Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Are You Smarter Than A Conservative?

Oh god it's another plate full of stupid from Megan McArdle. Tom Junod, at Charles Pierce's site, said something that applies here so let's start with a quote:

Liberals don't hate conservatives. They just think they're stupid.

Conservatives hate liberals, because they know that liberals think they're smarter than them.

Liberals know that conservatives hate them and can't figure out why, because they don't hate conservatives in return.

Conservatives believe that liberals hate them, because it's easier to feel despised than patronized. And so in addition to hating liberals, they think liberals are liars.

There are at least two kinds of stupid, stupid due to inadvertent ignorance and stupid due to deliberate ignorance. Deliberate ignorance is the result of refusing to accept any facts one does not like. Downpuppy has a good example of deliberate ignorance:

The CBO did a routine study of Federal vs private sector wages. After 40 years of beating down the lower orders, not surprisingly, Federal employees making minimal living wages are doing better than the poor bastards in the private sector.

Megan McArdle pretended to analyze.

Notice anything missing?

Nothing about how this affects the federal budget. (Total wages are 4% of the budget)

Nothing about what wages actually are.

No hint of the power structure that sets private sector wages.

No discussion of why squeezing the last nickel from people might or might not be good policy.

In sum, total crap. Sad really. Do they not even want anyone to take them seriously?

No. If you're selling propaganda, you want the buyers to know what they're buying.

McArdle and her readers only want to read propaganda, lies that support their ideologies when facts will not. As with New Gingrich, it is her utterly predictible support for the rich over the poor and her invective towards anyone who disagrees with her that is the secret to her popularity. The more she is attacked the more popular she becomes, because her audience wants an authoritarian leader to give them permission to hate their enemies, lead them into rhetorical battle, and crush the enemy with the mighty power of her mad math skillz, Sherlockian powers of reason and deduction, and elite breeding. They do not want someone to give them all the facts so they can weigh the evidence, come to a conclusion, and make decisions based on that conclusion.

It takes an open mind to look at all evidence, including evidence you would rather dismiss because it makes you feel bad about yourself. Drawing conclusions brings up the possibility of error, which insecure people try to avoid at all costs. Making decisions means taking responsibility for the effects of the decision, having enough confidence to respond to criticism, and  trusting one's ability to take both the moral and correct action. If you have not been raised to respect yourself the prospect of making decisions is terrifying.

And if you have been raised to get rich by peddling propaganda, you will jump at the chance to defend your tribe. Unfortunately for McArdle, punditing to people who want to actively avoid facts and reason just makes her sound stupid. She is obliged to present a one-sided, shallow argument based on ideological supposition that can be easily dismantled. In this post McArdle has passed ideoogical and advanced directly to sheer, stark stupidity.

Let's watch McMediocre attempt to support her side without actually thinking about anything. It may seem that McArdle thoughtlessly dashes off a post or two per day in between shopping and having her hair done, but McArdle does provide value to her employer by attracting other elite wanna-bes who bring in those advertising dollars.

Kevin Drum is not very sympathetic to the Catholic Church's complaints about being forced to provide insurance coverage for contraception to workers in its hospitals and other public institutions:

Not so fast, Buttercup. Nobody is forcing the Catholic Church to do anything. They can always refuse, they will just have to live with the consequences: no money from the government. McArdle qutoes Drum next:

'm just a big ol' secular lefty, so I guess it's natural that I'd disagree. And I do. I guess I'm tired of religious groups operating secular enterprises (hospitals, schools), hiring people of multiple faiths, serving the general public, taking taxpayer dollars -- and then claiming that deeply held religious beliefs should exempt them from public policy. Contra Dionne, it's precisely religious pluralism that makes this impractical. There are simply too many religions with too many religious beliefs to make this a reasonable approach. If we'd been talking about, say, an Islamic hospital insisting that its employees bind themselves to sharia law, I imagine the "religious community" in the United States would be a wee bit more understanding if the Obama administration refused to condone the practice.

I can understand compromising over a very limited number of hot button issues. Abortion is the obvious one. But in general, if Catholic hospitals don't want to follow reasonable, 21st century secular rules, they need to make themselves into truly religious enterprises. In particular, they need to stop taking secular taxpayer money. As long as they do, though, they should follow the same rules as anyone else.

As Ross Douthat points out, the regulations seem to have nothing to do with whether the Catholic hospitals or other charities take public money; rather, it's the fact that they provide services to the public, rather than having an explicitly religious mission.
McArdle says "seem" because the regulations have everything to do with taking public money. The Catholic Church can make up whatever laws it wants and oblige its followers to follow them or be cast out of the Church. But the Church cannot force anyone else to follow its laws because it is not backed by state power.   Since they provide services to the general public, they cannot force non-Catholics to support Catholic laws.  And that law is backed by the power of the federal government, and enforced through fines and taxation. When Megan McArdle of all people ignores incentives, taxation and money in general, you know she is deliberately being stupid.

I've seen several versions of Kevin's complaint on the interwebs, and everyone makes it seems to assume that we're doing the Catholic Church a big old favor by allowing them to provide health care and other social services to a needy public. Why, we're really coddling them, and it's about time they started acting a little grateful for everything we've done for them!

