Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Your Child's Death or Her Taxes: Guess Which One Megan McArdle Picks





"I need medical care for my child but I'm worried it will decrease Megan McArdle's income."


Megan McArdle has a problem.

Drug companies are raising prices dramatically; drug costs now account for "17% of overall personal health care services" and people are starting to talk about using government power to bring them down to an appropriate level. Once again, Nancy Drew is on the case!

However, it's never been very clear why McArdle has such a personal interest in preserving the extravagant success of drug companies. It's very clear that she's willing to lie and deceive to support them but the why is much less clear.

Of all things, why medical care? She has a knee-jerk reaction to Obamacare, Medicare, Medicaid, and Great Britain's NHS. She has said that she'd rather pay for a doctor out of pocket than have the government involved in health care and destroy drug innovation. McArdle risked her precious career to lie for them.

Although McArdle's only concern is the cultivation and happiness of Megan McArdle, and her tendency towards greed was reinforced and deepened by disappointed monetary expectations, one can only guess.

Say, I just had a stray thought. I wonder how much money McArdle has in drug company stocks?

Back to her post:
“The health of Americans should not be a profit center. Health care is a right. Full stop.”
That comes from the Twitter feed of personal finance writer Helaine Olen. But it could have issued straight from the heart of any progressive in the land.
Remember the episode of Star Trek called, "Mirror, Mirror," with the Good Enterprise crew and the bearded Evil alternate universe crew? Olen is the Good Enterprise mirror image of McArdle.
Subjecting health care to the sordid whims of the marketplace strikes many people as simply immoral.
Yes, raising the price of EpiPens from $57 to $600 might appear to be immoral, but McArdle wants to assure you otherwise. The parents of kids who will die from anaphylactic shock but can't afford the cost of the pen will no doubt be infinitely relieved by her reassurance.
Nor is this feeling confined to the left. Conservatives may be less enthusiastic about socialized medicine, but talk to one about the health care system, and there’s a good chance you’ll get a rant about greedy insurers nickel-and-diming hardworking consumers when they’re sick. Almost everyone feels that there is something fundamentally wrong about making money off of someone else’s illness.
McArdle doesn't. I could go on and on but that says it all. She thinks it's just fine if drug companies gouge sick children.
Why do we feel this way? No, don’t sputter and tell me that it’s obvious, that people need health care. People need a lot of things. You’ll die without food long before you’ll die without health care, and yet few people say we need to “take the profit motive out of farming”. (There are some, to be sure, but this was never a widespread sentiment even when food was a lot scarcer and more expensive). Why is health care special?
If you get hit by a truck, you'll die in minutes without health care. McArdle thinks you should be spending those minutes googling hospitals to see which one has the lowest prices for brain surgery and putting metal pins in your legs. She thinks it's okay to charge whatever the market can (or cannot) bear for drugs, no matter how high.

There is a profit motive in farming, but if you raise prices until people can't afford to feed their children, you will set off riots and revolutions. If you raise drug prices until people have to give up food to buy another EpiPen because Junior lost it on the playground, you will set off a disturbance in the force as well.

But nothing is more disturbing to McArdle than the government threatening to lower drug company profits so Americans can afford medicine for their children. McArdle goes on to discuss Robin Hanson's ideas on altruistic versus market exchange.
[snip]
Hanson is suggesting that we have a strong intuitive preference for altruistic health care -- for an enormous, practically unlimited amount of altruistic health care -- because health care is a way to demonstrate loyalty and caring to people you love. But the thing about reciprocal altruism is that it's not supposed to be an explicit quid pro quo. That may explain why we like insurance that covers as much as possible and dislike any suggestion that the people who provide our health care are calculating what it will cost them to provide it. Bringing money into an altruistic exchange taints it (as you’ll quickly find if you try offering your spouse cash to get romantic when they say they’re not in the mood).
The issue, in other words, is not necessarily profit -- health insurers are not particularly profitable as industries go, and hospitals and other care organizations are often nonprofit. The issue is making decisions based on money.
McArdle must have been elated at the justification for eliminating the discussion of profit from health insurance calculations.  She also thought it was a great idea to eliminate the idea of money from aiding the poor, since they only care about reciprocal altruism as well. Why give money to the poor when they'll just share it with other, poorer people?
Unfortunately, this leaves us with something of a problem. Reciprocal altruism is fine if all you need is for Mom to sit with you and brew you some herbal tea. But in a modern society, you need to procure health care from strangers -- which is to say, through the transactional system of market exchange. Nationalizing the health care system does not fix this fundamental disconnect between our evolved instincts and the inevitable necessities of a modern economy.
National health care systems, in other words, must make exactly the same sort of decisions that private insurers and individuals do: what is worth paying for and how much to pay.
Yes, once you glibly eliminate the profit motive, all decisions are the same!
A few years ago, around the time that Obamacare passed, I was invited on a British radio show to represent the anti-national-healthcare point of view. Needless to say, I knew going in that I was in hostile territory; this is, after all, a nation that featured its National Health Service in a dance number at the opening of the London Olympics. Brits tend to have a very strong attachment to the NHS, and very strong objections to anyone who speaks ill of it in any way.
McArdle's objections to the NHS, Obamacare, single payer, etc., are all based on her greed. She ran through a laundry list of reasons when Obamacare was being formed, but all her rationalizations sift down to one simple reason: she doesn't want anyone to take money from the rich. From a 2009 McArdle post:
John Holbo challenged me in a former post to say what I would think about the various proposals, or a putative single payer system, if it worked just the way progressives think it will. I thought I had, but I'll do it again. The answer is that I would be against it because I don't believe in taking money from the rich to subsidize the middle class--I don't think that people whose basic needs are taken care of have any distributional claim on people with more money, even though it is perfectly fair to ask the wealthy to pay more for goods that are broadly publicly enjoyed.
That was perfectly clear. McArdle is rich. She doesn't want you to take any of her money. She says doesn't like her government and employer-subsidized health insurance but that means nothing because she takes it anyway. It's easy to say that nobody should give you any help when they are already helping you. McArdle could refuse to accept the subsidy. Only she can control this outrage, but it's the strangest thing: she does nothing about taking away her own subsidy while writing 100 articles saying that everyone else's insurance subsidy should be taken away.
In view of this, I took the coward’s way out; rather than making a full throated defense of the marvels of free-market health care, I stuck to describing differences between the two systems, rather than advocating for one kind or another. I can’t now find the clip, so you’ll have to take my word for it that my tone was “blandly inarguable” rather than “stacking the deck in favor of my argument”.
I can't find her clip either, unfortunately. I suspect it was very enjoyable. Watching McArdle explain to the British that they have NHS because they just happen to like national health care would have been amusing.

