Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Strike!

Let's try something new.

Here's a recent Megan McArdle post. It's about potassium iodine pills but it could be about anything. Let's cross out anything that she lifted from another blogger:


As some of you may know, there have been reports of crazy price spikes in potassium iodide, which can protect against thyroid cancer in the event of radioactive exposure. Some of this is natural--all the world's potassium iodide pills should not be flowing to Japan and its immediate environs, and price signals are a good way to accomplish this. But apparently the soaring demand is not limited to places near Japan--all over the US, people seem to be seeking the stuff.


Presumably at least some of this is for relatives abroad, but it seems unlikely that this is the source of all the demand. Derek Lowe explains, as gently as possible, why it's not a good idea to take potassium iodide:


. . . unless you're actually being exposed to radioactive iodine, it's not going to do any good at all, and can actually do you harm. Pregnant women and people with thyroid problems, especially, should not go around gulping potassium iodide. Nothing radioactive is reaching North America yet - there's the Pacific Ocean to dilute things out along the way - which makes it very likely that more people on this side are in the process of injuring themselves by taking large unnecessary doses of iodide. This is like watching people swerve their cars off the road into the trees because they've heard that there's an accident fifty miles ahead.


Okay, now let's cross out the bit on price spikes, since McArdle's source doesn't tell us anything about pricing except "some media are reporting price gouging." She could easily find a link to support this point but she didn't. Her second source is merely a link to a google search McArdle did for "price potassium iodide" but it does support her point.

As some of you may know, there have been reports of crazy price spikes in potassium iodide, which can protect against thyroid cancer in the event of radioactive exposure. Some of this is natural--all the world's potassium iodide pills should not be flowing to Japan and its immediate environs, and price signals are a good way to accomplish this. But apparently the soaring demand is not limited to places near Japan--all over the US, people seem to be seeking the stuff.


Presumably at least some of this is for relatives abroad, but it seems unlikely that this is the source of all the demand. Derek Lowe explains, as gently as possible, why it's not a good idea to take potassium iodide:


. . . unless you're actually being exposed to radioactive iodine, it's not going to do any good at all, and can actually do you harm. Pregnant women and people with thyroid problems, especially, should not go around gulping potassium iodide. Nothing radioactive is reaching North America yet - there's the Pacific Ocean to dilute things out along the way - which makes it very likely that more people on this side are in the process of injuring themselves by taking large unnecessary doses of iodide. This is like watching people swerve their cars off the road into the trees because they've heard that there's an accident fifty miles ahead.


Now let's cross out anything that is a guess or supposition.

As some of you may know, there have been reports of crazy price spikes in potassium iodide, which can protect against thyroid cancer in the event of radioactive exposure. Some of this is natural--all the world's potassium iodide pills should not be flowing to Japan and its immediate environs, and price signals are a good way to accomplish this. But apparently the soaring demand is not limited to places near Japan--all over the US, people seem to be seeking the stuff.


Presumably at least some of this is for relatives abroad, but it seems unlikely that this is the source of all the demand. Derek Lowe explains, as gently as possible, why it's not a good idea to take potassium iodide:


. . . unless you're actually being exposed to radioactive iodine, it's not going to do any good at all, and can actually do you harm. Pregnant women and people with thyroid problems, especially, should not go around gulping potassium iodide. Nothing radioactive is reaching North America yet - there's the Pacific Ocean to dilute things out along the way - which makes it very likely that more people on this side are in the process of injuring themselves by taking large unnecessary doses of iodide. This is like watching people swerve their cars off the road into the trees because they've heard that there's an accident fifty miles ahead.



So what is left? Basically, this:

Some of this is natural--all the world's potassium iodide pills should not be flowing to Japan and its immediate environs, and price signals are a good way to accomplish this.

This is the economic substance in McArdle's word salad and it doesn't make a bit of sense. The drug companies and distributors should jack up prices sky-high so that Japan can't afford to buy the pills? The Japanese need the pills now, most Americans can probably wait until more are manufactured. That's just a guess, but it's every bit as good as McArdle's speculation.


It's great to be a conservative writer!

edited after posting

9 comments:

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

I'm left wondering if "not" is a typo and she meant "now", which makes a bit more sense. Of course, then you could cross out sentences with typos, and there would be nothing left.
~

Susan of Texas said...

That was the old McArdle; the new one uses spellcheck.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Spellcheck wouldn't catch 'not' if you meant 'now'.

If she's using "price signals" to mean "prices going through the roof", plus rational markets theory (the limits of which she clearly does not understand), I can't see a context in which 'not' makes sense.
~

KWillow said...

How did she reason that life-saving medicine should NOT go to the people who need it the most? Is that of her "only the strong (rich) survive" creed? God, she's such a horrible person.

fish said...

No Thunder, she means not. She is basically arguing that the increase in price will continue until a new equilibrium is reached where Japan gets most but not all of the PI. It is classic wondrous magical invisible hand bs. A more human argument would be in such an emergency situation, normal markets should be suspended and all resources flow to the crisis location until the crisis has passed. No on has ever accused a libertarian of being human though.

Downpuppy said...

I went there & asked what she meant.

51 comments & nobody else had.

KWillow said...

It is great to be ArgleBargle. Even tho she's ignorant, stupid, muddle-headed, heavily biased, and an all around horrible person, But! she's been artificially raised to a position of "intellectual prominence" and some wealth, because a largish Group of greedy, easily bullshitted idiots believes her blibber-blabber clever and informative.

Susan, are you ever tempted to write for the Other Side? It seems to me a genuinely intelligent writer could do pretty well towing the conservatard line.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

fish said...

No Thunder, she means not. She is basically arguing that the increase in price will continue until a new equilibrium is reached where Japan gets most but not all of the PI.


I gots a problem with that, fish.

To make this argument, you need to be saying the high prices made almost all the PI go to Japan, but then they got way out there in the tail of the lognormal distribution where the price is just too damn high, and now not all the PI can go to Japan.

I don't see any evidence that McArdle could ever make this argument, and certainly not in this post.
~

Susan of Texas said...

KWillow, I would love to be able to make money writing but I am a lousy liar.