"The Liberty Scam: Why even Robert Nozick, the philosophical father of libertarianism, gave up on the movement he inspired," by Stephen Metcalf. A Harvard philosopher rescued the moral ideal of liberty from cranks and shills and restored it to credibility — only to abandon it amid the excesses of the "Me" Decade. Amid today's libertarian resurgence, Metcalf finds lessons in the arc of Nozick's thinking.
"Silence of the Lambs: For do-gooder NGOs in Cambodia, accommodation with the regime is very profitable," by Ken Silverstein. Some of the aid groups working in Cambodia are clearing landmines, fighting HIV/AIDS, and exposing governmental malfeasance. But many others seem to exist mainly for their own sake, Silverstein reports—even if it means participating in the corruption.
"Supreme Court Year in Review," by Paul Clement, Walter Dellinger, and Dahlia Lithwick. In a year short on blockbuster Supreme Court cases, the most compelling legal controversy may be one that involves the government's other two branches: Has President Obama overstepped his powers by intervening in Libya without congressional approval?
"Why So Angry, Dad?Go the F**k to Sleep exposes yuppie parents' sexlessness, self-pity, and repressed rage," by Katie Roiphe. While the profane best-seller is superficially funny, its real power is in its "Sartre-like bleakness and claustrophobia," Roiphe writes. But if today's yuppie parents are filled with quiet desperation and rage, they have only themselves to blame.
"A Brand-New Plan for Afghanistan: Obama's troop withdrawal marks a dramatic—and risky—shift in strategy," by Fred Kaplan. Military leaders worry that Obama's drawdown plan will embolden the Taliban. But his shift from counterinsurgency to the more modest strategy of "counterterrorism plus" is an acknowledgement that what worked in Iraq seemed to be faltering in Afghanistan.
"The Winningest Loser: Swedish soccer star Zlatan Ibrahimović confounds the sports world's most-cherished clichés," by Brian Phillips. The vulpine striker has achieved the ridiculous feat of winning nine league championships in 10 years with five different teams. And he's done it all while piling up a résumé of consistently bizarre and embarrassing antics.
"The New New World: Americans visiting Dubai know how 19th-century Europeans must have felt when they saw the United States," by Anne Applebaum. Dubai's explosive development has wrought a city marked by wealth and vulgarity. The author finds herself simultaneously repulsed and intrigued.
"Who Is Jose Antonio Vargas? A prominent journalist comes out as an illegal immigrant, raising additional questions about his real identity," by Jack Shafer. Reporter-editor relationships are based on trust. Though Shafer considers himself an "immigration dove," he's troubled by the lies the Pulitzer Prize winner told his employers over the years.
"The Pity Suck: How my baby weaned me," by Julie Rottenberg. The author tells her story, of how a proudly independent woman became a desperately clingy breast-pumping addict. Then came rejection, denial, and finally heartbreak, as her baby cut her off cold turkey. Rottenberg reflects on the vulnerability of a mother's love.
"Class Dismissed: The Supreme Court decides that the women of Wal-Mart can't have their day in court," by Dahlia Lithwick. In what may be the most important ruling of the current term, the high court gave America's largest private employer a free pass on charges of gender discrimination and chipped away at the scope of class action litigation. The disturbing message: If you want to get away with discrimination, make sure you do it on a massive scale.