McArdle goes on to describe how she schooled the other debater in his own system, and informs us that that we must let people die when drug prices are raised too high for wealthy countries to afford.
[snip] 
A true national health care system, along the lines of Britain or Canada, would have advantages and disadvantages over what we have now. But one advantage that it doesn’t offer is to free us from the need to think about our health care in the cold logic of dollars and cents, rather than warm and fuzzy altruistic ideals. Health care cannot be a right, full stop; it has to stop before we run out of wallet. Which means that no matter how much it horrifies, we have to stop hoping for a system that will make those hard decisions and unhappy trade-offs go away.
The alternative, of course, is for the government to control drug prices, like other countries. But McArdle already decided that taking money from the rich and giving it to anyone else is wrong, so I guess we'll just have to watch our children die instead.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The House Always Wins

She can afford to be magnanimous.

Literally.


Added: Here's a screen capture.





"That writer" is McArdle, and the post was one of hundreds explaining why the US can never have the same healthcare system as most other industrialized nations.

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Sexual Fantasies of Ross Douthat


Trump is all your fault.


Ross "Fucking"* Douthat needs to rehabilitate the Republican party at once to save his career. Because he is a smarmy little Snivellus Snape, he used his usual methods of persuasion: wishful thinking, elaborate world-building, and underhanded deception. His most recent deception is an elaborate lie that purports to explain why liberals are to blame for Trump, not the conservatives who voted for him.

Douthat spins a variation of the fantasy in which conservatives chose Trump because he is a celebrity. In his version of the tale, conservatives didn't choose Trump because they had rejected their elite after its serial failures to respond to their needs but still wanted an authoritarian leader who inflamed and pandered to their financial, class and racial anxieties. They chose Trump because of sex.

The sexual revolution, Douthat tells us, was comprised of two parts. The male sexual revolution was the freedom to prey on women sexually for the first time. The female sexual revolution was the pill and their inevitable exploitation by male predators. The female sexual revolution won out but ever since, liberalism has been inextricably intertwined with sexuality and therefore sexual exploitation. Wherever you see sexual exploitation, you will see Trump. Therefore liberals are to blame for Trump.

It is easy to forget that Douthat was born one month and three days before the 1980s arrived. He is 36 years old. He went to high school from around 1993 to 1997. He his classmates probably danced to Boyz II Men and did the Macarena. He was in college during 9/11. He was 21, at the peak of his youthful strength and testosterone-fueled manhood, when he decided that Bush's Call of Consumerism was excuse enough to refuse to sacrifice his ambition and career to fight the War on Terror and Middle Easterners.

But his is an old soul, and he understands the ways of the past and mourns their, uh, passing.

A man who refuses to defend his country can still feel the thrill of patriotism, bought by the body bags of lesser-elite men. He can still be a Big Thinker and Leader Of Men without actually thinking or leading. Man is not free unless he is free to refuse to help his country and fellow countrymen. America is the Land Of Opportunity For The Elite, after all.

This rank, rotted hypocrisy explains why fighting the Heathen Muslim now consumes so much of his time and literary attention; although the fight is long past, Ross Douthat's elite status determined at birth that he felt in his soul the long tradition of American fighting man taking up arms against tyranny to defend freedom. The history of America's fight for freedom sang in his blue blood. He could feel the farmer's tilled American soil under his manicured fingers. Did he need to grow the artisanal wheat to eat of its bread of freedom? No, a thousand times no!

Some men, much poorer men who didn't go to Harvard, thought that they must live their conservative values when the country is threatened, and must in all duty and honor act to defend it. Other, wealthier men, felt that their skill set would be most appropriate for a Manhattan apartment, an intellectual profession, a virginal wife and dear little babies, and therefore, in their noblesse oblige, chose to lead by staying behind, and fight by turning on a computer screen.

The son of the granddaughter of the Governor of Connecticut doesn't put on boots and wake up at dawn and run and sweat until he's no longer the weak-fingered and soft-bellied son of privilege. He gets a job at National Review. Instead of joining the actual fight, Douthat grabbed the chance to go boating with greatness and be attended to by Buckley's servants. Douthat chose to take up the "pen" as his weapon in the Fight Against Muslim Fecundity which now consumes so much of his belated sense of urgency. His actions are ample proof that one doesn't need to experience white supremacy to miss it, or to miss the loss of sexual repression, fear and hysteria.

