Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Friday, October 25, 2013

Then And Now

Megan McArdle, when she wants DC to stop regulating her car service and food trucks:
The more complicated the process, the less we are likely to notice when the federal government screws up. That doesn't mean we're doing fine; it may just mean that the federal government tends to be in charge of regulating the more complex, far-flung market processes.  
Because the disputes are hard to understand, the reaction to regulations at the federal level tends to line up on purely tribal affiliation: if you're a conservative, you assume that any new EPA regulation is a disaster, and if you're a liberal, you assume that it must be pretty swell. Among wonky liberals like Matt, I think there's the mirror tendency to assume that because the economy is not obviously being driven into the toilet by this stuff, the federal government must be doing a pretty okay job.  
But this may just be the broken window fallacy in action: we see the distortions of the local government, but the distortions of the federal government remain invisible precisely because they're so effective at destroying innovation. The more national the rules, the harder it is to tell whether they're bad. The economy would not be destroyed if we had federal laws against Uber and food trucks; we'd all just be a little worse off.   
The problem is, if the rules were national, none of us would even know that we were worse off. No one would ever have tried to start a food truck, so Matt and I wouldn't even know that there was this great thing we were missing. We may be assuming that the Federal rules work pretty well precisely because they have entirely foreclosed a bunch of great possibilities that we'd really enjoy.  
Then there are the things that federal rules don't entirely eliminate, but just make difficult and more expensive. Matt argues that there are things which the government should make difficult and more expensive, like dumping mercury into the air. I agree! But we should always remember that those rules frequently make it difficult and more expensive even for people who have no intention of dumping mercury into the air, because the rules frequently require that you take affirmative steps to ensure--and demonstrate--that you're not doing whatever is forbidden. And at this point, the list of these things is so long that compliance is becoming impossible, particularly for small shops.
Megan McArdle, when insufficient regulation might let the Chinese poison her dog:

So now she tells us that market equilibrium doesn't work. I thought we didn't need regulation because the market was self-correcting.


Mr. Wonderful said...

How is it a rejoinder? Chinese treats kill your pet; you no longer buy Chinese treats because you no longer have a pet. The Chinese treat company is punished by loss of business. The market works! What's she so upset about?

Susan of Texas said...

And how are Chinese factory workers and small business owners to create a capitalistic society if they are hampered by regulation? If it's unfair to force Bangladeshis to work under US safety rules, surely it's unfair to force Chinese businessmen to run a business under US regulations?

So what if her dog dies or sick people die? Freedom ain't free.

Smut Clyde said...

The personal is political.

Roger said...

Jerky for dogs?

Let them eat pink Himmalayan alt.

Note: Do not feed salt to dogs.

CP said...

Wait until Megan has to sit up all night nursing herself and Suderman after they eat some bad oysters from a restaurant hampered by over-regulation of food safety requirements.

And I've obtained both business licenses and liquor licenses. Neither is difficult outside of paperwork and a couple of meetings and inspections (fire exits, structural compliance, sanitation facilities, clean kitchens and bars so that people don't get sick/hurt/killed. Damn those fascists getting in the way of free enterprise!)

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Because the disputes are hard to understand

This is when you need someone to Meegan-splain it.

Lurking Canadian said...

Susan, I rejoice to see you back in the game! No time to say more.

tobymarx said...

Well, nobody can know anything ever, right?

Susan of Texas said...

And everything's too hard.

Ken Houghton said...

"wonky liberals like Matt"

I assume that's a reference to Yglesias, which means there are at least three errors in four words. (His first name is correct.)

When do we get a review of The Book?

Susan of Texas said...

I think I will buy it when it comes out in February. I like to think that a very small part of her next $1500 kitchen appliance has my name on it, like a dedication brick in a sidewalk.

tobymarx said...

Regarding the subsidization of Chef McArdle (and I love the notion of her patrons names being microscopically engraved on her expensive kitchen appliances), I wonder how many people actually use her recipes? Just reading them gives me constipation and imagining Megan in the kitchen makes my head hurt.

Anonymous said...


Why imagine her in the kitchen when you can watch?