These people seem to be living in an alternate universe that I don't have access to, where there's a positive glut of secular organizations who are just dying to provide top-notch care for the sick, the poor, and the dispossessed.
Poor, stupid Megan McArdle utterly forgot about all her earlier work on health care, and how we have the bestest health care system in the entire world, nothing like other countries with their waiting lines and shortages and lack of innovation and resources. Now she believes that the Free Market (hosanna on the highest!) is failing Americans and must be supplemented by charity-based religious organizations.
In the universe where I live, some of the best charity care is provided by religious groups--in part because they have extremely strong fundraising capabilities, in part because they often have access to an extremely deep and motivated pool of volunteers, and in part because they are often able to generate significant returns to scale and longevity.
If a hospital model based on free labor and bake sales  provides "some of the best charity care," why must we pay exhorbitant fees to insurance companies, hospitals and doctors? Why aren't the drug companies working off the same model as well?

And of course, the comparative discretion and decentralization of private charity, religious or secular, makes it much more effective in many (not all ways) than government entitlements.

I wasn't aware the Vatican was decentrialized. Or that a private charity, which can quietly give its officers large salaries, was "much more effective" than a system with built-in accountability.

In this world, I had been under the impression that we were providing Catholic charities with federal funds mostly because this was the most cost-effective way of delivering services to needy groups.
Likewise, a lemonade stand is the most cost-effetive way of delivering drinks to thirsty people, especially when Mom and Dad pay for the ingredients.

Thus it's not obvious to me that we will be better off encouraging Catholic hospitals and other groups to provide services exclusively to their own flock, while exclusively employing members of their own flock.
 Selective services, that is. No birth control or in-vitro fertilization or tubal ligation or vasectomy. Or perhaps radiation treatment for a pregnant woman with cancer, as they do in Nicaragua. McArdle stupidly pretends that the least-effective model of running a business is the best. Let's replace national defense with a system of unpaid volunteers and hold a white elephant sale to build bombers.

And I'm fairly certain that if I wanted to stage a confrontation with Catholic charities, it would not be over something as trivial as forcing them to provide birth control coverage to their employees.

Another McArdle stupidity. Birth control coverage is not trivial, especially to the many people who are poor and can't afford to get pregnant. Megan McArdle is 39 and has never had a child, but she does not care whether insurance covers birth control or not becuase she can afford to buy it under almost any circumstance.

Preventing pregnancy is not a low-frequency, high cost event, and thus it is not really insurable. It's just a backdoor transfer from wages to birth control consumption.

Oh god the stupid. It never stops.

This seems particularly stupid because the Catholic Church will almost certainly be granted an exemption by Republicans if they get even a little bit more power.

Never do anything because the other party might decide to reverse you, and you would have to reverse them, and they would reverse you, and so on and so forth. And the Republican party can just reverse the Constitution as well if they don't like what it says.

So I'm not sure I see the benefit in going out of your way just to tell the Church you'd like them to, well, go to hell.

Affordable birth contol is the benefit, something McArdle already has, so she doesn't care if anyone else does. And here's a stupid bit of drivel to prove it.


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Liberals are people who've been right** about every major policy decision for at least the last 30 years.

** When the impacts of said decisions are not restricted to improving the welfare of a small set of very wealthy people.

Substance McGravitas said...

This seems particularly stupid because the Catholic Church will almost certainly be granted an exemption by Republicans if they get even a little bit more power.


Downpuppy said...

Woot! I done been linked!

Thanks, and if you click through, please leave a Hello.

Kathy said...

It isn't possible to intelligently argue against the birth control decision, so the whiner conservatives get somebody who sounds intelligent (uses big words and proper grammar) to "make the argument".

I suppose that's why all the conservative pundits are so stupid- there is no intelligent justification of their "positions", they can only turn the volume up to 15.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Hello, hello, McMegan has waded, erred stepped in (it).

Though I'm pro-choice, I don't share the outrage that was roiling my twitter feed this morning. It is, as Josh Barro noted, absurd to pretend that abortion is somehow incidental to Planned Parenthood's services, and since money is fungible, giving them money is probably helping to fund abortion provision. Since I think this is a very tough issue on which reasonable people can disagree, I can see why the federal government, and private foundations, would decline to fund their operations.

Just now in reply to John Dolan

So the only way I'm allowed to be pro choice is to think that PEOPLE WHO ARE PRO-LIFE HATE WOMEN AND ARE EVIL!!!, is that it?


Ben said...

I think I'm going to try a little performance art project, and I wanted y'alls input on it.

I'm going to comment on every McArdle post, and every comment will be the same: a few pithy one-liners that will (hopefully) capture the spirit of any given McArdle post and undermine her credibility at the same time.

I'm thinking something like this:

Shorter McArdle: my Daddy got rich off of government contracts, and that's how I learned that the free market should operate largely without government interference.

His money got me into a good high school, a U. Penn degree and an MBA from U. Chicago, and that's where I learned the value of meritocracy.

My husband, who works for Dick Armey to run Tea Party activities, taught me that conservative activists are principled and just.

