Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Happiness In A Glass

Uber weeps a single tear at the loss of revenue and lowers projections for the next fiscal year.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Civil War: The Battle of Propaganda

At first glance Megan McArdle's latest work looks like yet another post on how everything is too hard and nobody can do anything ever. This is especially true if you are a conservative scientist whose work has been shown to be a little less than scientific, although McArdle points out that Both Sides Do It, naturally.

After three paragraphs of this your mind starts to wander and you begin to wonder if you have enough cream for dinner. By the seventh paragraph of this your head is nodding and you are about to drop off to sleep. And then McArdle freaks out.
A few years back, a friend who is a securities lawyer, and therefore very interested in books on the financial crisis, asked me a very good question: How does journalism guard against the possibility of false facts entering the data stream?
They don't make shit up? That would prevent false facts from entering the data stream.
These tomes are extensively reported, and each has its nuggets of new information gleaned from many hundreds of hours of interviews. Often interview subjects are hard to get to sit down, much less to go on the record. What happens if those interviews yield false information?
That is why journalists check information and don't use information that cannot be confirmed. Or they emphasize that the information can't be confirmed and thus is not reliable or the final word.
Journalists do, of course, attempt to guard against that sort of thing, for example by getting multiple sources. But we also get things wrong sometimes. And it would be folly to think that these errors are always exposed. When they are not, these “facts” get repeated until they are heard as facts.
Conservative "journalists" do repeat false information ad nauseam. Usually however it's not a mistake, it's a deliberate lie to fool the public into doing something that will end up harming them.
There is one area, however, where a robust response is guaranteed, and that’s in politics. Publish something that makes one side of the political spectrum look bad, and you can be sure that the next day, there will be hordes of interns, reporters and political staffers devoted to exposing every last weakness in the argument. Had Rogoff and Reinhart published a few years earlier, it seems unlikely that they would have attracted the level of attention that they did from outside the slightly stuffy world of international public finance wonks. As it was, their work became the focus of a heated debate over stimulus, government spending and deficits -- and their coding error quickly became big news.

Interesting thing--Rogoff and Reinhart enthusiastically gave interviews in which they said their work supported certain policies and continue to insist that large deficits will harm growth after their work was shown to be "mistaken," as the link shows.

But let's go back to the main point, political lies are quickly corrected.
When almost everyone in your field leans towards one side of the political spectrum, that reaction -- that teeth-grinding, hair-pulling, eye-rolling “That can’t be right!” -- gets blunted.
Then don't just read information from your side of the political spectrum. Question your assumptions. Fact check everything. Look for holes in your arguments. Take your arguments to their natural conclusions to see if the outcomes are different from your initial suppositions. It's called thinking.
Of course, it's no fun having your work under attack by political partisans. I know: I’ve spent the last 15 years of my career in the fray, knowing that much of what I publish is going to get someone’s blood boiling, and their eyes scanning for mistakes.
Who's the precious little snowflake? You are! Yes, you!

Okay, the eye-rolling does occur. Also, some tittering and a few hahaha!s. Mostly though it's face-palming.
And yet, for the profession as a whole, this is a good thing. It makes us more careful, and more importantly, it means that our inevitable errors are not immortal. Journalism has a lot of ways to protect against errors before publication, and it needs them all. Journalism also benefits from the hordes of folks who check us after we’ve done every check we can think of -- because the cognitive biases to which all humans are prey mean that there are probably some checks we couldn’t think of.
They are not mistakes. They are lies.
Similarly, science is going to need to do something about publication bias, and by extension, about the way that tenure and research funding are handed out. A new study intended to test a past conclusion is not unoriginal; it's essential. We should respect and demand that kind of rigor across the sciences, not only for politicized topics.
Aaaaaand let's end with a swipe at academia because conservatives are not able to take it all over quite yet, despite all the fine work the Koch foundations are doing in that field.

Monday, October 12, 2015

I Can Think For You Retail

As I suspected, Megan McArdle has taken up work outside of her regular job as a libertarian dangling flypaper devil-may-care opinion writer on "the definitive 'chronicle of capitalism'" a major metropolitan newsletter. One can't shop all the time.

