Thursday, July 29, 2010

Beneath it All

We got some real good laughter going on about McMoron, our beloved Morbo informs us. Even fellow libertarian Angry Bear is calling her a goddamn idiot. Apparently she's arbitrarily getting her panties in a bunch about some mortage crap that I don't give a fuck about. Something something she's dum then she shows up in comments and says the following in defense of her position:

Sigh. The point was that the product was created with heavy government interference/subsidies, not that the CFPA should be keeping banks from making loans they want to make.

Then there's a pile on:
Susan of Texas
Using that logic we should not use the internet, because it was created with "heavy government interference/subsidies." Yet, here we all are, voluntarily buying the service that others voluntarily provide.

Or highways, railroads, piped water, sewers, electricity, airports...

Granted, highways have had some fairly ugly consequences, such as Houston suburbs.

And global warming.

Sighhhhh. Banks only exist due heavy government influence.

Central banks are a threat to liberty, just like standing armies.

Libertarians are opposed to manipulating money, whether by the government or by a semi (hardly) independent federal reserve.

Do prepayment penalties make small banks want to sell the notes to big banks? And does the prepayment penalty make fannie and freddie bigger? and is that the libertarian angst against prepayment penalties?

Also are libertarians agnostoc pacificists, not being against war just the instrument of war? Or do they just want Cincinnatuses around to drop the plow and save the republic, which is so small as to not need saving..................?

ilsm will not change

I am no libertarian.

ilsm will not change

Oooooooooooooooo, just shy of the goal line, huh Meggers?

SIGGGGGGGGGGGGH. I think I'm in love.

Update: It occurs to me that I saw (in what little of this I did read) her mention that the 30 year mortage thing she's complaining about became popular in 1945ish, or somewhere just after WWII. So apparently it's such an insidious, lurking evil, it lays dormant for 70 fucking years or so.

Seriously, I just jizzed my pants.

Update2: AHHHHHHHHHHHH. i'm fucking hyperventilating, here. In the comments to her own original post she says:
I, too, am in the process of applying for a 30-year fixed . . .
Oh lord, I hope she gets her divorce soon so that I can marry her next.

Save The Corporations!

Megan lives in an alternate universe where corporations are constantly being victimized by over-empowered villainous bureaucrats of the type seen in such masterworks of storytelling as Transformers 2. In our reality the US treated one horrible wound, slavery, with a Constitutional amendment that eventually created another; the era of corporate empire, and the rest of the world, especially including the US government, has been playing a generally badly unbalanced game of catch-up since. The dice are loaded, and Megan should know it, because she's one of the countless people employed to help drill them and add weight. She's paid to (dishonestly) place the interests of crony capitalists disguised as noble corporations accumulating wealth for their shareholders above the interests of humanity, and in a sense she's good at it. Megan fits into the disinformation machine, giving her the chance to pull herself up by her own bootstraps tongue, one asshole at a time.
And now to Meganworld;

A few days ago, I wrote about employers using FICO scores to screen potential employees. One thing that neither I nor Kevin Drum really answered is: why are employers using them? They're at best a weak proxy. Of course, corporations do stupid things all the time, because they're not infallible. Still, it's a question that bears asking.

Over at CoyoteBlog, an employer offers one possible answer: because we've made other forms of information gathering illegal. IQ tests are out, as are any other tests that have disparate impact on minority groups. And references have become useless...
Links not reinserted because I don't care.
I love that she needs to remind herself that corporations aren't infallible. Anyway, you can see where she's going with this, I'm sure, so let's skip to the obvious conclusion;
I'm not sure why credit reports should fall into the category of sacred information that no one else has a right to see. The amount of money someone has is private--but not paying your bills is a very public action with large repercussions for others. Why do you have an absolute right to keep others from knowing that you've stiffed a third party?
What matters here is whether a person paid a corporate interest everything the corporate interest wanted, and that corporation's right to badmouth you to anyone who will listen. Perhaps we should make wearing a yellow star a condition of filing bankruptcy. (Hi Godwin, how's yer summer going?)
Back to the glibberish;
We seem to be in a situation where we are systematically depriving employers of any potential information about employees. This is both bad for businesss, which end up with unnecessary turnover, and bad for employees, because it results in the use of less accurate proxies that aren't banned. As Alex Tabarrok pointed out, banning inquiries about criminal history is likely to result in (illegal, but harder to detect) racial discrimination. Imposing liability for truthful bad references results in the use of things like FICO scores. And banning FICO scores--well, it may not be a good proxy, but what are bosses likely to use instead?
The question is not "how much should a potential employer be able to know about you beyond your employment history and competency at your job?", that's something a libertarian might ask. The question is "if you don't let your potential employer fuck you in that hole, which one will they fuck you in?", and don't you forget it, wage-slave.
One thing that seems clear to me since returning to occasional posting is that Megan is evil, not stupid. She ain't bright, being smarter than Jonah Goldberg is like saying you have better personal judgment than a meth addict; not an achievement, but she knows she's lying and doesn't care. She wants to get hers and keep it, full stop. Megan knows her arguments are dishonest, though she may be in denial as to the degree, because she cannot make her actual argument, which is that the obscenely rich are simply superior beings who deserve an even more disproportionate share of the world's resources, as proven by the paychecks and added perks David Bradley gives her. She's one of his favorite pets, and he gives her yummy table scraps to keep her tongue wagging.