Because of his depth of soul and mind, Ross Douthat also understands to his very loins the mores and values of yesteryear. The Pill is older than Douthat yet he personally feels the mortal loss of "culture" it has inflicted on Christianity and therefore the world and everyone in it, conservative Christian or not. The Sexual Revolution promised the freedom of self-control over one's own sexuality, which as we all know was forbidden by the one and only Christian God, who said, "Lo, I shall create the biological urge to boogie down in (nearly) every man, woman, and beast but if they shouldst boogie down in a way not endorsed by Ross "Fucking" Douthat, they shall destroy My Culture and be sent to Hell."

Douthat achieved his party's goal of gross economic inequality but saving the economy isn't enough. He must once again take up arms against the enemy, his wife and daughters and women everywhere, to save his country and his God and his career. Their futures and happiness will be the price they are forced to pay for his freedom to create a false façade of piety while the New York Times let the Bush Administration tip-toe through the corpses, and while Trump threatens to sink the Republican party.

Despite his comparative youth and biologically determined (more or less) sex, Douthat is an elite and the elite are inherently moral. Therefore he is uniquely qualified to tell women that their desire to control their own sexuality has destroyed White Male Christian America. Now that White Male Christian America is dead, this rough beast Trump has been unleashed upon the land. Without the (preferably Catholic) church to repress sexuality, men and women have chosen to have sex. Since Donald Trump also chose to have sex, sex is to blame for Donald Trump. Since the Catholic Church would happily prevent anyone from having sex, they could have prevented the rise of Donald Trump and the decline of morality and therefore civilization, had they not been weakened by all the screwing.

Women are killing God and Western Civilization with their rejection of His Holy Commands Though Not His Actual Commands Which Don't Mention Sex, and once again Douthat must press a computer button, tell Consuela to stop playing peek-a-boo with the baby and fetch him a cup of coffee, por favor, and go to war.
IN a different campaign or era, it would have been a race-altering moment; in this one, it was barely a scandal. There was Melania Trump, the potential first lady of the United States, posing stark naked in ’90s-era photos published by the New York Post — and then in the next day’s edition, canoodling lipstick-lesbian style in bed. Yet the press yawned, her husband’s latest outrage overshadowed it, and it only stayed a story because the date of the photos raised questions about the future Mrs. Trump’s immigration status.
Obviously, this is liberals' fault. Conservatives voted for the blowhard with the bombshell nude model wife (for now) because liberals destroyed public decency. Naturally, the conservative party had to abandon all of its supposed deeply held principles, upon which their party platform is based and which were formed to be pleasing to God, in response. If women hadn't debased the culture by agreeing to have sex, thereby setting forth a chain reaction that led to the breakdown of society, conservatives wouldn't be forced to be hypocrites and vote for the stiffiner's husband.
This election was supposed to be a referendum on Hillary Clinton, long a polarizing figure because she seemed to embody the cultural transformations of the 1960s — the liberal, feminist, working-mother spouse of the first boomer president.
If it weren't for Trump and therefore liberals, Douthat could have spent the year slowly raking Clinton over the coals, pastor-izing about the minutia of Bill Clinton's sexual history and blaming Clinton's feminism for driving her husband into another woman's arms. Instead, he spent it attempting to defend the indefensible and in increasingly more unctuous tones insisting that racism shouldn't be a barrier to leadership or policy, except for Trump, of course, who is actually liberal because he appears to like having sex.
But in the year of Donald Trump, the religious conservatives who fought many of those transformations find themselves reduced to a hapless rump. The best have retreated to rebuild; the worst have abased themselves before a sybaritic, irreligious presidential nominee.
Douthat wants us to believe that the religious conservatives are now the Trump rump, the Ass's ass, the Blowhard's Blowhole. (TM) He does not want us to realize that far from keeping back the tide named Trump, the religious right has been supporting Trump. The facts ruin his fairy tale in which rampant promiscuity made Donald Trump popular, not his wealth, abrasiveness, and authoritarianism. The facts also kill his attempt to scapegoat liberals, so he ignores them.
So in word, deed and his wife’s “artistic” shots, it’s Trump rather than Clinton who has confirmed the full triumph of the sexual revolutions.
Douthat is probably shifting awkwardly in his seat at this point and tugging at his sensible slacks.
I say revolutions, plural, because Trump is a reminder that the 1960s happened in stages, with different figures and worldviews shaping its social shifts. As John Podhoretz wrote in a shrewd column, Trump and Hillary are both children of the ’60s — but of its opposite ends, the Brat Pack era in Trump’s case and the flowering of boomer liberalism in Hillary’s.
As everyone has pointed out, Douthat meant the Rat Pack, not the Brat Pack, who are now all in their fifties, I believe but won't look up. Evidently his editor wasn't old enough to remember the Brat Pack either, let alone the Rat Pack, who were an off-shoot of a group of even cooler entertainers in the 1950s. When Lauren Bacall is your den mother, you don't sass a lady. Or blame her for your own ideology-driven errors in thinking, or the self-debasement of your party.

But Douthat has certain feelings about sex that he wants everyone else to indulge, and certain plans for restoring power to the Republican party. We could discuss which came first, the squeamishness or the political expediency, but in the end it doesn't matter. (That's what political fanfic is for.) Douthat uses sex as a political weapon.
Much of what seems strange and reactionary about Trump is tied to what was normal to a certain kind of Sinatra and Mad Men-era man — the casual sexism, the odd mix of sleaziness and formality, even the insult-comic style.
 The belief that women's sexuality belongs to men, the authoritarian mix of public immorality and private prudery, even the casual cruelty and public exhibitions of privilege.  All of these-the belief that women have a subservient role to me, the authoritarianism, and the maintenance of the hierarchy through public morals policing--are integral to conservatism.
But while that male culture was “conservative” in its exploitative attitudes toward women, it was itself in rebellion against bourgeois norms and Middle-American Christianity.
No, the male desire to explore their own sexuality while denying everyone else the same was perfectly in tune with bourgeois norms and Middle-American Christianity before the Sexual Revolution. When women could control their own sexuality, they rejected conservative norms and religious laws and started to even out the imbalance of power. Women didn't have to marry and have children to have sex. The old excuse for denying women opportunity to achieve independence, to prevent them from gaining power, went away.