The Mercatus Center is attempting to hash out reasonable-sounding polices by which they can somehow peel off the parts of Obamacare that the populace wants and jettison the rest. They needed top minds for top solutions, so naturally they turned to Megan McArdle.

The Preexisting Condition:
How to finance care for individuals with pre-existing medical conditions has long been one of the thorniest, most challenging issues in healthcare policy. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s solution was a vast, complex clockwork of individual and employer coverage mandates, guaranteed issue, modified community rating, multiple subsidies, and other provisions. As commentators spanning the political spectrum warned before the law’s passage, this approach faces daunting logistical and financial hurdles.  
In a new set of essays commissioned by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and published at e21, seven leading policy experts share innovative ideas on how to solve the pre-existing condition challenge. While their approaches exhibit differences as well as similarities, they are unified in their pursuit of a humane, equitable, fiscally sustainable solution to a conundrum that has driven and strained the entire post–World War II healthcare debate.  
The series will be packaged as an e-book on November 10th.  
1. Changing the Subject, Robert Graboyes  
2. Market Incentives for Broader Coverage, Douglas Holtz-Eakin  
3. Continuous Coverage Guarantee, Tom Coburn, MD  
4. Guaranteed Renewability and Equitable Tax Treatment, Bradley Herring  
5. Safety, Simplicity, and Transparency, Megan McArdle  
6. Exploring Superior Approaches to the ACA, James C. Capretta  
7. Better Paths Forward, Charles Blahous

The link to McArdle's future article:
The Pre-existing Condition: Safety, Simplicity, and Transparency
This essay will be available October 27th.

Rest easy, America. Megan McArdle, who has repeatedly said that everyone should pay their heath care costs out of pocket, is doing the thinking for you and she'll fix Obamacare her very own self, with the help of a few friends.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Businesses' Best Friend

From Megan McArdle's Facebook Question and Answer:
Bloomberg View From the column's comment section: "If companies think that no one is paying attention, you haven't begun to see the amount of intrusiveness that's possible." Megan, do you think this is true?

Megan McArdle: Companies do think that no one is paying attention to them, and I think they're largely right about this. And that's something worth noting about privacy activists, and other sorts of anti-corporate activists, even when I disagree with them: they are one of the reasons that companies don't go loonie and do a bunch of horrible things.  
Now, I'm not arguing that companies never do horrible things. But really, when you think of all the ways that companies could lie and cheat and abuse their customers, they're actually remarkably honest. That's not an argument against regulation, or whatever, it's just an observation that they could be much worse. It's remarkably true of lots of stuff in American life, actually; for example, tax evasion is actually pretty easy to get away with, but most people don't try.  
There are lots of reasons that companies don't do every bad thing they could do. For one, there are people in these companies, and people do not, on balance, like to do horrible things to other people. Also, many horrible things risk a backlash from your customers, which would cost more than any profit you'd make off said horribleness. One factor that keeps companies afraid of a backlash is the activists who will publicize any dodgy activity that comes to light. So these groups are really useful, even vital, to having a good capitalist society.  
But that doesn't mean that we should therefore think "companies bad, activist groups good". Activist groups, which are also made up of people, can be venal, self-interested, stupid, or simply mistaken, just like companies. And they almost always view their personal preferences and values as synonymous with the public good, even though much of the public does not share these preferences or values. So we should be glad that activist groups are around to keep companies honest--but we should also be skeptical of the activists too.

For instance, take Shell Oil. We all know that they don't really want to do bad stuff because they're rilly nice people and their customers would stop buying gasoline if they did.

Right away.

