Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Bitch Is Back

Megan McArdle has finally given us Part II of her earth-shattering takedown of Elizabeth Warren but I need to ease back into the McArdle Death Spiral Watch gradually. If I plunge in head-first I might crack my head on concrete.

Before I continue, I would like to remind the reader that McArdle is about to see her years of work come to fruition: she'll be able to take health care away from my kids. Nothing personal, I'm sure. It's just that stepping on my children was necessary to climb the ladder of success.

Today's amuse bouche is another glimpse into the crystal skull of Mrs. McSuderman. In these interesting times of Trump, market rumblings, Davos, and cabinet nominees, McArdle inexplicably takes time off from stabbing Obamacare to opine about divorce. She is very much against it, as any woman would be who has a husband who's surrounded by libertarian interns who believe that Great Women sleep from Ubermensch to Ubermensch until they end up in Galt's Gulch, sleeping with its Aryan king. Or New York, sleeping with the son of somebody important, whichever comes first.

McArdle, who is 43, is very happily married to P. Suderman, 34, and is strongly convinced that men and women would remain happy if they never divorced. You might think you want to divorce your spouse and take up with someone who spends less time calculating the amount of interest she is accruing daily and more time spending her money while you are still young but you don't. You stay right where you are, mister, happily married to the ball and chain.

Conservative women accept the price they are told to pay to belong to the tribe with money and power: they must think of themselves as produce with a limited shelf life, who must advantageously trade their assets for a husband's assets. Naturally, being conservative, they consider their assets to be youth, beauty, reproduction, and income ability.

Rich spouses are one of nature's greatest gifts and of course every male conservative wants his elite wife to have an elite income; it's a sign of social status and personal worth for them both. When you are the richer spouse, however, there is a danger of looting and mooching during a divorce. He can take half of your assets and blow them all on interns, Uber rides during snowstorms, and grass! But income is merely one of the problems resulting from divorce.

The older a conservative woman become, the further down the Marriageability Ladder she slides. Personal income is always a great consolation but conservative women have internalized their group's sexism and can't really be happy unless they fit in with the group and its mores, decorating themselves with cosmetics and pink linen and acquiring a husband and progeny. Therefore conservative women are deeply vested in the pipe dream of eliminating divorce, and McArdle is already at a disadvantage.

Let's look at her assets and judge their quality.

Youth-like the famed parrot, her youth has ceased to be.
Beauty- pining for the fjords
Reproductive Willingness-shuffled off 'is mortal coil
Income Ability-excellent, which is a negative, not a plus

So yes, Megan McArdle thinks that you should not be able to get a divorce, and by "you" she means you, Peter.
Unbeknownst to me, family lawyers apparently call January “divorce month.” As the Christmas tree is thrown out and the wrapping paper cleared away, the empty Champagne bottles taken out behind the garage, Google searches for terms like “divorce lawyer” and “file for divorce” spike. Many of the people researching how to untie the knot will probably not do so. But some will.
That's true. December is slim pickings, since most people don't want to give their kids a divorce for Christmas.
Brad Wilcox and Samuel Sturgeon of the Institute for Family Studies suggest that there might be good reason to hold off, particularly if you have kids. Of course, there might be good reason not to hold off! But the majority of divorces involving kids don’t come from “high conflict” marriages or situations involving abuse; Wilcox and Sturgeon point to data indicating that most divorces come from couples who are still basically functioning as parents.
This is McArdle so I assume that the Institute for Family Studies is comprised of the usual right-wing suspects and lo and behold, it is. Fortunately for me, someone has already done the legwork: Philip N. Cohen.
The new kid in the right-wing foundation sandbox is the Institute for Family Studies. They are “dedicated to strengthening marriage and family life, and advancing the well-being of children, through research and public education.”
IFStudies gives off a distinct Brad Wilcox essence. That’s not just because its mailing address is the same as that of the Ridge Foundation (which you’d have to describe as “shadowy”), whose 1099 filings list Wilcox as its president. It’s also that one of Ridge’s directors was one Ernest “Skip” Burzumato, who is the managing director of IFStudies, program director at Wilcox’s National Marriage Project, and an adjunct professor of sociology at Bridgewater College. (Aside: at Ridge, Wilcox in 2011 paid himself $35,000 — a little more than Ridge got from the Bradley Foundation “to support the National Marriage Project.”)
Mr. Wilcox is also "a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute." Of course.

 Billionaires, like the clergy of old, profit when the lower classes are trusting and biddable. They would far rather have the lower classes pitted against each other than have the lower classes united against the upper classes. If people begin to blame billionaires for their killer capitalism, something untoward could happen. It would be far better for all concerned if the poor believed that their poverty was entirely their own fault and if they would only marry and work hard, they would be successful and happy. And that takes propaganda.
Counterintuitively, kids whose parents divorce amid flying crockery and lurid accusations may actually do better, post-divorce, than kids whose parents unhappily fizzle out. But if you think about it for a while, that’s not all that surprising. In homes with major conflict, divorce brings a certain measure of peace and stability. But if your parents are basically civil to each other, divorce could come as an unwelcome surprise.
This construct is typical of McArdle; she uses it often to seem smarter. You won't believe this obvious thing that most people already understand, but after I explain it to you, you will!
Our parents, our family unit, are the first and most bedrock fact of our lives. Suddenly breaking that apart -- for no reason apparent to the children involved -- shakes a faith in the world that will never be rebuilt in quite the same way. Moreover, divorce often means downward economic mobility. Unless you are hugely wealthy, splitting your income across two households means that sacrifices have to be made by both parties, and often, that financial stress is added to the emotional upheaval of unraveling two lives.
McArdle's parents are divorced.  Based on information that McArdle has let drop, the West Side apartment was sold at some time, her father bought a sea-side cottage somewhere nearby that must have been very expensive and is about to slide into the rising sea/sinking shore, and I assume her mother also acquired a residence.

