Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Simply Incoherent

Don't let the perfect be the enemy of nothing at all:

Yes, she butchered the saying, but it gets much worse. The post is arguing to exact opposite. (Or is it? I'm not quite clear what she's trying to say, shockingly.)

I just gave a talk on market-based strategies for growth at the Institute for Emerging Issues conference in Raleigh. I talked about a lot of things, but one of the things I brought up, which seems particularly appropriate given the TARP and the stimulus debates going on right now: it's the idea that a compromise is always better than nothing.
Clearly, with experts like Megan McArdle out there spreading the knowledge, we'll move out of these crises quickly. Never mind the fact she's parroting the conservative tactic of obstruction in the hopes of eventual political gain, there's totally a good argument for doing nothing and hoping for the best.
Let's say that TARP proponents are right and that some program to pump a great deal of money into banks is better than just letting them fail. It does not then therefore follow, as night to day, that this package--or any politically feasible package--is better than nothing. It can be true that Ideal>0 without being true that 1/2ideal+compromise>0.
And what if the TARP money turns into velociraptors and eats everyone in the banks we're trying to help? Do you really want to sentence all those poor people to potential violent, painful deaths?
We are all guilty of formulating some ideal policy, and then acting as if whatever crippled version of that ideal policy survives the political process will necessarily be better than the status quo. But the pressures of the political process often require vast and counterproductive alterations. To take but one example, energy market deregulation can work very well. But energy market deregulation as screwed up by California's various interest groups (including the moronic consumer groups that proposed forcing all the utilities to always buy their power on the spot market!!) was much worse than sticking with the boring, inefficient old system.
No, you aren't hallucinating, Megan really did just try to blame consumers for the California energy crisis. She read an industry pamphlet on the topic, and rich people don't lie. Plus she used two exclamation points, which makes it extra true. But I digress, we're talking about why doing nothing right now is obviously the way to go, at least compared to stimulus that isn't all tax cuts for the rich.
It is not necessarily true that doing nothing would be better than either of these plans, of course. But I'd like to see 0 included in the solution set a lot more often.
Hypothetically, the stimulus plan might not work, therefore DO NOTHING!! (See?)
Megan has to rely on imaginary situations because she's deluded herself straight out of reality. The New Deal made the Great Depression worse, dammit, the facts of the matter be damned. The government doesn't create jobs. Trying to help people is bad. Why won't anyone listen to her? Her commenters think she's right on.


Dhalgren said...

You have to like Mike's comment in her post:

I am so sick of Megan's evasive dance routine on these things. Something is going to be done, Megan, even if it is nothing, and soon it will be too late for you to take a position. So why don't you go ahead and stop your vacillation and take a position or be quiet? Stop with all the metaphysics of decisions and engage the question. Is this a philosophy blog or an economics blog[?] You'd think Yglesias was the one who went to B-school and you majored in philosophy.

Anonymous said...

"It does not then therefore follow, as night to day, that this package--or any politically feasible package--is better than nothing."

I love how there are about ten too many words in that sentence. She should have thrown in a "rather" or two for good measure.

Flautus said...

She gave a speech about "market-based strategies for growth." As opposed to what? State-based strategies for growth? Okay, Megan, if your speech tried to persuade your audience in Raleigh that a demand economy functions better than a command economy, well mission fucking accomplished. Who spoke in opposition, Gus Hall?

She lives in a world entirely of her own making, with various bogeymen and straw-men constantly needing to be brought down by her self-imagined superior intellect.

Dhalgren said...

We all know that she aspires to be a pundit for the remainder of her adult life. I'm glad we are united in trying to prevent that from happening. People who have a high word-per-sentence average and bring down straw men should not automatically get job security for life. Hence the title of this wonderful blog.

There is still a fan page for her on Facebook. We should consider having a Facebook page that mirrors this blog.

Yuppers said...

We should consider having a Facebook page that mirrors this blog.

I'd join!

M. Bouffant said...

Dr. Frankenstein! You have created a monster!

clever pseudonym said...

There is still a fan page for her on Facebook.

Dear God. Please tell me it only has three fans. That's the stupidest thing I have ever heard in my life.

Though I have to say, given the size of Megan's ego, as much as she likes to put up a phoney modest front, I'm surprised she hasn't tried to mention it at least in passing. Or maybe she has and I missed it?

Susan of Texas said...

She does have a Facebook and has told her fans that she will only accept people she knows. And it seems that as Megan gets older her photos get younger, like the one she gave IEI.

Gah, she says she's a fan of Firefly? Bullshit. All the libertarians say they like that show because the hero is fleeing from an oppressive bureaucratic government. Since she's only mentioned it once in passing, she must be lying. Or she loves the idea of worlds based on an economic plan the elite can get away with, like slavery and company-owned planets.

I'm a big fan of Joss Whedon's work and know it fairly well. No way does she love the work of the self-professed angry feminist atheist.

clever pseudonym said...

So are we talking about Megan's own Facebook page or one set up by a fan in adoration? I know a lot of bands and entertainers have fan pages outside of their personal sites. Megan's own "I only add people I know and it's hard enough to keep up with my hundreds and hundreds of real friends" Facebook page is a different story.

I know a few libertarians who drool over the supposed message in "Firefly" that government is evil. Silly me. I just thought it was a fun show about an unlikely crew of misfits in space.

Yuppers said...

If Firefly is about oppressive government, then only to the extent that "The A-Team" and "The Dukes Of Hazzard" were.

Susan of Texas said...

Charmed: It's libertarian becasue the women chafe at the regulations imposed by the Whitelighters. A laissez faire Council would let the market set the paramaters.

Dhalgren said...

There is a fan page called "Megan McArdle is the pinnacle of awesome". It shows 36 members.

And she is there also, of course, with 253 friends.

clever pseudonym said...

Well, at least it's pathetic. The only people there are other bloggers (probably trying to kiss butt for a link) and real friends of hers.

"The pinnacle of awesome" sounds like something a teeny bopper would call their fangirl page. As in "The Jonas Brothers are the pinnacle of teh awesome!!!!" or "Twilight is the pinnacle of awesome."