HOUSTON – Sierra Club and Environment Texas filed a lawsuit today in federal district court against Shell Oil Company and several affiliates. The suit – the first case in Texas in which citizen groups are suing to stop illegal air emissions arising from so-called “upset” events – claims that Shell has repeatedly violated the Clean Air Act at its Deer Park, Texas, oil refinery and chemical plant, resulting in the release of millions of pounds of excess air pollutants over the past five years, including toxic chemicals such as benzene and 1,3-butadiene.
Shell’s Deer Park facility is a 1,500-acre complex located on the Houston Ship Channel in Harris County, about 20 miles east of downtown Houston. It is the nation’s eighth-largest oil refinery and one of the world’s largest producers of petrochemicals. The facility is also the second largest source of air pollution in Harris County, which ranks among the worst in the nation in several measures of air quality.
“I live and work downwind from Shell, in Channelview. My family and my employees simply can’t afford to breathe in any more air pollution,” said Sierra Club member and small business owner Karla Land. “We have laws to protect air quality for a reason. Shell is breaking those laws and they need to be made to stop.” 
“On average of more than once a week for at least the past five years, Shell has reported that it violated its own permit limits by spewing a wide range of harmful pollutants into the air around the Deer Park plant,” said Luke Metzger, Director of Environment Texas. “Because the state of Texas and the U.S. EPA have both failed to put a stop to these blatant violations, ordinary citizens are stepping up to enforce the law themselves.”

Make sure you are skeptical of activists because they "can be venal, self-interested, stupid, or simply mistaken, just like companies."


Megan McArdle is working hard. One hour ago:

Most of her posts look like they were dashed off right before quitting time.  And not many people would tell their audience about how much research they are doing unless they are doing none. Especially when they don't use any research in the article. Or when most of their "facts" are wrong, as they were in her famous kitchen post; after that post she tweeted that she had spent all day researching.

Yesterday she did a one-hour Q&A for Facebook, starting late and ending early. That was it for the day.

Perhaps she is busy working on something else besides her blog, maybe a long-form article, or is travelling for business. And one hour ago was 10:30 in her time zone. She's a journalist, her hours are fluid, she might work 15 hour days for all we know, although we also know she doesn't blog on weekends or holidays, with extremely rare exceptions. Yeah. That has to be it. That must be why she's shopping for new clothes at 10:30 on a weekday. She doesn't punch a clock, after all. And it's not like you can order clothes over the internet at any time you want.

Also, too: Banana Republic? Is that where she bought this tragic dress?

Now, you might think that discussing McArdle's work habits is silly. But we all know that the poor are poor because they don't apply themselves. They don't work hard at school and save their money and think ahead. I'm only thinking of McArdle's happiness. It's for her own good.

ADDED: Hahahaha! From the comments on her second Facebook post:

Thank you, Megan, for resisting the temptation to increase post quantity and the expense of quality. So many blogs, like the MSM, have gradually become a waste of the readers' time. Thank you for never wasting my time with trite articles I could get anywhere on the Internet. Keep it unique and stimulating.

    Trump and Fascism

    Read this article by Rick Perlstein on Donald Trump.  One quote:

    It’s not that his supporters don’t know he’s a con man; they revel in it. It’s what makes Donald a “winner.” Lying is an initiation into the conservative elite.  In these respects, as in so many others, conservatism resembles the “multi-level marketing,” or pyramid schemes, that so many Republicans buy into. Closing the sale is mainly a question of riding out the lie: showing you have the skill and the stones to just brazen it out, and the savvy to ratchet up the stakes higher and higher. 
    Which isn’t fascism. It’s more like professional wrestling––with which, as we know, Trump has a long and storied history.

    Or maybe it’s both.

    Tuesday, October 6, 2015

    Trade--And Everything Else--Should Be Free For The Rich

    I knew nothing about Carly Fiorina until recently and I was shocked when I saw how many people lost jobs because of her business tactics. One of the reasons I was shocked was because the people who were fired took the news submissively. Fiorina should not be able to walk around in public without being reminded of the suffering she inflicted on others. As I already posted in a comment, not everyone takes being fired calmly:
    Air France executives were forced to flee with their clothes in tatters after workers stormed a meeting at Charles de Gaulle airport in protest at 2,900 planned job cuts.  
    Human resources chief Xavier Broseta and Pierre Plissonnier, head of long-haul flights, scaled an eight-foot fence to escape, aided by security guards. Broseta emerged shirtless and Plissonnier had his suit ripped to shreds.  
    Violence erupted Monday as Air France told its works council that 300 pilots, 900 flight attendants and 1,700 ground staff might have to go after failed productivity talks with flight crew. The protest, in which agitators chanted “naked, naked,” is just the latest to turn physical in France, where managers at Michelin & Cie. and Sony Corp. have been held hostage over firings, irate farmers have blocked city streets with tractors and manure, and more than 100 Uber Technologies Inc. taxis were smashed up by rival drivers.
    And we all know someone else who should not be allowed to walk around in public without being censured.

