Five Best Saturday Columns

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The Editors of the Wall Street Journal on How Texas Adds Jobs. The Wall Street Journal notes the "remarkable fact" that "37% of all net new American jobs since the recovery began were created in Texas." Moreover, Texas is also among the few states that are "home to more jobs than when the recession began in December 2007." So what explain the state's success? What makes it stand out, according to the Journal, is "its free market and business-friendly climate... Texas has no state income tax. Its regulatory conditions are contained and flexible. It is fiscally responsible and government is small. Its right-to-work law doesn't impose unions on businesses or employees. It is open to global trade and competition." Richard Fisher, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, also told the Journal that the state's ongoing reform of the tort system has given it "huge competitive advantages," according to CEOs and other business leaders. The Journal concludes that "the core impulse of Obamanomics is to make America less like Texas and more like California, with more government, more unions, more central planning, higher taxes. That the former added 37% of new U.S. jobs suggests what an historic mistake this has been."

Charles M. Blow on the Failed War on Drugs. "Friday marks the 40th anniversary of one of the biggest, most expensive, most destructive social policy experiments in American history," writes Charles M. Blow, referencing America's War on Drugs. He characterizes the war as "a self-perpetuating, trillion-dollar economy of wasted human capital, ruined lives and decimated communities." The real casualty of this war has been, he posits, the black community. "An effort meant to save us from a form of moral decay became its own insidious brand of moral perversion — turning people who should have been patients into prisoners, criminalizing victimless behavior, targeting those whose first offense was entering the world wrapped in the wrong skin." But despite reports, including last week's Report of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, that the war has failed, the Obama administration continues to bring forth "debatable" statistics about its success. "In doing so, it completely sidestepped the human, economic and societal toll of the mass incarceration of millions of Americans, many for simple possession. No need to put a human face on 40 years of folly when you can swaddle its inefficacy in a patchwork quilt of self-serving statistics."

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The Editors of the Los Angeles Times on Facebook's Privacy Problem. "Nothing gives people the creeps more than the sense that some hidden force is watching them. In George Orwell's telling of this story, that force was a totalitarian government surveilling the public to suppress dissent," writes the Los Angeles Times. Today, the problem is Facebook. The company is now using facial recognition software to help users identify the people in the snapshots they upload to the social network. "Facebook's users collectively upload millions of photos daily, and the company has long encouraged them to add digital tags identifying the people in them. What it didn't tell users was that it was using that information to build a database of facial images." While this current feature "isn't as disturbing as it could be," it still discloses "information about others who might not welcome the exposure." Moreover, there is concern as to what it might do with the information eventually. Although Facebook admitted "it should have given users a clearer heads-up when automatic identification was enabled. What it really should have done, though, was ask them to opt in instead of merely, quietly, giving them a way out."

John Fund on the Citizen Ballot Initiative. "Twenty-four states currently allow voters to write their own laws through the initiative process, sidestepping gridlocked legislatures to pass statutes or constitutional amendments," writes John Fund. But now "the political class is trying to rein it in... State courts, especially in Florida and Oregon, are striking down ballot measures with abandon, usually on the grounds that they deal with more than one subject... [and] state legislatures are cracking down on the signature-gatherers that are the heart of the initiative process." But in no state has this been worse than in Colorado, where "both houses of the legislature passed a requirement that any change to the state's constitution be passed with 60% voter approval, rather than the current simple majority." According to Fund, "it's fashionable these days for elites to disparage popular democracy... But in reality, the initiative process serves as a popular check on out-of-touch legislators and reminds everyone that it's the voters who should be in charge of the politicians, not the other way around."

The Editors of the New York Times on NATO's Dim Future. Defense Secretary Robert Gates spoke "bluntly" to America’s NATO allies on Friday, and according to the Times, "they needed to hear it." NATO is in "far deeper trouble than most members admit," particularly because there needs to be "more and wiser European military spending." As Gates similarly indicated, "this country can no longer afford to do a disproportionate share of NATO’s fighting and pay a disproportionate share of its bills while Europe slashes its defense budgets and free-rides on the collective security benefits." NATO's performance in Libya, deemed "shockingly wobbly," should alert the Pentagon to "Europe's weakness." This "free-rider problem" has gotten even worse over the last two decades: "During most of the cold war, the United States accounted for 50 percent of total NATO military spending; today it accounts for 75 percent."  And the need for Europe does not simply mean more resources for fighting. "Combat is not always the best or only solution. NATO needs those European development and peacekeeping capabilities." Unless this is remedied, NATO will grow "increasingly hollow," and Gates' successor Leon Panetta should push further as well. "A two-tiered military alliance is really no alliance at all."

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