A psychologist once said that there are two kinds of people afraid of heights: people who worry about falling, and people afraid of a little voice that says ‘jump’. Here today in front of all of you good people, I am finally prepared to come out of the closet as an acrophobic of the second kind. Every once in a while I have to resist this weird impulse to do something I know I will regret like click through a Newsmax link, fart in an elevator or post the Star Wars Holiday Special on autoplay because it would piss you all off and give John an aneurysm. It was this evil little voice that interrupted me this morning while I was reading something Charlie Pierce linked to and said, I wonder what Megan McArdle is up to these days? Ignoring a credible counter-argument from the voice of reason (this must be what going crazy feels like he muttered, stealing a line from Whedon) I said what the hell and clicked over.
You know what? It was not so bad. In the ten or so posts I cared to skim I found not one significant reason to get angry. Maybe I am losing my mind. Alternatively, perhaps it really does help to have a managing editor who gives a crap about fact-like things published under his or her masthead. The new McMegan reads something like Yglesias on a slightly off day. My take on her last nine posts follows.
* Think hard about starting a Ph.D. if you already have a mountain of student debt. No argument there.
* Best Buy made a mistake trying to match Amazon’s prices. No kidding. You only know it’s McMegan because she elides the advantage that Amazon accrues from Walmarting its workers.
* We should rein in overzealous prosecutors who throw excessive charges at defendants to force a guilty plea. The entire political internet seems more or less agreed on this general point: liberals because they generally support defendants’ rights and abuse in criminal justice disproportionately punishes minorities, and conservatives because it involves government officials abusing their power. Maybe our great legislative bodies should take note.
* A study shows that a tiny bag tax drops the number of people taking plastic shopping bags by half. Not surprising to find that incentives drive behavior, but good to know.
* Obamacare’s demographic trends: not great but not the end of the world. With charts. She responds to Ezra Klein saying that things look ok but not stellar without putting any significant daylight between her point and his. It strikes me as questionable that Bloomberg’s editors let her keep harping on the cancellation issue when for the most part it just involves the usual churn in healthcare policies, but overall the point is not terribly controversial. If younger and healthier people sign up in greater numbers then Obamacare will do fine. If they stay out then it will do less fine. She and Ezra ultimately say the same thing but put their emphasis on a different syllable.
* Netflix has a screwy business model. Anyone want to take the other side of that argument? No? Moving on.
* McArdle or Yglesias? Bolding mine.
To be sure, we had a boom after World War II. But that boom followed almost two decades of suppressed consumption and a labor crunch during the war that had driven down unemployment to effectively nothing. People had stacks of money saved from war work and war bond purchases, and soldiers getting demobilized had the GI Bill. We’re unlikely to repeat that phenomenon.
Not to pick on Matt specifically, but this idea that government programs can help give a hand up to people otherwise facing a tough economic struggle and thereby boost the economy strikes me as middle of the road centrist Democratish. Atriosish even. Maybe it was a typo.
* More on Obamacare’s demographics: signup profiles look more like the CBO projections as time goes on. In which case the law is doing fine.
* Responding as we all must to that Amanda Hess essay about women and the internet, McArdle strikes a middle ground between extreme sexism denialists (that is to say, her readers) and people who she thinks use anti-sexism as a weapon. She proposes a sample conversation that incorporates what Ta-Nehisi Coates often says: label the behavior and not the person. I would suggest that using the sexist/racist label at all will get a person’s back up, and barring hopeless cases you will have more luck just telling the person why it is what they said or did made you feel angry / hurt / belittled. Though an annoying case of jerkykneed both-sidesism when taken by itself, you have to consider that Megan has her work cut out convincing the charmingly retrograde comment section that sexism exists at all.
And that is as far as I was willing to read, not because it sapped my will to live like the old McMegan would have but because I got bored. I have plenty of wonky centrist blogs on my RSS reader that provide the same informational content with more insight and less vague prose. But overall and if you discount the 91-octane crazy that still rules her comment section, I would say the new McMegan is if not terribly nutritious, at least palatable. Who would have guessed.