Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Shorter But Not Sweeter

Shorter Megan McArdle, Paraphrased:
Car Dealers Have A Lease On Congress: I want to buy a car over the internet but corruption prevents it so nobody can do anything ever.
Passing laws to eliminate corruption is too difficult so I guess we just have to put up with anything anyone wants to do to us. Fortunately the Free Hand of the Marketplace will save us, even though it does not.
Better Food Labels Won't Make You Less Fat: Although I always read food labels [presumably to make better food decisions] food labels don't change your behavior so nobody can do anything ever.
This post was especially special because it demonstrated McArdle's patented dishonesty.
When [initial food labels] failed [to change behavior], researchers naturally suggested that the problem wasn’t labeling, per se -- it was that we hadn’t gotten the right labels. Perhaps if we offered labels that translated calories into the number of minutes you’d need to walk those calories off, people would order more sparsely. Perhaps. The study is thinly described, and I can’t even tell if they were actually ordering food, or just choosing what they would eat, if they were in a restaurant.
Here is the information McArdle links to:
Boston, MA—More restaurants are displaying calorie information on their menus than ever before. It's not a coincidence; by law, retail food establishments that are part of a chain with twenty or more locations nationwide must disclose the calorie content of each menu item. The goal is to encourage consumers to make healthier, informed food choices. The majority of studies, however, show that providing information on calorie content does not lead to fewer calories ordered or consumed. A new angle for encouraging reduced calorie intake in these establishments would be welcome by many in the nutrition field.  
One currently being explored is displaying on the menu the minutes of exercise–brisk walking in this case–needed to burn food calories. "We need a more effective strategy to encourage people to order and consume fewer calories from restaurant menus," said Dr. Meena Shah, Texas Christian University (TCU). "Brisk walking is something nearly everyone can relate to, which is why we displayed on the menu the minutes of brisk walking needed to burn food calories," said Ashlei James, TCU. Shah, the senior researcher, and James, the lead researcher and graduate student, recently conducted a study of 300 men and women ages 18-30. "The group was randomly assigned to a menu without calorie labels, a menu with calorie labels, or a menu with labels for the minutes of brisk walking needed to burn the food calories," James said. "All menus contained the same food and beverage options, which included burgers, chicken sandwiches/tenders, salad, fries, desserts, soda, and water."  
The results indicate that the menu displaying the minutes of brisk walking needed to burn food calories led to fewer calories ordered and consumed compared with the menu without calorie labels. Of note, there was no difference between the menu with calorie labels and the menu without calorie labels in the number of calories ordered and consumed by the subjects. "This study suggests there are benefits to displaying exercise minutes to a group of young men and women. We can't generalize to a population over age 30, so we will further investigate this in an older and more diverse group," Shah said. "This is the first study to look at the effects of displaying minutes of brisk walking needed to burn food calories on the calories ordered and consumed."  
The study was eye-opening for many of the subjects. "For example, a female would have to walk briskly for approximately 2 hours to burn the calories in a quarter-pound double cheeseburger," said Shah. Results from this study will be presented orally on April 23 at the Experimental Biology 2013 meeting in Boston. [my bold]
The synopses is perfectly clear and McArdle is wrong. Whether she is lying or cultivating ignorance is immaterial. If McArdle could not tell whether or not the subjects consumed food she is an idiot, and when it come to saying what businesses will pay to hear, McArdle's a genius.
But perhaps people would order differently if they were actually in a restaurant, rather than a university research group. Or perhaps people would compensate by eating more later. In general, the research showing substantial benefits from calorie labeling seems to be largely absent; the main argument for it is “Couldn’t hurt.”
When the facts are against you, throw crap up against the wall in the hopes that everyone will ignore the facts and only remember your (baseless) rebuttal. The next time the matter comes up in comments, one of the commenters will say that McMegan already proved that changing the menu labeling system didn't work.
We're All Flies In The IRS's Widening Web: Better some tax fraud then the IRS's overreach.
Oddly, McArdle does not say that we can't do anything about the IRS because of institutional malaise. Instead she says we can't do anything about tax fraud.
Uber and Cabbies in a D.C. Death Match: Labor protests are doomed to failure because Uber's "rabidly supportive and politically active fan base."
"With the help of the city's Taxicab Commission, drivers have been waging a rear-guard action against Uber for years, but with the help of a rabidly supportive and politically active fan base, Uber has continued to make inroads into their market."
McArdle pretends to forget that Uber also has the help of the rabidly supportive and politically active Koch brothers, who set up and funded the Institute for Justice, which hired Robert McNamara to fight "for the rights of taxi, limousine, and other transportation entrepreneurs nationwide."* She has mentioned him before but left out his Koch connections, or perhaps was just too incompetent to vet him. From one of her many Uber posts:
As I made my way toward the door, I bumped into Robert McNamara, the attorney fighting against many taxi regulations, who was there as an interested observer. “I’m impressed by how professional this is,” he told me. I must have raised an eyebrow, for he hastened to explain: “When you have an issue like this, the first thing you do is, you have a town hall. You find an excuse to get people in a room, and then you make them angry.” For the moment, Uber’s angry fans seem to be carrying the day. Though the D.C. Taxicab Commission has not recanted its position on Uber, it also hasn’t made any further moves against the company. That may change, of course. But every customer Uber gains in D.C. (and even out of it) makes the company harder to attack. Uber set out to change the taxi market. In enlisting scattered consumers against well-entrenched interest groups, it may end up doing something more revolutionary.
This is how easy it is to control Megan McArdle: You tell her your tactics, tell her you are merely an observer, tell her that a taxi app has so many rabid fans that they somehow ensure lawyers are paid to defend plaintiffs or sue the government to let Uber ignore taxi regulations.

When you have wound her up you set her down and watch her chatter, like a little pair of plastic teeth.

*He also is suing legalize organ selling. Naturally McArdle supports cutting up our poor for their organs and tossing them a few bucks as well.


Kathy said...

Your chattering teeth observation is so good I really can't think of anything to add.

Arglebargle is especially irritating because she is so staggeringly stupid, yet regarded as being super intelligent and even (shudder) clever.

As my (conservative) brother admitted "She knows the terminology."

Yes she does: she presents her half-assed talking point/"ideas" with baffling smart-lingo phrased with faux-British ("quite" "rather") modifiers.

Especially annoying to I who have lived with an Englishman for 20 years, and developed a slight English cadence as a result. Makes me feel like a phone.

Curse you, Arglebargle!

Kathy said...

Makes me feel like a PHONY. Sigh. This day isn't starting out well at all.

Susan of Texas said...

At least you pick it up honestly. McArdle spent a short time in England years ago.

fish said...

One of the (many) annoying things is McArdle is usually claiming that free market (i.e. people being able to make fully informed choices across a range of options) is the bedrock of "freedom." Yet she willingly disses any required label information when it puts corporate profits at risk.