< / rant >

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


ain't it retro?

Could We Stop Employers From Running Credit Checks?:

Here's the problem: your doctor will indeed release your medical records if you've signed a release form. It is already illegal to let anyone see your credit history without your permission, and one hopes it will remain that way--call me un-libertarian, but I don't like the idea of either a government or a corporation maintaining a secret dossier on people that those people can't look at.
Employers get permission to run the credit check the same way they get permission to run a drug test. No one (except law enforcement) can make you pee in a cup against your will. But if you don't do it, you don't get the job.
And really, why would a libertarian have a problem with a drug test or a comparable mandatory 'voluntary' invasion of personal privacy? Corporate rights are being completely respected, what's the issue?

Tenure in a Nutshell:

Remember when the Freakonomics guy wasn't a total asshole? Me neither.
If Megan and her allies ignore tenure review hard enough, it'll go away. Why can't tenure advocates fix a problem that doesn't actually exist, huh? Answer that, punks. She has us now.

The Government's Role in the Housing Bubble:

If you're willing to even listen to Megan make any claims of new, revolutionary discoveries of unrecognized economic truths, then I have a seminar on tax law and sovereign citizenship you MUST sign up for. Did you know the government has a secret bank account in your name with $250k in it? For only $300 I'll teach you how to get that money.

The nice thing about shorters is I barely have to read her.

Monday, July 26, 2010

A Thought

if you haven't read Tom Levenson's latest vivisection of Megan, go do so.

I'm just realizing, after reading it, that we all may be going about this the wrong way. Megan doesn't listen to her critics because we, in a certain sense, genuinely don't get it.

It takes real effort to create false narratives with such careful, cautious, weaselly methods. Instead of laughing and calling Megan dumb we should be wowed by how well she lies. It takes focus to remain that ignorant, maintain a veneer of professionalism via constantly tonguing the asshole of anyone within 50 feet of you (though she seems a bit more... royal since her princess day) and still be a shallow materialistic yuppie.

Ok, not really, but she is loathsome enough to believe some variant of that as a final guard against genuine self-recognition.

Also, for some reason Megan seems to be responding to Levenson's criticisms in this post, probably because its author sits with her at lunch and has her back. Her comments start here, and she basically repeats the same glibberish again and again hoping to wear those responding out.

Back to Not Being Back

I dunno about you guys, but I'm sick of brad sullying this place up with this new character he's created, Megan McArdle. C'mon, how can we possibly believe she exists? A woman who claims expertise in economics with no formal training in it and who can't even use a calculator? A professional writer that doesn't proofread? And she's six-four? ANNNND her name is fucking Megan McArdle? Shit, I've seen more believable characters in a Marvel comic.

No one is buying it, brad.

Let's go on to something more believable. Someone on Facebook says that this is terribly exciting. Sure.

Now, I've become far too fatalistically apathetic to read long articles filled with the gory details of the bombs bought with my money and dropped on foreigner's heads, but I managed to get far enough in this one to read this fine excursion into political philosophy from our soi-dissant intellectual compatriots over at The New Republic:

Nation-building is a painstakingly slow enterprise. At least some Pakistanis are playing a double game. NATO forces continue to kill non-combatants, despite universal acknowledgment that doing so alienates the people whose affections we are desperate to win.
Because if there's one thing years of war have taught us about the middle east it's that everyone would love America if only their bombs were somehow more accurate. Oh, and they have to be "liberal" bombs.

