Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Friday, May 22, 2009

The World We Have Made

Well, now we know what it will take to get Megan McArdle to do research.
No decent person wants to parade their spouse's financial trouble in front of the world.

So McArdle will do it for him.
Patty Barreiro, Andrews' wife, has declared bankruptcy twice. The second time was while they were married, a detail that didn't make it into either the book or the excerpt that ran in last Sunday's New York Times Magazine.

Digging up dirt on the wife of a financial reporter that McArdle said was brave to discuss his financial problem? Why would McArdle do such a thing?
[...T]his is material information that changes the tenor of his story.

Yes, it does. For at first the story was about, well, Megan.
I'm glad that Andrews is saying this because we could all use an object lesson. Trying to live as if we aren't, well, writers, can be disastrous--indeed often is, except that the disasters are carefully hidden by people terrified of seeming to drop out of the middle class.

But McArdle's commenters aren't a very tolerant bunch. They fall all over each other criticizing every decision Andrews made, collectively deciding that he should have ran a credit check on his girlfriends before marrying them, and then lived in a modest suburb in Jersey where he should grow his own vegetables and tell his wife to homeschool the children. Or be sent to debtors' prison.

McArdle's concerns change, and she puts her thinking cap back on.
So this weekend, I read the book from which the New York Times article I blogged about on Friday was excerpted. I feel a little differently now, though not enough to take back anything I wrote.

Andrews spends a lot of time defending not feeling bad, because after all, the banks shouldn't have lent him money. This is true, they shouldn't, and anyone who did should be profusely apologizing to their shareholders. But when you read the book, what you discover is that while the book is ostensibly about our Great National Borrowing Binge, for Andrews, the debt is really a sideshow. He couldn't afford to get married. At all.

[yip yip]

Other people may have been led down the primrose path, borrowing more than they can afford. But Andrews married more than he could afford. Unless he's willing to repudiate the marriage, he hasn't much moral stance to repudiate the debt.

Unless you repudiate your marriage, sir, your debts will not be forgiven. What is more important, your family or your credit score? Heh, just kidding, we know which McArdle would choose.

McArdle's commenters go to work again and decide that his wife is a spoiled cow for not going back to work the minute the kids went to school. As a stay at home mother I take umbrage at the notion that we do not work, but let's face it, we're talking about people who discuss in great detail and with great seriousness whether African Americans are an inferior race because they're black or because they're lazy, so I'll consider the source and forget it.

But McArdle is intrigued by this new train of thought, and runs away with it.
At the end of his book's harrowing account of mortgage mistakes and credit card crises, Edmund Andrews writes: "While our misadventure had certainly been more extreme than those of many other Americans, our situation was not all that unusual." And indeed the book reads like the story of an American Everyman, easily sucked in to the alluring world of easy credit as he struggled to blend a new family. The terrifying implication is that it could happen to you--to anyone who leads with their heart and not their head.

But en route to that moral, it turns out the story has been tidied up a little. Patty Barreiro, Andrews' wife, has declared bankruptcy twice. The second time was while they were married, a detail that didn't make it into either the book or the excerpt that ran in last Sunday's New York Times Magazine.

It was the little woman's fault! Or maybe little women's! Not the banks'!
Serial bankruptcy is not a creation of the current credit crisis, and it doesn't just happen to anyone, particularly anyone with a six figure salary.

Which is the important point. It's not the fault of the banks. Which are free of fault.

I can imagine that we will end up living in a world of violence and poverty, but I can't imagine wanting to end that way so my enemies will get what's coming to them. Nor can I imagine worshipping the architects of our destruction.


clever pseudonym said...

And of course when Megan describes "a writer's life," she is really just describing her own, which must be exactly what it is like for *all* writers. Right?

Chad said...

I'm reminded of those awful "" ads that posit that it's perfectly sensible to end a relationship with someone just because they have bad credit.