Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Who cares if she's lying?

Not Megan, she's got talking points to mindlessly repeat.

How much is a detroit [still sic] autoworker really worth?:

M. touched on this post earlier, but it's worth noting that Megan basically admits the $70 an hour figure is a lie, then uses empty jargon as 'justification' for repeating it. She's also ignoring the fact that the pay discrepancy between UAW workers and all the rest vanishes in 2010, thanks to the UAW renegotiating their contract in mid contract to try to help their industry survive difficult times.
Whenever Megan talks about unions, she's lying, in some way or another.

Save us, FDR!:

Since Megan's note was entirely in response to a strawbaby, naturally Megan has to defend it by once again not providing any documentation that anyone, anywhere, actually thinks that there should be wealth redistribution because otherwise the poor will eat the rich.
There are serious academic arguments to be made that FDR's policies helped prevent a genuine socialist uprising in the US, but that has next to nothing to do with what Megan is talking about except in her own mind, and obviously she's incapable of participating in serious academic anythings.

I think most of the people who make this argument are, in fact, being sophistic
Heh, indeed.

Unhand that economy, villein!:

Megan's trying to be cute, but villein is not synonymous with "villain". It means a feudal serf, meaning Megan has unintentionally been honest in the title of her post, which is about not blaming the people who fucked up the economy for fucking up the economy. It's gotta be the fault of poor people, somehow.
Apologies if this post wanders. I have rather a lot on my mind.
"Rather a lot". Fuck you.
In general, I think that we're approaching this crisis the wrong way when we look for a villain. One of the things that has really surprised me--so far, anyway--is just how little criminal activity we've uncovered during this crisis.
Hmmmmmm, could this be evidence that financial laws were loosened too much under Bush? Or maybe that finding criminal activity by wealthy financial types has been massively de-prioritized by the Bush Admin? Or maybe we're too busy trying to keep the global economy from imploding to worry about assessing specific blame and uncovering wrongdoing right now? Nah, it means nobody did anything wrong.
By contrast, so far the worst misbehavior I've seen has been the two Bear Stearns executives who told people their fund was okay the month before it went belly up. This was a bad thing, and the people who did it no doubt richly deserve the jail terms they are going to get, and then some. But on the scale of dishonesty generally uncovered during recessions, this wouldn't normally rank high enough to trigger more than a "You boys!!!" and a finger-wag.
This probably has something to do with just how tightly regulated financial companies already are; when the SEC wants to know about every transaction you do, it's hard to get too funny with the books. Still, it's pretty impressive.
Boys will be boys, and besides, our society is now so feminized it's not like boys being boys can really do anything bad these days. Women have self-defense classes, rape is a thing of the past.
Oh, and fuck you, Megan.
But no one wants to hear that. Everyone wants a villain: lefties want to hear that it was greedy bankers, or cold-hearted deregulators (or better yet, both!) who are entirely and 100% to blame; conservatives want to hear that it was poor people taking out loans they knew they couldn't pay off, and a pandering government that leaned on companies and the taxpayer to hand those irresponsible wretches free money.
Nature is not a novelist. Reality does not come packaged in narrative form, and rarely gifts us with either true heroes, or true villains.
"Nature is not a novelist." Neither is nature a commodities broker. Your point? I'd say the folk in actual control of the economy are likely more to blame for its poor performance of late than people with little money and less power, just maybe. You don't blame an army for a general's bad strategy.
It is safe to say that almost everyone involved in this mess, from the borrowers to the bankers, thought that they were getting away with something--at the very least, that they had found a way to get rich without working. It is an old saw that no one can be conned unless they are willing to believe in something for nothing, and the best cons generally get the victim to believe that he is putting one over on the con man.
Once again, fuck you, Megan. Ignoring the reality of how poor people were targeted for predatory loans they could not possibly pay back lets you sleep at night, but it's right there with the 2x4 in terms of hateful ignorance. It's called blaming the victims, and rich assholes like Megan invented it, so that they can avoid the guilt they should be consumed by.
It is trivial to observe that humans are imperfect; that is why institutions exist. One of the most interesting things about the emerging fields of experiemental and behavioral economics is how they contradict, and complement each other. Behavioral economics looks for all the ways that human beings do not act like the textbook rational value maximizers--and then experimental economics goes ahead and shows that when you stick them in a market, they go ahead and rationally value maximize.
These two things seem to contradict each other until you understand that a well designed institution creates things that are greater than the sums of their parts. Of course, when a badly designed institution fails, it can create a bigger mess than the sum of the individual failures. I think it was Daniel Davies, perhaps channeling George Orwell, who pointed out that unless you think that someone thrown out of work in a recession somehow deserves to be unemployed now, but did not deserve to be unemployed four months ago, you have to be at least somewhat skeptical of the rugged individualist school of economic advancement.
And yet, you aren't, Megan.
I'm actually not sure that what we had was bad institutional design; I'm not sure it's possible to design an institution that doesn't fail occasionally. What we certainly have, however, is institutions that have performed badly in the current environment.
So while yes, part of this story has been simple greed, a willingness to believe that we could and should massively increase consumption no matter what, I tend to take this desire as a given.
And that says nothing about the quality of your character, Megan. Everyone is greedy, like you, of course.
What I do not think is a major part of the story is that any simple change, or any handful of people or groups, somehow brought this on the rest of us. Societies, and economies, cannot be brought down by a few people or a few bad decisions--elsewise we'd all still be living in hunter-gatherer tribes eating roast locusts for breakfast. A failure this massive can only occur if massive numbers of people had their hands in it somehow. If you want to find a villain, there's probably one handy at the nearest reflective surface.
How do you respond to that much stupidity? Do I spend half an hour digging up documentation for the fact that hunter-gatherers had much more balanced diets than early agricultural societies, and mention that Megan's vaunted veganism hasn't made her any healthier?
Let's just focus on the overall point Megan is trying to make; don't blame the people who were in charge of the economy for ruining it. Why? Ummmmmm, cuz..... there are poor people in the world. If they didn't exist, or were rich, then everyone would be rich and moral like Megan, and no one would mind that stupidity and greed ruled the roost for 8 years, at least.

Sorry for my absence. Been busy, traveling, a little sick, and living weird hours. I haven't given up the cause, no fears.


M. Bouffant said...

Favorite Lines:

But on the scale of dishonesty generally uncovered during recessions, this wouldn't normally rank high enough to trigger more than a "You boys!!!" and a finger-wag.

This probably has something to do with just how tightly regulated financial companies already are; when the SEC wants to know about every transaction you do, it's hard to get too funny with the books. Still, it's pretty impressive.

What's impressive? And how is she an expert on the scale of dishonesty in recessions?

And a dig at regulation. Not bad for three sentences.

Anonymous said...

I am really not happy being cited by McArdle, although I suppose there is no realistic way to prevent it. She's been on my permanent, irrevocable shit-list ever since she accused me of being "happy" about hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dying, in the context of her appalling article about the Lancet survey.

brad said...

She thinks she'll kill you with kindness, dsquared.
She's even polite to me in email, she honestly thinks a pretense of politeness redeems massive moral failings.