Tuesday, April 03, 2012


Megan McArdle, aka Jane Galt.

I generally resist the urge to pay much attention, even as she's continued to fail upwards, as certain types of people do, though I occasionally peek in on people with sterner stomachs who do pay some attention. Get too close and you risk crossing over the event horizon of a black hole of narcissism, and years ago I learned that she tended to respond to disagreement or criticism with various combinations of "my critics failed to understand me," "my critics are mean so I win," and "that was not intended to be a factual statement." We all say dumb things and toss out a wrong statement now and then, but with McArdle a degree of argumentum ad verecundiam pervades all of her writing, and the authority she's appealing to is herself. She's never wrong, just misunderstood.

In addition, while Tom Friedman has his cab drivers, McArdle seems to have the entire world ready to provide her with a quote or anecdote which proves her fucking right. This is not an accusation of fabrication, merely a suggestion that some people hear what they want to hear, and others are good at knowing what people want to hear. One could waste a lifetime coming up with examples of this sort of stuff, but I'm a lazy blogger so I'll stick with one implausible anecdote I managed to remember from 8 (!!killmenow!!) years ago regarding the locker room chat of prep school kids.

Matthew Yglesias has gotten a fair amount of linkage for his claim that "talking to a room full of Dalton alumni is pretty much the best case that can be made for the estate tax".

I attended a demographically similar institution somewhat to the north, and while my girlhood memories include recollections of some really repulsive conspicuous consumption, I'm afraid that my classmates offer one of the best cases I've seen for repealing the estate tax. To wit: none of their families seem to have paid any. Since the parents of children in New York City private schools are, without a doubt, the group upon which such a tax should fall, if it falls on anyone, this rather begs the question of which less tax-worthy groups are actually shouldering the burden.

Usually not one to pick on improper usage - glass houses and all - but it's somehow especially appropriate for McArdle to misuse "begs the question" here. Anyhoo, while I'm certainly open to the idea that rich teenagers spend a lot more time than my classmates did talking about estate planning and just how much of daddy and granddaddy's fortune was confiscated by Uncle Sam, there's something deeply hilarious about the idea that young teenage McArdle would have deep knowledge of the tax obligations of the estates of all of the dead relatives of her classmates. "To wit: none of their families seem to have paid any."

With McArdle we have the pinnacle of glibertarianism, though "fuck you I've got mine" has morphed into "oh fuck I don't have quite enough I'd better be even more creative with my defenses of plutocracy" as the years have passed. This post will probably be seen as unfair somehow, as apparently she's on a blogging break to write a book. Its title is, dear me, PERMISSION TO SUCK, about "how risk aversion is sapping America of its core strengths." Now I do think we should have a bit of permission to suck, to have a few career fails in our lives, but the problem isn't risk aversion, it's that the consequences of a bad coin toss are catastrophic for those of us without significant parental support in our do the trapeze without a social safety net world. A few of the fortunate do, indeed, have permission to suck. And suck they do.

But this particular award is really going back to the beginning, when the libertarian case for war in Iraq was strong, and the metaphysics of "pre-emptive war" was debated alongside the metaphysics of "firm, pre-emptive" use of 2x4s against protesters. Throw in a bit of confusion about just what a 2x4 is, the fact that people on the internet are mean, and pleas for civilitude from those of us not wanting to blow up a bunch of people over there just because, and you have the perfect McArdle mix.