After being fired from a few consulting jobs I've written for publications whose main goal is to spread specific ideas about economic policy. This work experience has taught me that financial elites are nearly never wrong.

So . . . thoughts? Are there any McArdle staples that aren't covered? The big matzoh ball that I can see is the conspicuous consumption / cooking stuff, but I'm not sure if she writes about that often enough to justify including it. Also, of course, the blinding authoritarianism/obsequiousness, but I couldn't think of a similar way to summarize and dismiss that charming part of her writing.

I'm also thinking about including a random Simpsons quote at the end of each comment (eg: "In conclusion, America is a land of contrasts", "First you get the sugar, then you get the power, then you get the women") just because I think it'd be funny to see how the brood over there reacts to it. But I'm on the fence about it.

So, any constructive criticism would be welcome.

(Also, sorry Susan for kinda hijacking your comment section, but I thought the community here would appreciate/have good thoughts about what I'm thinking of doing).


Downpuppy said...

Instigating McArdle in her comments can be fun & easy. What works for me is a quick point to some factual error followed by a slightly derogatory mention of her name.

Sometimes you strike comedy gold -

Susan of Texas said...

No problem--I'm not very strict with the comments section.

Why not? They are a pack of hyenas who will try to tear you apart--and they are good at it--but we are accustomed to that.

Susan of Texas said...

Ah, that was classic and drew forth one of my favorite comments:

"Or perhaps a better way to say it is that the facts are right, but the mini narratives are ludicrously wrong, which makes the meta narrative suspect."

Lurking Canadian said...

Ben, that's a good start, but no Megan article is complete without some variant of "Nobody can know anything ever, therefore whatever pre-conceived notion I pull out of my ass is just as valid as the collected wisdom of the scientific community as long as I throw in some phrase like 'as far as I can tell' or 'it seems to me'".

Anonymous said...

is she really saying she's pro-choice?
walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, is a rhinoceros?

Anonymous said...

she's against PP like she was against ACORN -- because they are "liberal" (care for the poor and disenfranchised) organizations.

what a pathetic human being.

Anonymous said...

She's against gay marriage because traditions might exist for a REASON.

Anonymous said...

I'd forgotten about the gay marriage thing.
How she has managed to brand her republican/conservative positions as libertarian is a mystery to me.

I guess this goes back to Susan's initial point: these people are stupid.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

is she really saying she's pro-choice?

walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, is a rhinoceros?

Screengrab, he boasted. (And I did have the very first comment of the thread.)

Pete said...

She purged you, O Wheel. I can attest to your screengrab, I saw the comment earlier, but I just went looking and it ain't there no mo'. Probably the fault of that nominal person and his 6 likes, which were set to grow.

Anonymous said...

She also supported Obama in this last election, but didn't vote for him because she forgot to register...because I guess it was as hard as getting tags and a side mirror for a car.

She's a career concern troll.

Anonymous said...

Btw, that screen grab is fantastic.

Anonymous said...

To quote my e-mail to The Atlantic in which I cancelled my subscription: "There's only so much Megan McArdle a man can take." Kudos to you for having the mental stamina to keep fisking her. It's disgusting work, but someone has to do it.

Downpuppy said...

Thunder's comment is still there, but you have to load 3 pages to get to it. Disqus flipped recently, from oldest at the top to newest, which makes stuff harder to find.

Crooks & Liars must have seen this. They linked me today, & wouldn't you know it, the day I get 500 views instead of the usual 5 is after putting up a silly post last night about Barbie.

Pete said...

Thanks for the correction, downpuppy; I'd swear I loaded them all, but now they won't load for me at all. Which is probably good, in a time-management kind of way.

And I think your Barbie post is just fine, though admittedly I too would link to the one below it.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Disqus has a box you can click that lets you sort by 'newest first' or 'oldest first'.

If you go by oldest first, you can see I'm still there. But if you want that screengrab, you need to sort by 'newest first' and scroll and scroll. I guess what I'm saying is all comment systems suck, and Disqus is one of 'em.

P.S. She's doubled down on the stupid today.

So apparently Susan G. Komen has reversed its decision to fund Planned Parenthood. Just as it wasn't surprising that they might want to gently disconnect themselves from the abortion rights movement, it's also not shocking that once this issue became political, pro-choicers mobilized faster and harder than pro-lifers did.

The decision to defund P.P. was, of course, political from the get-go.

Pete said...

Those pro-lifers just don't know how to organize, right? Sheesh.

Mr.Wonderful said...

In this world, I had been under the impression that...

Dig that snooty sarcasm. She's even writing like a self-infatuated reactionary. It's half the director of Charenton in Marat/Sade ("*I* was always taught that...") and half a Monty Python major general writing to the Times.

Susan, you deserve hazardous duty pay and the thanks of a grateful nation. The one question that forever lingers is, in what does MM's stupidity reside: the arguments she makes, or in thinking that that intelligent people *respect* the arguments she makes? It is a mystery.

Susan of Texas said...

Heh, thanks. Didn't McArdle once say that she can't be wrong because nobody she knows disagrees with her?