Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Libertarian Crises Management

Heh. Megan McArdle tells us why she posted late.
You will probably have noticed that I did not post this morning.

I did indeed. Snowed in, nothing to do outside the house--a perfect time to rattle off a few fact-free, logic-free posts and then amuse yourself with games, blogs, and tv the rest of the day.
That's because sometime before 8 am, I decided that I should get to the grocery store and pick up my lung medicine in the hiatus between snows.

What? You have allergy attacks that have sent you to the emergency room but you don't pick up medicine before a blizzard? And you've read the Little House books, which are filled with harrowing accounts of blizzards that usually last three days?
Four hours later, I returned with a trunk full of whatever could be scavenged from the grocery store shelves.

You knew there was a blizzard coming and you did not prepare? You must really be kicking yourself now.
You have never seen a city as completely incompetent at dealing with snow as Washington DC.

Oh yeah, blame the city.
I mean, two feet of snow is inconvenient anywhere. But in DC, only the main streets have been plowed. And by "plowed", I mean that one meager lane has been cleared, so that even major arteries like New York Avenue frequently narrow to one lane. The side streets have been turned into defacto one-way streets--except that no one knows which way. The result is a lot like driving on a country road in Ireland, where you are apt to come upon someone going the other way, and then spend precious moments staring at each other until one party reluctantly backs up to a wider spot.

This is just an uneducated guess, but you probably aren't supposed to be driving around looking for food right now, instead of leaving the way clear for emergency vehicles on the one-lane road.
The difference is that Irish drivers are somewhat familiar with the conditions. DC today is the province of taxi drivers and SUV owners who seem simultaneously confused and overconfident. As I eased down the street in our little Japanese sedan, I quickly surmised that none of the drivers in the bite-sized tanks surrounding me had ever seen snow before. Three blocks later I revised that opinion: I don't think any of them had ever seen cars before. Certainly not the ones they were operating.

You left your cute little Mini-Cooper at home and took P. Suderman's less cute little Japanese car on the icy, slippery roads instead? Smart!
By the time I finally got to the grocery store, I discovered the scene many of you have already viewed on cable television. There was virtually no meat. There were no eggs--I thought I was missing them, until I realized that the egg section comprised the rows and rows of empty shelves stretching beneath one lonely carton of egg beaters. The frozen pizzas were pretty well decimated. Oddly, all of the shredded cheese and sliced cheese was gone, but there was plenty of the stuff in blocks. And I scored the last three containers of Yoplait Light. Oh, and the last four twelve-packs of regular diet coke. Sorry, Safeway shoppers--but I'm told that Diet Dr. Pepper tastes more like regular Dr. Pepper. More than what, I couldn't say.

I also noticed what Brian Caplan has remarked upon: the store brand frozen foods were pretty much still stocked at normal levels. This, even though Safeway's store brands tend to be private label versions of top premium brands--and more than occasionally, are better than anything else on offer. I helped myself freely to their quite tasty rising crust pizza, but anyone who wanted a slab of Red Baron's tomato-flavored cardboard was out of luck.

Naturally, both the fresh and frozen vegetable sections were still stocked to overflowing. I spent quite a bit of time last night making backup lists of vegetables I might buy, since I naturally expected that the produce would be picked over pretty well by now. Silly Megan. Apparently, when DC gets snowed in, it wants to do so with diet soda, Ritz crackers, six pounds of shredded cheddar, and a lifetime supply of stew meat. Me, I'm making slow cooker spaghetti sauce tomorrow.

When I got to the store, the lines looked reasonable. But by well before 9 am, they were stretching towards the back of the store. God knows what was left for the people who put off their shopping until noon.

Silly fools, not bothering to buy groceries until it was too late. Like eggs.
I understand that it doesn't necessarily make sense for DC to maintain plentiful snow moving equipment, when these types of heavy snowfalls only occur about once every seven years. But it seems to me we could try to maintain some psychological readiness. If this is how we react to a snow storm, what are we going to do when the Russkis invade?

McArdle can speak for herself. When we were getting warnings of an approaching hurricane, I gassed up all the cars, filled the propane tanks, stocked up on groceries and medical supplies, bought wind-up flashlights and charged everything that needed charging, renewed prescriptions that needed renewing, removed or tied down anything light in the back yard, and stocked up on books to read. When the hurricane was almost on us I cooked up all the meat in the freezer and filled the coolers with ice. And I'm not especially competent--not by a long shot.

But I do understand now why our Galt-goers refuse to Go Galt. They'd have to do all the work of survival themselves, instead of complaining that someone else isn't doing it for them.


Anonymous said...

That's just...I mean...I guess it just goes to show that most Libertarians, if they ever did achieve their Hobbesian utopia of ultimate self-reliance, would end up being rendered for dog food by the end of the first week. Amazing.


Clever Pseudonym said...

She's complaining about DC's incompetence when she waits to go shopping until after a blizzard? Wow. I think this may be Megan's biggest Self-Awareness, Where Art Thou? moment yet.

zhakora said...