    Yesterday Megan McArdle wrote yet another ode to free trade but ideology was not the impetus for her support. As we could see from her post about piecework, she is motivated by greed. It is the basis for her support for free trade and her animosity for American workers. She wants more money, more goods and services, without giving anything in return. The only thing keeping her from supporting indentured servitude is that she thinks it's easier to rent servants by the hour. Instead of doing her job-analyze and report--she gives a massive sigh and pout that people stand in the way of her greed and selfishness.
    I’ve spent the morning reading about the Trans-Pacific Partnership. I went in prepared to deliver a column full of details, winners and losers, strong opinions about the good provisions and the bad. But what really comes to mind is a dismal thought: “Is this the best we can do?” 
    Oh, yes, I know the statistics. Forty percent of the world’s economy. Thousands of tariffs falling. I know the opposition points too, about giveaways to business, intellectual property rules, outsourcing jobs. No one is talking about the larger story, though, which is that the biggest trade news in a decade involves a regional deal of relatively limited impact.

    The real story here is that McArdle doesn't want to pay for goods or services. She wants workers to be forced to pick up work at the whim of someone with an app, to work without stability, a living wage or benefits, so she can buy more consumer goods and have more money in the bank or the stock market and squeeze her servants out of a living wage.

    McArdle admits that breaking down trade barriers has been very successful but not successful enough!

    It was not always thus. When I was a fledgling journalist, a wee slip of a thing, we economics writers looked to major global trade negotiations to advance the cause of freer markets, and not incidentally, the material progress of mankind. We looked down on regional side-deals because they were such weak tea compared with the robust brew of a global agreement. Regional deals distorted the flow of trade, encouraging people not to exploit comparative advantage and production capabilities, but rather to seek the best combination of tariff rules from among competing regional frameworks. I have heard arguments that such deals, by distorting trade and weakening the pressure to make global deals, were actually worse than doing nothing. Indeed, I may have made such arguments.
    Indeed she did, as I pointed out in her comments. Previously she said that labor suffered from free trade but eh, whaddaya gonna do?
    You don’t hear those arguments any more, and that’s because we free-traders have largely given up on global trade agreements. The Doha round of World Trade Organization talks collapsed in the face of European agricultural protectionism and intransigence among countries with large numbers of subsistence farmers. Nativism, protectionism, nationalism seem to be rising as a political force in many countries. Global trade volumes are looking anemic. In this climate, regional agreements seem attractive, in much the same way that the remaining bar patrons assume a winsome glow around closing time.
    She should know, considering the amount of time she spends in bars.
    How have things come to such an unpretty pass?
    Unspoken in her ruminations is the struggle between the rich, who want more money, and the poor, who want jobs. She deliberately leaves out the worker's struggles. No, it's not a fight for your family's survival. It's something else that will be easier to denegrate.
    ... The dismal story, of course, is that free trade has fallen prey to other, darker forces. As automation has done away with what used to be high-paying, semi-skilled jobs, people have given in to the natural human urge to find a foreigner to blame for their troubles. That has undercut the support for free trade when falling global growth rates mean we most need it.... Free trade has been a great success, and that has probably made further liberalization seem less urgent. But just look to the success of the Trump campaign to understand that this is not the only reason that trade liberalization is struggling.
    As a commenter pointed out:
    MC • 21 hours ago  
    "As automation has done away with what used to be high-paying, semi-skilled jobs, people have given in to the natural human urge to find a foreigner to blame for their troubles."  
    WAIT, in your last post, you said that American wage stagnation was likely due to "automation of low- to medium-skilled work in the manufacturing and clerical sectors, or the outsourcing of those jobs abroad." Now, you blame only automation. So which is it? Have American workers lost jobs to outsourcing? If they have, then doesn't that suggest that they aren't just xenophobically blaming free trade, but that free trade is actually somewhat responsible? I'm agnostic on free trade, but maybe free trade is hitting rough sledding politically because it...hasn't worked out as painlessly as was promised?
    People aren't trying to protect their jobs. They're intransigent nativists. They're trying to keep growth rates from increasing. Why won't they think of the .01% instead of their selfish desire to work hard for a living, thereby depriving McArdle of the chance to consume even more than she already does?