The Hefner Man wanted sex without consequence, just as he had before the sexual revolution. He wanted to be cool, just as the Douthats of the world have always wanted to be cool. He wanted to have the right hi-fi stereo and pick the right fraternity and wear the right type of hat. Eventually he would marry a beautiful girl and have obedient children but right now he was free, white, 21, and on the prowl.
And if Hillary is a (partial, given her complicated marriage) avatar of Gloria Steinem-era feminism, her opponent is an heir of the male revolutionary in whose club Steinem once went undercover: Hugh Hefner.
 Douthat doesn't have much tolerance for "complicated" marriages. His is simple. He preaches that women should stay home and have babies while she works at her job as a reporter, according to earlier reports.
It was Hefner who fully embodied the male sexual revolt. Today he’s just a sleazy oldster, but in the beginning he was a faux philosopher, preaching a gospel cribbed from bohemia and various Freudian enemies of repression, in which the blessed pursuit of promiscuity was the human birthright. But really a male birthright, for a certain kind of man: The sort of hep cat who loved inviting the ladies back to his pad “for a quiet discussion on Picasso, Nietzsche, jazz, sex.”
What is "bohemia"? It doesn't seem to be Bohemia. Could he mean bohemianism, the non-traditional lifestyle that trades the advantages of the dominant culture for deliberate (comparative) poverty to gain the freedom of choice, all of which are the opposite of the Trump lifestyle? If Trump cribbed his "gospel" from bohemianism, except for the free sex he's doing it very wrong.

It's strange that a Godly man like Douthat would refer to the stream-of-conscience ramblings and self-stroking as a philosophy or a sacred text. Perhaps he is unable to distinguish between the two, which must be a tremendous handicap to an intellectual thought leader.

Perhaps because of this mental handicap, Douthat decided early in life that anything he didn't like or couldn't have was liberal, no matter how absurd, for reasons too tedious to go into. Hefner was sexist and had free sex, the Sexual Revolution was liberal and had free sex, therefore Hefner was liberal and sexual equality was sexist. This is how the women of the Sexual Revolution created Donald Trump, not the conservative voters.
That was the ideal, at least. Trump, the thrice-married ubermensch who jokes about Megyn Kelly’s period, is the more usual reality. (So, albeit with more surface class, was the ultimate early-’60s man, the sex-addicted J.F.K.)
Douthat will never have to worry about having surface class.

 In summary, the sexual exploitation of women is liberal, liberals created Trump's exploitation of women by trying to end exploitation of women, and Douthat is utterly incapable of pulling off a successful trolling.
That obvious gulf helps explain why Hefner passed from a phenomenon to a sideshow, while a more feminist vision of liberation became the official ideology of the liberal upper class.
Absolutely nobody thinks Hefner was any sort of a feminist. Because Douthat isn't very clever, he thinks he can claim that since feminists wanted free sex and Hefner wanted free sex, Hefner was a feminist. He might as easily said that it meant Hefner was a woman; that would make just as much sense. Douthat is supposed to be clever and was generously praised by his peers** when he was hired at the Times, but as we can see the bar for elite success, like the bar for Republican presidential nominees, is very low.
But only gradually and partially. The men’s sexual revolution, in which freedom meant freedom to take your pleasure while women took the pill, is still a potent force, and not only in the halls of Fox News. From Hollywood and college campuses to rock concert backstages and Bill Clinton’s political operation, it has persisted as a pervasive but unspoken philosophy in precincts officially committed to cultural liberalism and sexual equality.
Now Douthat is slapping around words like they're fish on a counter, with no regard for what they are supposed to mean. Conservatives believe that when you win, I lose, so they concentrate on the fact that when women have sex, men often get to have sex as well. Therefore the ageless male belief that he is free to have sex as much as his conscience allows without societal punishment magically become the "men's sexual revolution," a nonsense term in this context.

Douthat hopes to convince women they are being used for men's lust when they have sex, a tremendously cynical attempt at manipulation. He has no problem attempting to harm women's self-image to gain a little more political control. It's not like they have agency anyway. He also hopes to further cement the association of liberalism and sexism. Wherever men maintained power over and exploited women, liberals are responsible. For conservatives to hold political and social power, women must be blamed for exploitation and cultural degradation.
It has also endured by going downmarket in the culture. If you watched “The Girls Next Door,” the TV show about Hefner’s ménage, you noticed that the Playboy mystique was emphatically not a joke in the lower middle class environs that produced his centerfolds and their most adoring fans. Like Trumpism, Hefnerian values have prospered in the blue-collar vacuum created by religion’s retreat, community’s unraveling.
Douthat is wealthy. His parents are wealthy. Thanks to their deliberate and wildly successful efforts to create gross income inequality, the rich have done very well off the recent suffering of the poor and middle class. He would far rather that the poor sit down and think good and hard about how their community has been unraveled by Hugh Hefner than see them think about the plants that moved abroad, the shops that closed, or the houses that that foreclosed. He would rather see women shamed and controlled than see the Republican party and White Male Christian Americans lose power.

