Jared Diamond in The New York Times on Romney's cultural argument Diamond, author of Guns, Germs, and Steel, takes issue with Mitt Romney's summary of his book's argument, made during his controversial comments on Israeli and Palestinian culture. "It is not true that my book Guns, Germs and Steel, as Mr. Romney described it in a speech in Jerusalem, 'basically says the physical characteristics of the land account for the differences in the success of the people that live there. There is iron ore on the land and so forth.'" Diamond writes, "That is so different from what my book actually says that I have to doubt whether Mr. Romney read it." He charts a more nuanced argument about the causes of a nation's relative wealth and power, citing cultural, economic, and geographic explanations.
Juliette Kayyem in The Boston Globe on India's power outage Power failures in India this week kept 670 million people without electricity. "The consequences of India's historic failure to modernize its power sector had finally become evident," Kayyem writes. "India is not the United States, obviously, and such a debilitating power outage throughout this country is impossible to imagine — but more blackouts of the sort that struck the Northeast in 2003 are quite foreseeable. We're not India, but we're not doing all we should to update a vastly outmoded grid system." Just as conservatives point to Greece as a warning about overspending, we should use India as a cautionary tale for those who would avoid investment in our infrastructure, she says.
Steve Salbu in The New York Times on Chick-fil-A and city governments The outrage over Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy's remarks on gay marriage was "predictable," Salbu says. "But less predictable — and troubling — was that officials in a number of cities expressed not only their ire but also their desire to keep Chick-fil-A out of their towns," he writes. "Those who disagree with him are free to boycott Chick-fil-A in protest. But if our elected officials run Chick-fil-A out of town, they are effectively voting for all of us, regardless of our respective beliefs, and eliminating our individual freedoms. And freedom, after all, is at the heart of the controversy over same-sex marriage."
Michael Kinsley in Bloomberg View on success and government help Kinsley lists differences in average monthly earnings for professionals from different countries -- a U.S. pilot makes $4,206 to a Lithuanian pilot's $1,674 -- to dispute Mitt Romney's favorite argument of late. "If Obama is insulting successful people by suggesting that their success doesn't necessarily result entirely from their own hard work and brainpower, doesn't that mean that Romney is insulting the vast majority of folks who are unsuccessful ... by implying that they are lazy and stupid?" Kinsley worries that Obama's argument -- made in his much discussed "you didn't build that" remarks -- is often used to justify unnecessary government spending. "However, as the international comparisons demonstrate, you don't have to favor any particular form of government spending in order to reject the notion that a person's success is, and in a capitalist system should be, built entirely on his or her own efforts."
Robert Samuelson in The Washington Post on medical imaging costs Samuelson notes how advances in medical imaging have helped improve health over the decades, but also how unnecessary imaging tests have expanded Medicare spending. "We now have a study suggesting, optimistically, that proper incentives can concentrate new technologies on the patients who might most benefit," he writes. "The question is 'how to stop physicians from just going with the flow and thereby breaking the bank,' says Levy, [an MIT economist]. Some combination of prior notification, higher patient co-payments and restrained reimbursements might do the trick."