And if any of you fuckers refute my arguments with facts from the rest of the article, or tell me that The New Republic doesn't call itself liberal or some shit, I'm gonna make you listen to more of brad's "Megan McArdle: The Magical Made-Up Mathematicians Meandering Market Based Solution." I hear the next chapter involves a love interest.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

More On Tenure

....... breaking news .........

You have to pay tenured professors money, every year, without fail. Megan uses her elite math skills to argue this makes tenure more expensive than a purely contractual system would be.

One interesting response I've seen from a lot of people is that tenure is a non-pecuniary reward that enables us to keep the cost of teaching lower. That's one way to think about it. But I think of it not in terms of annual salary, but as an accounting cost. And in accounting terms, hiring someone on a five year contract at $80,000 is much less expensive than hiring them on a forty year contract at $65,000. One is a liability of perhaps $350,000; the other, of millions.

Is that a ridiculous way to think about it? After all, you'll have to hire another professor at the end of the contract. But you may have to anyway, if, say, their area of specialty won't attract the top students. You also lose the very valuable option to downsize if you run into financial trouble. Fixed payments are what turn cash flow problems into catastrophes. Option value and opportunity costs really matter.
Yes, the stupid is obvious. Megan's ideological biases are literally making her hallucinate (and maybe the Ambien). Fortunately for me, commenter Lisa A spared the need to provide my own response;
Yes, but what most people fail to consider is the cost of hiring and salary inflation. For example: Six years ago, a university hires an assistant professor at a salary of $57k. Said university does not give annual COLA adjustments, only "merit" raises. Not eligible for the first year, the professor gets a 3% raise halfway through the first six years, increasing the salary to $59,850. The professor is tenured, and given a "large" raise for promotion and tenure, increasing said salary to $65,835. Now, you have an associate professor with tenure making $65,835. However, if you were to hire a new *assistant* professor six years after hiring the first one, the new starting salary will be at least $65k.
In short, there's no way that I, as a professor, would accept a renewed contract for anything less than current market salary. For me, as an associate professor, my salary would go up over $10,000 (I've been at my current institution for ten years, and with tenure, 15 years of being in the profession, and two books to my name, I make less than the newly-minted Ph.D. who my department just hired this past spring).
Tenure may be "permanent" employment, but not if the university decides to eliminate your department. People often leave (usually to get a salary increase), and few people today stay at the same university for their entire career.
As for tenure encouraging mastery, there's this little thing called "post-tenure review." Between that and no COLA, if you're not producing scholarship and actively engaged with students, your salary will never go up, and you could actually be fired.
Meanwhile, much of the rest of her commentariat ignore reality and riff on Megan's wishcasting. If we assume that at least one tenured professor somewhere, at some time, has committed rape, then clearly the system facilitates it and must be abolished. One commenter even seems to believe that for-profit colleges, which presumably means private institutions, don't offer tenure. Or maybe he means DeVry. He also seems to think it's metaphysically impossible to fire someone with tenure, because he hasn't the slightest clue what he's talking about, like his heroine.

Shoot me before I post again.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Fuck Me

it begins again, I made the mistake of reading something by Megan. This piece on tenure is just so monumentally wrong in every imaginable way I have to write a long ranty response, to be read by potentially dozens. The assault on academia and education in general inherent in it is just... no. It's amazing she can write so many words about how she doesn't like anyone who actually knows anything. Megan depends on ignorance, both general and willful, as the basis of her work, so I suppose it's natural for her to hate teachers as a group. But in the past she seemed mostly concerned with high school teachers, who are, primarily, government employees. That makes ideological sense, but her words about college and university professors sound almost personal, as if she hates them for having told her she's wrong or inherently mediocre so many times. People who are informed about their subjects and trained to craft concise, coherent arguments seem to piss off Megan the same way hot girls piss off /b/tards; they want, but will never have.
Anyway, let's get to the stupid;