Meanwhile Douthat sits in his (no doubt) leather chair, pulling at his, uh, pipe and ruminating how much longer he can blame women for their own exploitation and liberals for the rise of Trump. If women hadn't killed God with all their fucking, Hefner and Trump wouldn't have made it past the Knights Of Columbus Slut Shaming and Inquisition Squad.
Then finally, among men who were promised pliant centerfolds and ended up single with only high-speed internet to comfort them, the men’s sexual revolution has curdled into a toxic subculture, resentful of female empowerment in all its forms.
Liberal sexytime also created Men's Rights assholes, the sexually frustrated, the porn industry, and male loneliness. Behold the power of the unrestrained vagina.
This is where you find Trump’s strongest (and, yes, strangest) fans. He’s become the Daddy Alpha for every alpha-aspiring beta male, whose mix of moral liberation and misogyny keeps the Ring-a-Ding-Ding dream alive.
And most of all, the Sexual Revolution created Trump.
There aren’t nearly enough of these fans to win him the election. Steinem’s revolution (Clintonian complications and all) should easily beat Hef’s at the ballot box this year.
Both liberal sides did it.
But the cultural conflict between these two post-revolutionary styles — between frat guys and feminist bluestockings, Gamergaters and the diversity police, alt-right provocateurs and “woke” dudebros, the mouthbreathers who poured hate on the all-female “Ghostbusters” and the tastemakers who pretended it was good — is likely here to stay. With time and Christianity’s further decline, it could eclipse older culture war battles; in the pop culture landscape, it already does.
I picture Rod pursing his lips, snapping his fingers for Consuela to come trotting, and ordering a brandy as he drops his coup de grace.
Ten years ago, liberals pined for a post-religious right, a different culture war.
Be careful what you wish for.
There are many ways to respond to the wonder and glory that is Ross Douthat, but a wedgie cuts right to the chase. If you see Douthat, give him a wedgie for me. If he's going to blame liberals for conservative actions anyway, we might as well give him something to complain about.


*His middle name used to be Gregory but he fucked that up.

See also.

**
Ezra Klein: Congratulations to Ross Douthat, who will be replacing Bill Kristol at The New York Times. It's a great choice for many reasons, but what I've come to appreciate most in Ross's writing and look forward to most in his column is his deeply held and well-defended faith.

Ta-Nehisi Coates: Ross Douthat is going to work for the New York Times as a columnist. Ross and I fight under different flags. But I expect he'll be at the Times, what he always was here--a swordsman of great caliber and greater honor. Here's to him. The roster won't be the same once he's gone.

Kevin Drum: Marc Ambinder reports that the New York Times has hired his Atlantic colleague Ross Douthat as an op-ed columnist. This is basically to take Bill Kristol's place as their #2 conservative columnist (alongside David Brooks) and it seems like a pretty good choice to me for a couple of reasons. First, Ross has a fluid, intelligent writing style that's well suited to the 800-word op-ed format. Second, he fits the post-Bush zeitgeist: he is, at core, a conservative Barack Obama.

Matthew Yglesias: I’d say congratulations are in order to Ross Douthat, the new hire at The New York Times. Dumping Bill Kristol in favor of Ross is a very smart move—probably the smartest one (Virginia Postrel?) the Times could have made—and will generate a conservative column that progressives will have reason to read and take seriously.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

In Which Megan McArdle Unconsciously Shows Us What She Really Thinks About Muslims

[I was going to illustrate this with a picture of the little Syrian boy who drowned at sea but looking at it was so painful that I couldn't.]

She really is loathsome.

Shorter Megan McArdle: Increasing immigration by .5% will lead to a "societal meltdown."

Shorter Unstated Megan McArdle: Since it is unthinkable for a non-Muslim woman to marry a Muslim man, we might let more Muslim women immigrate but increasing Muslim immigration .5% by letting in Muslim women to marry Muslim male immigrants will lead to a "societal meltdown" because Muslims will strain "both the political and social systems" they enter in anything but negligible numbers.

See also for context.

We can't help the desperate because it would destroy our way of life. We can't let the banks fail because it would destroy our way of life. We can't have single payer health care because it would destroy our way of life. We can't lower the financial industry's profits because it would destroy our way of life.

I'm beginning to think that perhaps Megan McArdle doesn't want to help anybody but Megan McArdle, and therefore her constituency of one makes her both a narcissist (Thanks, anon.!) and a danger to everyone else.

Friday, August 5, 2016

You Sank Your Battleship!



