Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

McArdle Admits Her Anti-Health Care Argument Is Based On "Hypothetical" Number

In today's Washington Post live question and answer, Megan McArdle admitted that her entire argument against health care is based on a "hypothetical" statistic.

Anonymous: You said that medical innovation will be wiped out if we have a type of national health care, because European drug companies get 80% of their revenue from Americans. Where did you get this statistic?

Megan McArdle: It wasn't a statistic--it was a hypothetical.

However, whenever I have been able to find pharma financial statements that break down their profits by region, the lion's share always comes from the US.

A hypothetical is not a statistic. A statistic is a fact that can be verified, not a guess, and McArdle just admitted she made a guess. That guess was the entire basis for her argument against health care reform.
I don't think Matt understands what worries me about national health care, or else he doesn't actually understand how the system in the Netherlands works underneath his interaction with an insurance company. It isn't the cost. It isn't the taxes. It isn't the redistribution. It isn't even the mandate, which is borderline plausible to me in the way that mandatory auto insurance is, and forced retirement savings might be: the moral hazard is huge, because your neighbors won't let you die.

My objection is primarily, as I've said numerous times, that the government will destroy innovation. It will do this by deciding what constitutes an acceptable standard of care, and refusing to fund treatment above that. It will also start controlling prices.

McArdle made up a number based on a balance sheet she might or might not have seen at some time. Like so much of her evidence, it is part guess and part wishful thinking. As a pundit McArdle is inept. As a journalist she is hopelessly out of her league, a simple fact that doesn't seem to bother The Atlantic at all.


Anonymous said...

"McArdle made up a number based on a balance sheet she might or might not have seen at some time."

And if she did, she likely did not know how to read it.

riffle said...

Good catch.

Also, there's this whopper: "Actually, the correct metric is survival rate. Mortality only tells you that we may have more cancer."

No, dipshit, that would be "incidence."

Mortality had "mort" right in the word --even to someone as mendacious as McArdle, it points to something more than mere incidence. Wonder why she'd conflate "incidence" and "mortality?"

Ken Houghton said...

Survival rate: 0%. "Everybody dies."

"that break down their profits by region, the lion's share always comes from the US"

Duh. And that's a feature, not a bug.

Next she'll discover that America spends Just Enough on defence because when those companies report profits, the majority comes from US spending.

Susan of Texas said...

(I asked that question.)

Everything she says must be fact-checked. It is so tiresome.

Downpuppy said...

You asked revenue, she answered profit.

Ms MBA strikes again.

That old thread about iraq is a real quote mine. She waded into the comments to bray her expertise, and nobody was buying it.

Megan McArdle March 27, 2008 11:04 AM
SpottedOpie, I have read or skimmed darn near every story on the various available studies of Iraqi casualties published in the English language press and accessible by Lexis-Nexis--hundreds of them. If there are other journalists who know a great deal about the studies, they are certainly hiding their lights under a bushel. Having interviewed many of the major figures in the debate (except for the Lancet team, who apparently will not grant interviews to anyone they suspect will write something critical), I've got a decent sense of who many of *them* have talked to. There are, as far as I know, no journalists who are conflict epidemiologists, a highly specified field, and even if there were, unless they had specifically studied the details, I would know more than them about the studies.

Har to see why nobody was impressed

Andrew said...

And therein lies the problem. Her "conlusions" are based entirely on hypotheticals.

There isn't a single claim she makes to which you couldn't retort, "Based on what evidence?".

And the Golden Gate Bridge couldn't span the gaping logical abyss in her arguments.

And somehow that's worth a paycheck? As I said earlier, nice work if you can get it.

Andrew said...

Also you've got to love this remark:

"There are [sic] also the problem of the uninsured, but the number of sick people that currently lack access to the system because of insurance issues is probably somewhere between 1--2% of the system. (That's because uninsured status is heavily tied to being either young and healthy, or an immigrant who probably won't be helped by whatever Obama puts together.) Interestingly, this is less than the 2.6% of people who are now uninsured in Massachusetts."

So, in case you missed it, she's comparing her hypothetical uninsured SICK percentage with the uninsured TOTAL percentage in MA.

What happens when someone later on points out that's an apples and oranges comparison?

Her response is: "Right".

She should've ended her sentence there but, apparently unaware that the word "Right" in this context is an admission that her argument is flawed, she decides to double down by reiterating that she's only concerned with the sick uninsured people.

That's right ladies & gentleman: it doesn't make sense to talk about providing coverage for all of the uninsured (100% of whom will definitely require health care at some point) but rather we should wait until 100% of the uninsured show up simultaneously at an emergency room, then it might be worth our while.

satch said...