Poof! There went McArdle's only hope of ever living on the Upper West Side and running into Jonah Goldberg while walking her dog, not that she's bitter that he nabbed a liquor and grocery store heiress and she didn't. Now she will never run into celebrities while picking up coffee. Nobody would gasp with envy when she casually revealed her address. Eckington is appreciating nicely but it just isn't the same. Damn you, divorce!!

And let's not even talk about the drain of a divorce and two households on her rightful inheritance.
Small wonder, then, that the children of divorce tend to have worse outcomes on various measures than the children whose parents stay together: According to Wilcox and Sturgeon, “Divorce typically doubles or triples the odds that children will experience depression, delinquency, school failure, or future relationship difficulties.”
But children aren’t the only reason to consider sticking it out. Divorce may be emotionally and financially traumatic for children, but it is also, of course, emotionally and financially traumatic for adults.
::nods wisely::
And it’s not clear that in the end, people who leave low-conflict marriages end up any happier than those who stick it out through a rough patch -- even a years-long rough patch. Some people consider divorce at one point but don't go through with it. When they are asked about it later, most of them say they’re glad they didn’t do it. One study compared people who divorced with people who didn’t, finding that the people who didn’t divorce ended up as happy as those who did. Sixty-four percent of them even reported that they were happily married.
You think you're home free and then the Mater and Pater decided that after 40 years of marriage they can't stand a couple more decades for the sake of the children and throw in the towel. It's beyond selfish. They already wasted 40 years, they couldn't tough it out for another decade or two? Sunk costs!
Of course, there’s a risk that some of this finding is what social scientists call “selection effect.” The people who considered divorce, but didn’t do it, might not have been as unhappy as the people who took action.
It would be surprising if selection effects didn’t account for at least some of these findings. It would be even more surprising if selection effects accounted for all of them.
We have a script in our heads about what divorce does, much of it lifted from the divorce revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. Two people meet … they fall in love … they develop irreconcilable differences, or they grow apart, and must split so that at least one of the parties can develop into their truest, highest self.
Another McArdle technique is to parrot a conservative cliché about liberal behavior and pretend to vanquish her strawman.
But more recent research suggests a very different truth about happiness. As Daniel Gilbert argues in the brilliant book "Stumbling on Happiness," unless our circumstances are truly unbearable, our brains will seek to find their natural level of happiness, like floodwater evening out across a plain. Whatever we are stuck with … whatever we commit to … we will find ways to make it work -- and we will be just as happy with it as we would have been with any other outcome.
I have not read Mr. Gilbert's book but after looking at its Amazon page and remembering every other book McArdle discussed, I suspect she misinterpreted the book through her own blinkered ideology, which is pretty funny because the book is about "the foibles of imagination and illusions of foresight that cause each of us to misconceive our tomorrows and misestimate our satisfactions."
Under this theory, all other forces being equal, those who avoid divorce end up with the same long-term level of happiness that they would have had post-divorce … and they skip the short-term financial and emotional pains of separation.
Picture McArdle in thirty years. Picture leaving McArdle in thirty years. Some things are worth short-term pain.
So a lot of people who are thinking about observing National Divorce Month might be better off if they delayed the festivities for a while and started hunting for reasons to celebrate their marriage instead.
You hear that, Peter? You have been warned.


D. said...

...Or, of course, they murder their spouses.

Ms. McArdle is not clever enough to outwit either Inspector Clouseau or Lieutenant Columbo. Divorce is way preferable.

Kathy said...

Sounds like Mr. ArgleBargle has been steppin' out.

Susan of Texas said...

It would be irresponsible not to speculate.

But I'm sure the happy couple are very faithful. She's not the forgiving type.

Professor Fate said...

well if things don't go well, I understand David Brooks is free.

Tony M. said...

Good post.

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

You won't be happy with me, but give me one more chance. You won't be happy anyway.

Skinny Little Boy from Cleveland, Ohio said...

Thank you again for reading her in depth so that we are spared the chore. Clearly, her parents divorce was all about her (new complexities for planning holiday visits) and she hopes they are as miserable apart as they were together. And one need not be a fan of Freud to wonder how that marriage between a tall, older woman married to a bland dorky younger guy has been going. Perhaps, Peter is outliving his Oedipal problems, with the help of a regular series of interns, while she needs his youth and professional contacts perhaps more than he now needs her. They are coming up on the 7 year itch, so I'm sure she'll be writing more of this twaddle.

Anonymous said...

McMegan in the kitchen with the Thermomix.

Anonymous said...

I didn't realize she's only 43. I thought she was closer to or over 50.

Ken Houghton said...

"Poof! There went McArdle's only hope of ever living on the Upper West Side and running into Jonah Goldberg while walking her dog, not that she's bitter that he nabbed a liquor and grocery store heiress and she didn't."

Jonah and I used to vote at the same place. It's too high up (geographically) for McMegan's union-buster father.