As the Republican Party battleship slowly sinks below the waves, a jagged hole in its bow created by the torpedo called Trump, Megan McArdle attempts to salvage what is left of her party, while elbowing the lower classes out of her way to the lifeboats.
Republicans who look at the matter objectively must be watching the prime-time lineup at the Democratic National Convention with no small amount of envy. Whatever you think of the content of their speeches, the Obamas, Cory Booker, and Bill Clinton each have better delivery than anyone who spoke at the Republican convention last week -- in part because so many of the Republican Party’s top talents found pressing reasons to be elsewhere.
Or don't exist. Trump is the perfect excuse for party-wide incompetence and mediocrity.
Last night Barack Obama reminded us how he managed to sweep practically out of nowhere and win the presidency in 2008. As I once heard someone say about a different speaker, the world lost a great talker when he wasn’t born twins.
The Senate is nowhere? What other qualifications does her boy Rubio have? And Walker couldn't even graduate from university.
His speech at the Democratic convention was noteworthy for the passages in which when he was actually speaking to Republicans -- with one moment that was extremely effective, and one moment that probably undid a lot of his good work.
The good moment came early in his speech, when Obama said:
Look, we Democrats have always had plenty of differences with the Republican Party, and there’s nothing wrong with that; it’s precisely this contest of ideas that pushes our country forward.
But what we heard in Cleveland last week wasn’t particularly Republican -- and it sure wasn’t conservative. What we heard was a deeply pessimistic vision of a country where we turn against each other, and turn away from the rest of the world. There were no serious solutions to pressing problems – just the fanning of resentment, and blame, and anger, and hate.
And that is not the America I know.
Why was this effective? Because it directly addressed Republicans whose motivation to vote for Donald Trump is party loyalty.
It feels effective to McArdle because Obama was pandering to the conservative desire to avoid the consequences of their actions and to disavow Trump, pretending that he took over the party instead of being elevated and supported by Republican voters. By letting Republicans pretend they don't pander to racism and depend on it to get votes, Obama is neglecting a once-in-a-lifetime chance to undercut conservative power. He seems to genuinely believe that giving a person the benefit of the doubt will make that person act reasonably, when all it does is teach the people who are out of control that nobody will curb their behavior.
Politics is tribal. A lot of Republicans dislike Trump. But of course, they also dislike Democrats, and beyond the policy and the ideology, there is a simple rivalry between two groups of people who are often pretty mean to each other, and consequently don’t like each other very much.

As I have said countless times, authoritarians divide the world into Us and Them (or Me and Them for libertarians) , and treat important matter of state like a football game, where the goal is winning, not governing well. McArdle is petty and spiteful and doesn't like to be crossed or denied so she doesn't like liberals and is mean to them.
This is why after every electoral victory, the winning side celebrates -- and then goes trolling the internet for the comments of the losing side, to enjoy the sweet, sweet agony of their opponents. It’s not pretty, but it is human nature.
After Obama won, McArdle said that liberals were crowing about a return to a FDR-like radical reform of the freshly crashed financial industry. It turned out that the only person talking about a new FDR era was Megan McArdle. Once again, McArdle is probably talking about herself.
Obama could have taken this moment to castigate Republicans, to say that Trump is their fault because Republicanism is just thinly veiled hate and that Trump has ripped off the veil to expose what was underneath. I guarantee that his audience at the convention would have gone wild for that speech.
It also would have been the truth.
But moderate Republicans would have recoiled.
The moderate Republican is now supporting Trump, and always denied that racism had anything to do with their scapegoating of minorities. You can't claim that voters are tribal, but if liberals are polite and complimentary enough to conservatives, conservatives will vote for them. Well, you can, but that would be dumb.
You don’t call someone a hater and then ask for their vote. Instead Obama framed the conflict as two sides: Republicans and Democrats on one side, versus Trump on the other. This lowered the psychological hurdle to crossing party lines and helping out the other team.
 McArdle just stated that politics is tribal and everyone chooses sides and hates the other side. Can she not remember that far back?
This is exactly the line that Democrats and left-wing commentators should take for the rest of this election cycle.
To rescue the Republicans from the consequences of their own actions, McArdle wants the left to actively work to support and rehabilitate the Republican Party, undermining their own tribe.
They will not say that Trump is the true face of Republicanism. They will not say that Republican obstructionism somehow created him. They will not try to take this opportunity to tear down the Republican Party.
This is the rhetoric of a teenage girl who failed math, is now failing a summer school math, and is desperately trying to psych herself into convincing her parents to not ground her or take away her phone.
They will make this election entirely about Trump himself, and such policies as he may eventually get around to proposing. They will emphasize that he does not represent Republican values.
Since the Republican values voters nominated him, all of this wishful thinking would be a lie.
They will emphasize the ways in which Hillary Clinton is closer to Republican values than Trump is.
Republican values are a fake that hide racism and sexual squeamishness. Liberals will not emphasize any similarities between Clinton and Republicans to get votes, let alone Clinton and Trump.
Frankly, I doubt many on the left will be that self-disciplined; hating on the other team is simply too much fun.
Yes, McArdle is projecting again.
Which brings me to the part of Obama’s speech that didn’t work, and even undid progress he made in reaching across the aisle. That was the part of the speech where he started musing about what Trump was making other countries think of us:
I have to say this. People outside of the United States do not understand what’s going on in this election. They really don’t. Because they know Hillary. They’ve seen her work. She’s worked closely with our intelligence teams, our diplomats, our military. She has the judgment and the experience and the temperament to meet the threat from terrorism. It’s not new to her.
What could Obama be thinking of? This kind of talk will never win over the Trump voters who chant that they want Clinton killed or jailed.
I cringed when I heard this. This sort of thing is a tic on the left, and it damages their cause. You hear lines like this all the time about America’s health care system, the death penalty, paid family leave, and a dozen other policy issues where progressives are looking enviously across the Atlantic. The most common formulation is probably “America is the only developed nation that,” but “Europeans don’t understand why …” is certainly in the top five. It clearly sounds like a winning argument to progressives, which is why they say it so often. Unfortunately, the only people who thrill to its implications are people who are already planning to vote for Clinton.
McArdle thinks she is so important that Obama is on tv to try to get her vote. Perhaps Obama is trying to stem the damage Trump is doing to our global image. He is the president, after all.
To other people, it sounds like running down your country as being less perfect than some other place.1
The postscript reads:
Before you rush to your keyboard to type out that impassioned comment or e-mail telling me that there are very good foreign policy reasons to care what foreigners think … well, yes, indeed there are. But you do not win votes in any country by telling voters that they have to do something because foreigners approve of it. You don’t see Angela Merkel or Francois Hollande trying to win a domestic election by telling voters they need to suck up to America. Like I said, politics is tribal.
First politics is tribal, then it isn't, now it is again.
I think that a lot of folks on the left don’t get this because as I observed a few weeks ago, the people in the global professional class have in many ways started to identify more with each other than with people unlike them in their own countries.
The upper classes have always held themselves apart from the lower classes, with walls, gates, guns, police, and bespoke laws. They have always worked for their own gain, with their own goals.
They have a lot of friends living abroad. They care what those friends think. But more Americans lack a passport than have one. How much do you think they like being told how to vote by people they’ve never met, living in places they’ve never been? If Democrats want to win this election, they need to assemble a tribe big enough to defeat Trump.
Clinton will win without Megan McArdle's vote.  Liberals don't need to make concessions or beg for votes or promise to appoint conservative Supreme Court judges. They don't need to do anything but not screw up.
And the first characteristic of that tribe will be that it is American. Mainstream American identity is big enough to span a country and win an election, if politicians like Obama can define “mainstream American” to include both Republicans and Democrats, and to exclude Donald Trump.
The Republican Party sank their battleship and now Megan McArdle expects the left to rescue Republicans from the ocean, give them their liberal ship, and jump into the ocean to be eaten by sharks.