In response to Megan's statement: "...whenever I have been able to find pharma statements that break down their profits by region, the lion's share always comes from the US.", I'll make the same point I made several posts ago; Assuming this is even true, exactly WHY is it a good thing that Americans basically are subsidizing international pharma so that the rest of the world can have inexpensive drugs? Apparently Alphas like Megan have no problem with the rest of us being chumps and doormats for pharma and private insurers. And could someone tell me what the hell Megan means when she says "The moral hazard is huge, because your neighbors won't let you die." Because it sounds like she means that it's all right if we get to the point where there is only private insurance available to the wealthy, because the rest of us can throw community bake sales and sell our kidneys to pay for our neighbor's cancer treatments.

Susan of Texas said...

It's unreal that people like McArdle and Goldberg are considered respectable, but authoritarian followers just seem to be able to believe anything and everything that appeals to them. How do you fight that? We just had to wait until Bush's term ended (and he had destroyed the economy) before we could get rid of him. These fake pundits will never go away.

Substance McGravitas said...

You said that medical innovation will be wiped out

There will be no more universities producing people and drugs pharma can co-opt.

Anonymous said...


And once again, she makes the mistake that only profit seeking companies innovate. There are no other sources on innovation. The US government will not come up with anything new.

Nevertheless, that was a great question to ask. At least she was to forced to acknowledge that her conclusions were based on a hypothetical and not facts/statistics.


aimai said...

Its factiliciously hypothetical.


PS. Susan, I hope there is some reward for you in this world for the incredible work you do hounding Megan. Just reading her second hand, through you, is indescribably painful. I don't know how you do it.


Anonymous said...

"As a pundit McArdle is inept. As a journalist she is hopelessly out of her league"

so she's sarah palin with longer words?

riffle said...

I have to agree with aimai: Susan your dedication to wading into the slurry of McArdle's waste is impressive.

A couple things I've thought of that help me make sense of Mcardle:

1) She probably types pretty fast (some of her chat answers were long for chat). For her, typing a post full of B.S. takes no time at all -- reading and finding relevant data would take time. So her blog is like a one-sided bull session in a freshman libertarian dorm ... though more fact-free.

2) Health / health care is one area where there's nearly infinite data from so many sources. Someone who was mendacious but had a slightly better work ethic could actually put up a much stronger web of BS by pilfering sources and including stats, out-of-context stats, and pseudo-stats rather than just totally pulling figures and arguments out of their ass.

Beware: if she decides to spend half an hour a day cherry-picking data to make misleading arguments, Susan's job of fact-checking would be even worse.

But I doubt we have to worry about that until well after her wedding day.

Mr. Wonderful said...

Don't tell me you people are shocked, shocked when she bases all her arguments on "a hypothetical."

What do you think libertarianism IS?

Anonymous said...

Emerson and the other founders of the once venerable Atlantic Monthly are spinning in their graves. Again.

clever pseudonym said...

Megan is asked: "Do you know much about the internal workings of the industry, or only what is known to the public in general?"

Her answer? Personal anecdotes about a sick loved one and dealing with insurance for her own illnesses (which I imagine to be more of the "special snowflake, pay attention to MEEEEEE" variety than actual ailments).

That's some vast knowledge of the internal workings of the industry, I tell you. I'm beginning to be literally frightened that there are people who take this creature seriously.

Downpuppy said...

Surely you wouldn't include insomnia & restless leg as Special Snowflake Syndrome? The poor woman sometimes wakes up at 4am!

(in which I concluded that her fear of National health is that good records would flag her as a drug seeker)

Susan of Texas said...

Aimai, I think it's disbelief that keep me going. I grew up admiring the reporters who brought down Nixon and reading such books as Rather's The Camera Never Blinks. I even studied jounalism for a while before switching majors. I just can't believe anyone could be paid to be so bad.

Anonymous said...

Agree on the bad, but don't forget the smugness. I don't know if the word 'glibertarian' was coined with her in mind, but if not it surely should have been.

Ken Houghton said...

Gosh, Health Affairs seems to disagree about that loci of innovation thing as well; see here, though their internal links weren't working for me.

So it's even worse, her hypothetical was counterfactual in premise, let alone extrapolative effect.

M. Bouffant said...

Hey, look, the New Republic agrees w/ you!

Or has stolen from you w/o attribution.

Susan of Texas said...

Either way, at least people are noticing that they are being lied to.

Anonymous said...

susan, not to give you more work, but she also appears on NPRs marketplace from time to time. I switch it to sportstalk when shes on though so I cant tell you what she says.