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.


Mr. Wonderful said...

The field attracts them. Just as celibacy in the Catholic church doesn't *make* men into pedophiles, but, rather, serves as a magnet to attract disproportionate numbers of those who already are.

Presumably you've seen this:

Nice catch with that "hot" - "temperate" dodge.

Glad to see you're posting again, too. But that's me.

Emily said...

How does Terry know the girls weren't doing a homework assignment from their Sunday School teacher? Maybe the lesson was "Love your neighbor like yourself." The girls were supposed to think of something they'd really like and give it to others. Who wouldn't like free lemonade in the summer, the girls thought to themselves. And the rest is history.

NutellaonToast said...

"But first they had to earn that money!"

How does she not realize that this argument could be extended to like everything. She's basically advocating for fucking child labor. How DARE you choose to eat that food that was given to you? you need to earn food before you can choose to eat it!

mew said...

"...and there was no one around to teach them how a lemonade stand should really work."

Just needed to point out that in her original story she had a nanny standing there with the children.