Concern troll is not only concerned, she's waiting under the bridge to slice your Achille's tendon when you walk by.



Wednesday, August 3, 2016

In Which Megan McArdle Does Not Notice The Old Business Model Is Broken



Sorry, you're still the villain.

The Republican Party is desperately trying to convince liberals that Trump is an aberration and when he loses everything can go back to normal; that is, the circumstances that created and promoted Trump to the Republican nominee for president of the United States can return. To do this they are blaming liberals for Trump's rise, attempting to undercut Trump's rise, and pretending Trump never rose.

Which brings us to Megan McArdle, the Great Pretender, who pretends to discuss immigration but doesn't mention Trump by name even once.
After the parties’ national conventions, one theme that shines out of both is the complete incoherence of our “national conversation about immigration.” Because it’s not really a conversation.
Because Trump skips the dog whistles and goes straight for the racism, the fake Republican conversation about immigration was sidelined by the true Republican race conversation: other races and ethnicities are bad and are causing all of your, white Christian America's, problems.
Both conventions leaned heavily on immigration issues.
 Since most Republicans seem to have no idea of the actual state of illegal immigration, thinking that deportations are much lower and immigration much higher than they are, it is easy to see through the pretense of debate and hear the loud, clear dog whistle of racism.
The Republicans portrayed immigration as a bad thing, by highlighting the parents of individuals killed by illegal immigrants. The Democrats were equally avid to show the upsides of immigration, including with a beaming 11-year-old child who is here illegally.
The Republicans said that immigrants are destroying the country and economy, raping women and children, and committing a wide variety of horrific crimes, which is only inevitable since they are all criminals after they sneak into the country. They also horrified the country with their racist political rallies in support of Donald Trump, racist, whom McArdle neglected to mention was the person who inflamed anti-immigrant violence.

The media has always operated with the assumption that nobody will call the Republicans racist en mass even when they enact racist policies, but now that the right must get rid of Trump they are all stuck with attacking the only difference between him and them: open racism versus veiled and rationalized racism. The Republican elite might find it difficult to go back to the old days after Trump loses.

Putting aside ideology, the Democrats pick up voters where the right fails. They'd be fools not to, and they need numbers to compensate for the right's money. They also benefit from knowing they are helping other people because doing good makes liberals feel good.
OK, well, that seems normal enough: As with so many issues, one party is for, and one party against.
You think you live in a world in which you gather facts and use them to plan your actions and policies but actually! you live in a world in which everyone is divided up into two opposing sides and those two groups just happen to like certain things because ideas pop into their heads and if one party is for something than of course the other party is against it.
But wait. For what? Against what? 
I doubt that many Republicans would say that they are actually against immigration; they don’t want to close the borders and ensure that not a single foreigner is ever allowed to come live here.  
I wouldn't be so sure.
Nor do I think that most Democrats would say they are “for immigration”; they don’t want to open the borders and let anyone move here. The national conversation is not really “for” vs. “against.”
We already know that.
Both sides want some immigration. We’re arguing about the level.
Bait and switch, we meet again. We are not arguing about the level of immigration. We are arguing about how the Republicans want to pretend the actions and policies of the Republican party are the product of intellectual debate, not racism, and the support for Donald Trump is economic anxiety, not racism. We also want to keep Republicans from lying their way out of the mess they created because of their racism.
Except … no one is actually trying to establish that level.
That's because McArdle, for example, is now moot. Everyone is discussing racism now and the lying shills who pretty up the racism for the upper classes are no longer needed. Maybe they'll return, if not soon then in due time, but right now the racist elephant in the room is sucking up all the oxygen.
Last week, on social media, I posed a question to my friends and followers: What do you think is the maximum percentage of foreign-born residents that U.S. immigration policy should target? In other words, how much would be too much?
Every time she calls herself a journalist, Irony sacrifices a puppy.
A few people gamely answered the question, but the most interesting responses were not from those who gave percentages.1
That footnote reads:
1.The modal answer was somewhere around 15 percent to 25 percent, which is higher than I’d expect from a representative sample of the American public. ↩
McArdle thinks her friends and readers are a representative sample of the American public, which is nuts, but even they are more open to immigration than McArdle supposes. (And as we know, she supposes about others whatever she feels herself.) After burying this information in a footnote, we find most people had no interest in playing Republican Politics: What If? Version.
Far more people rejected the idea of having a maximum at all. They were simply deeply uncomfortable with the idea of setting any limits. (A few others answered with “100 percent,” which raises troubling questions about what would be done with those of us who are currently living in the U.S. and are not foreign born.)
But if we are going to have an immigration policy, then we will have to set some limits. And trust me, we are going to have an immigration policy, because the last time I looked, about 165 million people worldwide -- equal to about 70 percent of the current adult population of the U.S. -- said they wanted to migrate here. That’s more immigrants at one time than the country could realistically absorb.
We already have an immigration policy. McArdle might want to read it, do some research, analyze what she's learned, consult with experts, and form an opinion.