The arguments for academic tenure have always struck me as pretty weak, and more to the point, transparently self-serving. The best you can say of the system is that it preserves a sort of continuity in schools that is desireable [sic] for the purposes of cultivating alumni donations. But the cost of such a system is simply staggering.
I almost wonder if she consciously placed that huge steaming pile of projection at the very beginning to be a stumbling block for anyone who will criticize her. Yes, tenure is an imperfect system and yes it is abused by some granted power in it and yes it can shield incompetents, but all that and far worse can be said for fucking capitalism, especially the corporate crony based variety currently dominant which Megan considers the most important and sacred thing humanity has ever created. But concern troll needs something to shift concern onto, and as always her ideological blinders help lead the way. Problems in academia aren't due to endowments shrinking in the economic meltdown or American society being profoundly anti-intellectual in character leading to a general bias against knowing what the fuck you're talking about because the economic meltdown was a blameless act of God and/or poor people who bought houses and, as said, Megan depends on ignorance in order to sound plausible. That only leaves tenure.
I had to read the following, so you do too;
Consider what the academic job market now looks like. You have a small elite on top who have lifetime employment regardless of how little work they do. This lifetime employment commences somewhere between 35 and 40. For the ten-to-fifteen years before that, they spend their lives in pursuit of the brass ring. They live in poverty suck up to professors, and publish, for one must publish to be tenured. It's very unfortunate if you don't have anything much worth saying; you need to publish anyway, in order to improve your chances. Fortunately, for the needy tenure seeker, a bevy of journals have sprung up that will print your trivial contributions. If nothing else, they provide a nice simple model which helps introductory economics professors explain Say's Law.
How this differs from Megan's career path and context is, of course, not something you should think about. In no way does becoming a Village Pundit resemble being granted tenure, move along. This is not Megan whining about her own life after the bursting of the tech bubble killed her financial sector job before it ever started a decade and change ago, so shut up.
At the end of the process, most of the aspirants do not have tenure; they have dropped out, or been dropped, at some point along the way. Meanwhile, the system has ripped up their lives in other ways. They've invested their whole youth, and are back on the job market near entry level at an age when most of their peers have spent ten years building up marketable skills. Many of them will have seen relationships ripped apart by the difficulties of finding not one, but two tenure-track jobs in the same area. Others will have invested their early thirties in a college town with no other industry, forcing them to move elsewhere to restart both their careers and their social lives. Or perhaps they string along adjuncting at near-poverty wages, unable to quite leave the academy that has abused them for so long.
Meanwhile, every MBA is guaranteed either an executive level position at a Fortune500 company or a small successful business of their own to run. "Adjuncting" (which we're pretending is a word) is in no way comparable to corporations firing employees then rehiring them as temps or independent contractors so as to avoid paying benefits. And there are no non-financial personal benefits to choosing a life learning about and sharing a subject you love, so being an adjunct prof of English at a community college is exactly as dreary a life as working in a cubicle processing paperwork for who the fuck cares what purpose.
Back to Megan;
Is this producing better education? Doubtful; there's no particular relationship between scholarship and the ability to teach. How about valuable scholarship? Well, define valuable--in many liberal arts fields, the only possible consumer of the research in question is a handful of scholars in the same field. That sort of research is valuable in the same way that children's craft projects are priceless--to their mothers. Basically, these people are supporting an expensive hobby with a sideline business certifying the ability of certain twenty-year olds to write in complete sentences.
Go look for yourself, she actually wrote "there's no particular relationship between scholarship and the ability to teach". She thinks she's saying the biggest expert isn't always the best teacher and adding a non-sequitur empty tautology like "statistics can be uncertain" in place of a premise in a valid argument, but she couldn't even manage to do that much coherently. She might as well have said there's no particular relation between a knowledge of human anatomy and the ability to operate.
Moving on;
And what about the people who do get tenure, and are producing scholarship in areas that other people care about? Doesn't tenure protect free intellectual inquiry? Diversity of thought? Doesn't it allow teachers to be more demanding of students?
