations... Second, China’s economy may be slowed by the aging of its population... and third, India has managed religious and ethnic tensions pretty well, aside from the disgraceful anti-Muslim pogroms in Gujarat in 2002."

Peter B. Bach and Robert Kocher on Free Medical School. Doctors are richly rewarded in their fields; however, Bach and Kocher argue that huge medical school debts cause many doctors to "shun primary care in favor of highly paid specialties, where there are incentives to give expensive treatments and order expensive tests, an important driver of rising health care costs." With our aging population, fixing health care "without a larger pool of competent primary care doctors" will be "impossible." By their estimates, "we can make medical school free for roughly $2.5 billion per year — about one-thousandth of what we spend on health care in the United States each year. What’s more, we can offset most if not all of the cost of medical school without the government’s help by charging doctors for specialty training... while this may seem like a lot to ask of future specialists, these same doctors will have paid nothing for medical school and, through their specialty training, would be virtually assured highly lucrative jobs. "

Elaine Karmack on the Serious GOP Candidate Field. "After some weeks of hand-wringing over the need to have a 'grown-up' in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, we now have a field of them," writes Karmack. But after Trump and Palin, "will voters be content with this group of boring guys"? In Karmack's opinion, the "grown-up" candidate does not always win. "Gore joined a long list of serious candidates who had failed. Before him came Bob Dole, a war veteran and a serious legislator with a wonderfully dry sense of humor... Former Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis was very much a grown-up, but he ran a soulless campaign in 1988... And later, in 2004, came John Kerry, the second grown-up Democrat to lose to the man who couldn’t talk straight." What we really want is a combination in one candidate of "both the grown-up and the candidate you’d most want to play a game of pick-up basketball with." Republicans are still yearning for that person.

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