Or she can go on Facebook. Six of one, half-dozen of the other.
I think migration is a great moral boon.
Since McArdle thinks circumventing democracy to eliminate the voice of the people would be a moral boon as well, she might want to re-align her moral compass.
But I am not prepared to say that Americans therefore have a moral duty to import Jakarta’s traffic jams, Russia’s business practices, and most of the world’s prevailing norms about political corruption.
Why would we....
Cultures and countries do have some right to propagate themselves in roughly their current form, which is why I am against imperialism and against open borders.
 She supported the invasion of Iraq, for chrissake.
That’s pretty much the prevailing view. So. We are going to have an immigration policy. That means that there will be limits.
We. Already. Have. An. Immigration. Policy.
Some people will come here in violation of those limits. If we don’t deport some of them, then we effectively don’t have limits, and we’re back to the fact that this is unworkable. Many, probably most, of the people we deport will be sympathetic -- nice folks who want nothing more than to make a better life for their family, just like you and me. That will not obviate the need to have limits or the need to enforce them.
The Obama Administration deported over 2,500,000 people. McArdle can only create an argument against the liberal side by ignoring data, refusing to do any research, making up a masturbatory fantasy of soppy liberals who refuse to deport illegal aliens.
The “against” side of our national conversation comes closer to a coherent position.
The "against" side is racism. Which is the point of everything right now in the immigration discussion.
It (vaguely) acknowledges a need for (unspecified) criteria by which would-be immigrants would be admitted to the U.S. But the main tenets of the right’s immigration policy are hardly policy proposals at all. A wall doesn’t tell us how many people we will let in, or which people; it doesn’t even deal with illegal immigration that well, given that something like 40 percent of illegal migrants come here legally and then overstay their visas. Even if we could get on board with a heinous criterion like “no Muslims or people from Muslim countries,” that’s hardly actionable. Are you really going to keep out Christian refugees from the Middle East? (Have fun selling that to evangelicals.) And how are you going to detect those Muslims from countries where some other religion is the majority?
The main tenet of the right's proposals is racism.
Also, let’s get real for a moment: Anyone who dwells on Muslim immigration is trying to change the subject. Most of the people in the world who want to become Americans are not Muslim and do not live in predominantly Muslim nations. So if we’re actually talking about immigration policy, let’s get back on topic.
We're not. We're talking about racism.
How many people should we let in, of what education and skill level? How should we handle marital visas? What tradeoffs are we willing to make between national unity and the humanitarian and practical benefits of migration?2
Second postscript:
2.It’s probably not an accident that the era some Americans recall fondly as a time of strength and unity -- roughly 1940 to 1965 -- was also the era at which our migration levels were the lowest. Diversity may be strength, but it also, inevitably, means friction.
True, Republicans fondly recall the unity and strength of repressing women and minorities and immigrants. But then the Civil Rights Act forced diversity down everyone's throat with its boots and nothing was ever against the same.
Oh, hear those crickets! No one wants to ask those questions, much less provide answers. Instead we fight about trivia like walls along the border. We formulate an impossibly tangled system with about a zillion different kinds of visas and zillions of more arcane rules, all of which are aimed at instituting limits near what the bureaucrats and legislators gropingly sense might be the public’s level of tolerance -- and aimed, too, at avoiding the need to ever actually openly discuss how many migrants America should have at one time, and of what sort. One side slurs immigrants; the other canonizes them. And nothing is ever agreed upon.
Both sides do it, while both sides do nothing.
Exactly what sort of country do we want to be? And what sort of new citizens do we want to recruit? The only path forward is to discuss those questions -- frankly, with numbers.
Discussing McArdle's work is like being trapped in the world's most boring cocktail party. Without a drink.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Bridge of Sighs



Shorter Megan McArdle: Because Trump and Clinton have similar polling numbers, there is little difference to people between Trump and Clinton's campaigns. This means that Clinton's pedestrian oratory skills are a serious problem.

Concern Troll is concerned.

Heh, McArdle thinks she's qualified to give Clinton advice (that Clinton has already been following).
Clinton is lucky to have an opponent who is also not very good at public speaking. But after last night’s speech, I’m not sure she’s lucky enough. At the beginning of the week, I echoed a point made by Sean Trende of Real Clear Politics: Clinton is so weak that against a candidate with very high unfavorable, she has turned this election into Generic (D) against Generic (R). With GDP growth coming in at 1.2 percent this morning, well below estimates, Democrats cannot afford to have that generic election; because when economic growth is weak, voters tend to turn against the party of the incumbent. Clinton must remind voters that all other things are not equal. She and Trump are not equally qualified to be president.
Only in McArdle's fondest dreams are Clinton and Trump considered equally electable. She doesn't want Trump to win but she wants to preserve the illusion of Republican authority, dignity, and successful governance. She can't have both, unless Democrats also attempt to preserve the illusion instead of going on the attack while the enemy is weak.