Ummm, yeah, it does.
Perhaps--but the question is, at what point?
I'm going to go kill 50 people and see if it calms me down at all.
She admits the best arguments in favor of tenure, namely academic freedom and the ability to respond appropriately to ignorance in pupils, are valid, but irrelevant. Why, you ask?
Most scholars in their sixties are not producing path-breaking new research, but they are precisely the people that tenure protects. Scholars in their twenties and thirties, on the other hand, have no academic freedom at all. Indeed, because tenure raises the stakes so high, the vetting of future employees is much more careful--and the candidates, who know this, are almost certainly more careful than they would be if they were on more ordinary employment contracts. As a result, the process of getting a degree, getting a job, and getting tenure has stretched out to cover one's whole youth. So tenure makes young scholars--the kind most likely to attack a dominant paradigm--probably more careful than they would be under more normal employment process.
Yes, it's because old people are dumb, and forget how to read. And they make everyone in the department pretend their faulty memories are accurate, which is why I always thought Hamlet said "To be or to buy new socks?" until I saw the play performed.
Megan is actually demonstrating intellectual insecurity to think the liberal arts portions of academia are intellectually monolithic and discourage new and challenging interpretations. All institutions have structural inertia, which is no excuse when it's found in academia, but the ratio of bad scholars unwilling to or incapable of recognizing the flaws in their own arguments to stifled geniuses is high enough to break Megan's calculator.
The same is true of diversity. Academics within the tenure system are probably more careful about weeding out heresy, because they'll be stuck with it if it manages to sneak in. Tenure can easily be used to entrench the ideological or scholarly commitments of a department's powerful members, reducing diversity rather than enhancing it.
Granted, this is anecdotal, but in my undergrad philosophy dept there was a legendary tale of an actual fistfight breaking out after a dept meeting between two tenured professors over how to interpret Plato's Republic. Groupthink is a genuine danger, but the type of professor who tries to force their views on an entire department isn't going to be eliminated with tenure, or even necessarily changed in the least. Bullies are bullies, and they'll use whatever means they can to be what they are.
The current tenure system only protects revolutionary, dangerous ideas to the extent that they spring full blown from an academic's head after he has secured tenure, startling the hell out of everyone who hired him. Or perhaps after he's secured his full professorship. Or after he's managed to move to a better class of research institution with a nicer salary.
This is quite simply wrong. Any scholar worth their weight can probably name half a dozen doctoral theses at least which made major impact on their fields and were subsequently publicly published to even greater impact. Even knowing Megan's stupidity as well as I do I can't understand how she could make this claim. It's like saying rookies are prohibited by Major League Baseball from winning the batting title. You have to be deeply, deeply seeped in movement conservative anti-intellectualism to even consider this claim plausible. In other words, you have to be as ignorant as Megan to agree.
Since I don't know of many cases where this has happened, I find it hard to believe that tenure is crucial to preserving the spirit of free inquiry at our nation's colleges. I'm sure it's protected more than one scholar from getting fired after making stupid remarks to a class. And we would all of us--not just academics--like to be immune from getting fired for making stupid remarks. But what's not clear to me is that this has, in any instance, protected Very Important Scholarship from being censored for the benefit of Mrs. Grundy.
Yes, irony just died again, Megan made a stupid remark indicating her lack of awareness of her own insulation from the consequences of making stupid remarks. But there's a second layer of shading to the irony you might miss, of the corporate propagandist questioning whether the honest scholar needs protections from the "market forces" which placed her hack self in a position of false authority. Megan has to believe she rose on talent, lest self-awareness creep into her head and the cookie crumble.
Thanks Jebus, we're almost done.
Even if it were, I'd want to know if all that Very Important Scholarship were worth the enormous cost of this outmoded system. And advocates would have a steep uphill battle to convince me that it is.
The "enormous cost" demonstrated by Megan being that people have to work hard at their career with no guarantees of eventual success, and that academia sometimes struggles to be open to new ideas. This is her actual argument against tenure, and she's damn well pleased with it. I can't go on, and thankfully don't have to. I hope this doesn't mean I'm going to start doing this regularly again, she's really fucking stupid.