I was down there last week -- DC. I'm from New England, where we know snow rather well. DC is a terrible driving city at the best of times because there are too many "important" people zipping around knowing they're above the law.

Throw in snow & boy howdy, it's beyond fun.

Didn't McArdle once argue against taxes for things like fire depts because one is so unlikely to have a fire & therefore have no need for a fire dept? Isn't she one of those ghastly selfish fools who have the emotional maturity of a 7 yr old? ie, a Libertarian?

Whatever she is, it's terribly sad to see her inclusion in the once-fine Atlantic.

Anonymous said...

I did my major grocery shopping last Wednesday, and did some more on Friday. At 0530 - when the stores are not crammed.

And I made sure to stock up on practical items. Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches might not have the allure or nutritional value of her slow-cooker sauce - but they'll work when the power goes out.

But her complaints about driving in the city and your rebuttal...

Mostly, it's that dream of living in a consequence free world. That megan can be free to plan poorly and drive around like an idiot on the last morning, and yet moan about having to share the road/planet with all the other idiots. Who, of course, she is much better than.

Malaclypse said...

I mean, two feet of snow is inconvenient anywhere. But in DC, only the main streets have been plowed. And by "plowed", I mean that one meager lane has been cleared,

Wait, a libertarian is complaining that the government is not plowing streets faster?

I'm assuming she believes a tax cut will help.

Smut Clyde said...

Let's see if I have this right:
(1) Apart from me, the people who need to be on the road are driving around in suitable vehicles;
(2) The shops have cleaned out by people who prepared for the storm before me;
(3) Therefore people in this city are incapable of planning ahead for extreme weather events. The government should do something to encourage a be-prepared mentality.

In further developments, I have a hangover right now; therefore everyone else must also have got stinking drunk last night, the low-life degenerates.

Anonymous said...

I love a good McCardle bashing as much as the next guy, but I'm afraid I have to fall on her side of the fence in this instance.

The DC metro area is filled, no, saturated with Snow Weenies of the worst kind. A forecast calling for 3" of snow sends panicked hordes to the stores to stock up on milk, bread and . . . toilet paper ! The people / governments there seem oblivious to the facts that 1) winter comes every year, 2) snow falls every winter, 3) snowfalls mean certain elementary precautions should be taken to make everybodies' lives eminently easier, and 4) unusually (even historically) heavy snowfalls require additional measures that may take more time out of one's day but pay dividends in the long run - even if that is only a matter of days. Sitting around whinging about it - or going outside and doing something stupid - are the true hallmarks of Snow Weenies.

My disgust for these Snow Weenies knows no bounds, in particular when I hear them whining about cabin fever . . . three days after a snow storm. Puh-leeeze ! Go outside and take a walk, for goodness sake. Snow per se is not a life-threatening circumstance.

Anyway, I could rant about this for pages but it would only feed upon itself - and it won't put a dent in how the Snow Weenies behave.

So Megs is actually right - Washington is pitiful in snow (regardless of her personal shortcomings in same).


Susan of Texas said...

Yes, Megan is right sometimes. She has brains, she just chooses to turn away from what she doesn't want to see, which is worse than being stupid.

But a real libertarian would go outside and shovel the snow--I know that's ridiculous, but that's what they keep saying. Your typical snow weenies (or the people here who didn't prepare for our hurricane warnings) don't sit around and tell everyone else that they should be paying for their own streets, street cleaning, repair, and snow/rain damage.

If a person wants to complain, hey, we all do, about services we gladly accept. But if she insists those services should not exist, why is she complaining that she isn't being served fast enough? It takes time, and it takes taxes.

Anonymous said...

I won't quibble. In fact, I think we're both right. Washington is pitiful in the snow and all those burly individualists who dream of going Galt - and their mouthpieces - should at least be able to individual up and deal with some snow !

Keep up the deliciously irreverent snark. I rarely leave your site without a smile on my face.


Downpuppy said...

This is just her like Colorado Springs reaction : Whenever something fails, that wasn't the thing she has been railing againt. (or in the case of something she was in favor of, like destroying Iraq, the same principle the other way)

Absolutely never accepts the consequences of her nonsense.

Clever Pseudonym said...

I like the part where she's baffled that the convienently shredded and sliced cheeses were bought up before the block kind you have to cut yourself. Why would anyone find that odd?

Batocchio said...

I grew up in the DC area, and it is pathetic about snow, but these are also record storms for the area, and the warnings came with ample time to prepare. (My family members all handled it.)

The glibertarian crowd is mainly driven by their conviction in their inherent superiority, but in a post-apocalyptic, survival of the fittest world, they'd starve to death in no time - or turn to cannibalism. (On the other hand, they're already zombies.)

Anonymous said...

That is really the funniest thing I've ever read. Really.


Also, in re Batocchio's point, I wouldn't want to be between Megan, and P. Suderman and his block cheese, or vice versa, during the next snowstorm.