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It's Hard Out Here for an Objectivist Pimp

The sun rises in the east, and Megan McArdle is a jackass: the world's tallest female moron camps out for an iPhone, compares the experience to being a refugee. When people get understandably upset, she employs the McArdle Defense*.

As if people misinterpreting her hilarious joke at the expense of homeless catastrophe victims wasn't enough, she was subjected to the horrible indignity of a credit check! Her, Megan McArdle, Atlantic columnist, treated like some common criminal or poor person! Happily, she recovers from the paralyzing shame long enough to make the noblesse exempte observation that all the people she knows with bad credit got it for perfectly understandable, totally reasonable, and utterly forgivable reasons, unlike all the "profligate" people she's constantly bitching about in her columns. She's a real prize, this one.

*: The McArdle Defense consists of claiming retroactively that something was supposed to be a joke, even though it wasn't funny. It should not be confused with the Goldberg Defense, which consists of claiming retroactively that something was central to your point, even though it seems to in fact contradict your point.


- Megan, who comes from a rich family, expresses bafflement at why, exactly, having bad credit or a bankruptcy is such a big deal (for people other than her).

- Megan, who is not British, refers to an apartment as a "flat".

- Megan rebukes a few correspondents who claim that black people routinely experience adverse credit conditions by claiming that would not be rational behavior on the part of corporations, therefore it does not happen.

- Megan, who has spent the last year complaining about the audacity of poor people who attempt to own houses, cites as a legitimate, understandable reason for having bad credit not being able to get a good job right away after grad school.

- Megan laments that the worst thing about "profligates" is that they are so wicked as to be immune to shame, unlike her, who has the decency to be embarrassed at some retail clerk's insulting assumption that she is some gawking rube with subpar credit.


Jul. 16th, 2008 12:44 pm (UTC)
Being a heartless and naive libertarian, I can take McArdle in stronger doses than most. But this:

Megan rebukes a few correspondents who claim that black people routinely experience adverse credit conditions by claiming that would not be rational behavior on the part of corporations, therefore it does not happen.

... cuts to the core of what I find wrong with Objectivists.
Jul. 16th, 2008 12:56 pm (UTC)
It's especially funny, because she says the only evidence this discrimination is happening is that there's a successful lawsuit every few years or so. Which, uh, means that the discrimination is happening, Megan.

While I've got you on the horn, though, is there an official libertarian position on private credit vs. corporate credit? One of the things that bugs me about the McArdle Line of the last few months is that she's constantly complaining about poor people who take on debt to live beyond their means (say, trying to buy a house when their base income isn't really good enough), but she never has shit to say about big corporations who take on debt to grow beyond their means (say, financing a big expansion or takeover through borrowing).

Seems to me that credit is an economic tool, and that you're either fer it (people/corporations/governments should be able to borrow based on the bank's assessment of risk) or agin in (people/corporations/governments should only spend the money they have). I can't see why the borrowing of a poor person to get a TV is a damnable act if it fails while the borrowing of an airline to buy a new fleet should be protected by government intervention if it fails. Is the argument -- and I'm not assuming you agree or disagree with it, just trying to find out if there's sort of a Libertarian official stance -- that private debt is less forgivable/protectable because it doesn't generate wealth? In other words, that corporate debt and government debt creates a social good in the form of wealth/job creation/social security/etc., and thus should be protected, as opposed to someone just buying a house for their own good? Or is it some other reason? Or is Megan just a big hypocrite?
Jul. 16th, 2008 01:10 pm (UTC)
Most people arrive at a libertarian-ish mindset from a conservative philosophy. You get your rare few who arrive at it from the liberal side - and the unique screwball like me who started out conservative, became libertarian, and ended up left-libertarian - but libertarianism typically draws from the Right.

McArdle is no exception.

I would surmise, based on what you describe of her views above, that she prefers corporate debt to individual debt because corporations use debt to Get Stuff Done (i.e., building factories, funding R&D) while individuals use debt to Make Themselves Happy (i.e., buying a TV, moving to the suburbs, etc). And in the Protestant / Catholic work ethic that made America great, happiness is the second priority. If that.