Actually About Megan

Start over at Susan's, I'll wait.


Ok, so zosima replied and Megan responded. I can't figure out how to find the link for that comment, but you just need to scroll down a lil for it, or you can read it now;

Ooooooh, snap!

More-in-sorrow-than-in-anger requires making some point I find at least tangentially interesting.

On a serious note, don't worry that you hurt my feelings. Mosquitos don't need to hurt my feelings to piss me off. I don't like nasty internet invective. And not because I'm not good at it. Invective is fun, but entirely counterproductive, which is why I deploy it only with people who a) use it liberally themselves and b) have ignored myriad previous warning shots across the bow.

Contempt is only a good arguing tool if the person you're arguing with wants your respect. And, respectfully, you haven't earned mine, so I don't really care about yours. Only the very young, the very stupid, or the very insecure are impressed by the condescension of random others, and alas, I am no longer any of those things.

Had you attempted straight argument, stripped of the attempt to project a superiority you didn't work for, you might have won that respect; there are a lot of liberals whose opinions I do care for. You are very welcome to attempt to be one of those liberals; or you can go away. But the very next time you express the merest sliver of contempt for me, or anyone else on this thread, I'll ban you.

Note to others, ideologically sympatico or not: this is one of my periodic housecleanings. Be nice to one another. Both liberals and conservatives have fallen prey to my axe before, and I'm ready to start swinging again. You know I love each and every one of you, but that doesn't mean we can all live in the same house.
Queen Megan hath spoken. Thou shalt dote upon her Ladyship's feelings, or thou shalt be exiled from her lands.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Things That Make You Go Bullshit


Shahzad tried to detonate a car bomb in a Nissan Pathfinder on May 1, but the device fizzled and caused no injuries. But if the bomb had been detonated properly, it could have "killed in the thousands on the high end" and in the "hundreds on the low end," according to a source familiar with the investigation.
Wait, so, an attack that destroys two of the largest buildings in the entire country completely kills only 3000, and we're supposed to believe that a fucking car bomb at a busy intersection is going to kill 1/3 of that?

That must've been one hell of an M-80....

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Savage Fail

I'd say fire Terry Savage, except the woman is too amusing. She's written a defense of yelling at little girls who wanted to share, which reads like she's hoping most will just glance at it and mistakenly conclude she's not an utterly unreasonable loon. The problem is she's a syndicated economics pundit, not an actual writer, and she doesn't have the talent with words to genuinely cover her ass.
Let's start with the second mini-graf of her now infamous previous piece;

Last week, I was in a car with my brother and his fiancee, driving through their upscale neighborhood on a hot summer day. At the corner, we all noticed three little girls sitting at a homemade lemonade stand. (My emphasis.)
Later she has her brother say "I'm really thirsty", as well.
And now, from near the conclusion to her newer self-defense;
The children weren't rescuing people from the heat, since it was a temperate day. They were just looking for something to do -- and there was no one around to teach them how a lemonade stand should really work.
Mmmm, that's good intellectual honesty, even if it is a tiny, tiny point. But she's the one who chose to lie about it.
Her actual arguments are, as you'd expect, of comparable quality.
Clearly there is a great misconception that entrepreneurship and generosity are incompatible. But that's far from the truth. Just look at Bill Gates and Warren Buffett -- two of our country's greatest entrepreneurs, who are in the process of giving away hundreds of millions of dollars to causes they think are worthwhile. But first they had to earn that money!
I'm sure Susan's authoritarian radar is perking up here, as it's clear that in Savage's mind only Daddy can legitimately give stuff to poor people, as only Daddy earned that money by sitting in an office and telling other people to do things between trips to the golf course. And if he gives his favorite caddy at the course a home loan at a couple points off prime, well, it's his money to play with isn't it.
My column was intended as a lesson on entrepreneurship -- not as a criticism of charitable giving, which I value highly on a personal basis. And the lemonade stand was not only a lesson for children, but a metaphor for our financial troubles today. We need entrepreneurs to create jobs and keep America growing out of this recession.
In other words, she's just going to restate the premises she mistakes for a conclusion and not respond to the criticism. And her concluding example of what she's presumably using as her evidence of valuing charitable giving?
For many years, I've been on the board of Junior Achievement in Chicago and have been an adviser to the Women's Business Development Center. Both are organizations dedicated to teaching about the opportunities of our free enterprise system. This is especially important for girls who might otherwise grow into young women still earning only about 73 cents on the dollar compared with men -- an average pay discrepancy for jobs in large companies. Surely, we want to help them do better.
Gender based pay discrepancies are obviously a genuine injustice, but Ms. Savage seems to be confusing charity with working to increase her paycheck. It's not selfish, at least not presumably, but the personal benefit you get from charitable giving isn't really supposed to be financial. I realize her work at those groups probably extends beyond that issue, but it's telling that's all she mentioned.
What she doesn't do is genuinely address the criticism of her argument that the little girls should not have been nice to people but instead trying to make a market out of everything, just like economists and wannabe economist pundits do. If they don't learn to commercialize and monetize every single aspect of human life and interaction now they might learn to see people as, well, people, and not walking economic units that are more 'real' on paper. Sure, stupid laws say you can't make children actually work most jobs and severely limit their hours the rest of the time, but that doesn't mean you have to let them have a childhood. 7 or 8 is plenty old enough to be forced into capitalism, and like most other religions it takes constant repetition of the institutional absurdities to turn them from laughable to holy. These little girls run the risk of not learning to think "how can I make a dollar off them?" when meeting new people. Terry Savage has a problem with that, and for the millionth time I'm left to wonder if there's something about economics that turns many of its students into borderline sociopaths, or if the field just attracts them.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

I Don't Think She's Joking

Meet Terry Savage:

Last week, I was in a car with my brother and his fiancee, driving through their upscale neighborhood on a hot summer day. At the corner, we all noticed three little girls sitting at a homemade lemonade stand.
The three young girls -- under the watchful eye of a nanny, sitting on the grass with them -- explained that they had regular lemonade, raspberry lemonade, and small chocolate candy bars.

Then my brother asked how much each item cost.

"Oh, no," they replied in unison, "they're all free!"
AWWWWWWWWWWW, how nice. They're sharing their candy with strangers, sweetly inverting the idiom. Surely Ms. Savage is about to tell us how these girls have amazing parents and a great nanny.
I sat in the back seat in shock. Free? My brother questioned them again: "But you have to charge something? What should I pay for a lemonade? I'm really thirsty!"

His fiancee smiled and commented, "Isn't that cute. They have the spirit of giving."

That really set me off, as my regular readers can imagine.

"No!" I exclaimed from the back seat. "That's not the spirit of giving. You can only really give when you give something you own. They're giving away their parents' things -- the lemonade, cups, candy. It's not theirs to give." *
... Ok, but she still is going to be nice to the little girls, right?
I pushed the button to roll down the window and stuck my head out to set them straight.

"You must charge something for the lemonade," I explained. "That's the whole point of a lemonade stand. You figure out your costs -- how much the lemonade costs, and the cups -- and then you charge a little more than what it costs you, so you can make money. Then you can buy more stuff, and make more lemonade, and sell it and make more money."
That's right, she publicly berated little girls for not being more greedy. Despite it sounding like they have parents who are quite capable of giving them quite a bit, these girls should be grabbing desperately at every penny like good patriotic American capitalists. In fact, little girls being nice to strangers is what's wrong with this country.
No wonder America is getting it all wrong when it comes to government, and taxes, and policy. We all act as if the "lemonade" or benefits we're "giving away" is free.

And so the voters demand more -- more subsidies for mortgages, more bailouts, more loan modification and longer periods of unemployment benefits.
Really, she's not kidding.
The government only gets the money to pay these benefits by raising taxes, meaning taxpayers pay for the "free lemonade." Or by printing money -- which is essentially a tax on savings, since printing more money devalues the wealth we hold in dollars.

If we can't teach our kids the basics of running a lemonade stand, how can we ever teach Congress the basics of economics?
It's quite clear; being taught to care about other people is the same as being taught to hate America, land of the free (corporation). And how dare Congress be so ignorant as to try to direct unemployment funds to those people who have been paying into the system for years and now need help when there are rich people who aren't sufficiently pleased with the amount of free money they receive?
She's not done yet, either.
Or maybe it's the other way around: The kids are learning from the society around them. No one has ever taught them there's no free lunch -- and all they see is "free," not the result of hard work, and saving, and scrimping.

If that's what America's children think -- that there's a free lunch waiting -- then our country has larger problems ahead. The Declaration of Independence promised "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." It didn't promise anything free. Something to think about this July 4th holiday weekend.
Yes, look around the US today and the clear problem is everything is being given away for free. The kindness of a few young girls shows that what's wrong with the country is the kids might possibly be being taught to expect everything for free by policies designed to try to help the suffering not slip into abject poverty via paltry sums. The woman actually titled a column about being offered free lemonade "There Is No Free Lemonade". Her do logic good.
I know what you're thinking, this didn't actually happen, no one could be so ideologically compromised as to yell at little girls for offering her free lemonade on a hot day, this is just another wingnut cabdriver apocryphal story. Maybe, but she's committed to the lie.
This column is a true story -- every word of it. And I think it very appropriate to consider around the Fourth of July, Independence Day spirit.
I might visit this thoughtful woman's work again someday.

* - They aren't the girls' things to give, but they are the girls' things to profit from, and if the parents asked for a cut of the profits that would be government intrusion on the free market. This sounds like tortured logic, but it's quite simple. If something was given to you, like the candy to the girls, it's rude to re-gift it. Selling it shows you valued it, like corporations using publicly owned resources.

Edited to correct Terry Savage's gender. Thanx tree.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Shame: Not At Work Here

We see that McArdle has copped David Weigel's one-time WaPo end-of-day link dump title.