I don't know about an official libertarian position on private credit vs. corporate credit, as I'm not a very official libertarian. My position on debt of any sort has just been elucidated today: it's always risky. Every investment carries risk, and the reward must be proportional to the risk or else the market falls apart. The difference is that we're more used to quantifying the riskiness of a business expansion, less used to monetizing the benefits of a flat screen TV.
Jul. 16th, 2008 01:27 pm (UTC)
why do you read this woman? she doesn't sound very interesting.
Jul. 16th, 2008 02:35 pm (UTC)
There are several reasons:

1. I am paid to read right-wing nut columns.

2. Even if I wasn't, I am mildly obsessed with them.

3. Unlike, say, the hostile Michael Ledeen, the defensive Jonah Goldberg, and the idiotic Mark Noonan, The World's Tallest is sort of charmingly oblivious about how dumb all of her ideas are.

4. On the other hand, I like making myself angry about how someone so completely useless as a writer and thinker has a high-profile, profitable gig at a (once-)respectable national magazine.

5. She self-identifies as "the world's tallest female econo-blogger".
Jul. 16th, 2008 05:53 pm (UTC)
what that makes me think
5. She self-identifies as "the world's tallest female econo-blogger".

You'd think someone like that would avoid association with amoral dictators, but they don't seem to object to nonfictional ones either.
Jul. 16th, 2008 02:48 pm (UTC)
megan mcardle: another blog from the "i win the game of life" contingent.
so it's not just me who thinks she's a head-smack-worthy dimbulb?

i just read her "about": she worked for the economist? i thought that magazine employed smart people (even if i don't always agree with them)...
Jul. 16th, 2008 03:18 pm (UTC)
Re: megan mcardle: another blog from the "i win the game of life" contingent.
That's what the Economist wants you to believe. A pose of intelligence will take a person (or institution) a long way....
Jul. 16th, 2008 03:25 pm (UTC)
the economist is letting me down a lot more than it did back when i was in college (where i disagreed but didn't wince as much). have i fallen for their dastardly trap?

(i actually like that they're very bald-faced in their biases, and so anti-socialist/ pro-market that i get to laugh. for example: i was "eh" on hugo chavez, but every time they go at him, i think, "i must find out more about this guy, he must be cool if he gets this magazine's hackles up!)
Jul. 16th, 2008 03:08 pm (UTC)
Every time I read or read of Megan McArdle's opinions, I'm reminded of an online Internet conversation I read as a college freshman where someone told a woman who claimed to have once been a single mother on welfare that there "had to have been other options you could have taken." Upon investigation, I found out that said scold was currently enjoying a free parents-provided ride to college (not even a work-study job was necessary) and could also afford to take her and her boyfriend to a big name concert. That experience sort of destroyed any Objectivist or right-leaning Libertarian tendencies in me (that and being told sternly by my philosophy professor that Ayn Rand "is not a real philosopher.")

In the overview, though, I can almost sympathize with that woman and Megan McArdle's desperation to believe in a Horatio Alger-esque world where hard work and gumption are more than enough to rescue one from any bad circumstances. Well, emphasis on almost.
Jul. 18th, 2008 03:40 pm (UTC)
"that and being told sternly by my philosophy professor that Ayn Rand 'is not a real philosopher.'"

I disagree with this very slightly: she actually made enough of a stab at major issues to count as a real philosopher. She just wasn't any good.
Jul. 18th, 2008 03:54 pm (UTC)
My understanding is that the reason she's not considered a real philosopher is that her philosophy is not 'complete' -- that is, it lacks a metaphysic, a foundational approach to ethics, a theoretical component; in other words, as Sidorsky said, "it's more of an ideological movement than a well-grounded philosophy".

I'll defer to you on the topic, though, since you got the sheepskin. We can certainly agree that if she was a philosopher, she was a terrible one. (As I've mentioned before, one of the things that kills me about her is how her monstrous ego allowed her to claim she had no precedent beyond the Greeks -- that her Objectivism, which has dozens of antecedents over hundreds of years of debate over enlightened self-interest, was in fact almost totally unique. And she constantly quoted Nietzche, when she clearly didn't understand him.)

Jul. 18th, 2008 04:08 pm (UTC)
The discipline of philosophy has become so specialized lately that there are hundreds (thousands?) of people who are indisputably philosophers and who never, or rarely, address foundational questions. So I don't think one can indict Rand on that count.

Also, she did try to provide a foundation, but her attempts fell laughably short.

But yes, she was unbelievably self-delusional. And extremely authoritarian. Her ego may have been monstrous, but it was also apparently very fragile; she couldn't stand any attention other than adulatory.


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Leonard Pierce is a freelance writer wandering around Texas with no sleep or sense of direction. If you give him money he will write something for you. If you are nice to him he may come to your house and get drunk.

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