    Child's Play

    An argument between two children over puppies turned tragic Saturday when an 11-year-old boy killed his 8-year-old neighbor with a shotgun, according to authorities in Jefferson County, Tenn.
    America’s pediatricians remain undeterred and united in our desire to see significant policy change to address this public health crisis,” the AAP wrote in a statement released on the one-year anniversary of Sandy Hook.
    Several years ago, the American Medical Association advised doctors to ask their patients about firearms and “educate patients to the dangers of firearms to children” in the name of public health. But doctors in Florida may be suppressed from giving this medical advice, now that a federal appeals court upheld a Florida law that became known as the “physician gag rule” because it punishes doctors for talking about guns.
    Somebody said we should use anti-abortion tactics against the gun nuts. That's a very good idea. If the right wants to discuss immorality, let's discuss the immorality of manufacturing death and raising children to reach for a gun, either as a toy or a way to punish a little girl for refusing to show a boy a puppy.

    Sunday, October 4, 2015


    Talking is not enough.
    Who is against whom?  
    by Tom Sullivan  
    Discontent is simmering out there.
    Fear. Fear is simmering out there. The middle class is afraid of getting poorer. The poor are afraid of getting killed and getting poorer. The rich are afraid the poor will kill them and the middle class will make them poorer. Discontent doesn't motivate, it irritates. Fear motivates.
    Donald Trump is one proof. Bernie Sanders is another. The New York Times' Patrick Healy looks at how discontent manifests itself among liberal-leaning voters: Interviews with three dozen Democrats in key early states — a mix of undecided voters and Sanders and Clinton supporters — laid bare a sense of hopelessness that their leaders had answers to problems like income inequality and gun violence. It is frustration that Mr. Sanders, a senator from Vermont, and other progressive candidates are channeling and that Mrs. Clinton has addressed with increasing passion, as when she responded to Thursday’s massacre at an Oregon college by saying she was “just sick of this.”
    Healy reports that similar insurgencies against party-blessed candidates have also popped up in Florida, Illinois and Pennsylvania. Why? Because gun violence is not the only thing Democratic voters are sick of.
    Americans will not accept reality unless their noses have been rubbed in it. Reality is becoming too obvious to ignore. Democrats are finally losing hope, the first step to making changes.
    The disaffection among Democrats flows mainly from three sources, according to interviews with voters and strategists. Disappointment lingers with President Obama over the failure to break up big banks after the Great Recession and fight for single-payer health insurance, among other liberal causes.
    Nobody expected Obama to nationalize banks or get national health care (not insurance). Democrats said anyone who expected these actions were glitter-shitting purity ponies. They just thought the Republicans would be infinitely worse, which of course they would. If they are saying this they are lying to themselves and everyone else. They settled for the lesser of two evils and got exactly what they wanted. Some people are very upset with Obama's actions but most think he is doing a good job, especially considering the alternative. Now that people are poorer they wish Obama had acted but at the time they shrugged.

    Fatigue with Mrs. Clinton’s controversies endures, as does distaste with her connections to the rich. And anger abounds at party leaders for not pursuing an ideologically pure, economically populist agenda.

    Almost nobody asked for "an ideologically pure, economically populist agenda" and those who did were mocked by anyone who wanted to win the presidency.

    Karen Bryant from New Boston, N.H. gets down to the kitchen-table aspect of the problem: “There’s just so much hopelessness about people having any real opportunity to just make a living, take care of their families, support themselves.”
    The left voted for a liberal social agenda and a conservative economic agenda. They got what they voted for.
    David Atkins looks at the issue from a different angle for Political Animal. Voters once called "Middle American Rad­ic­als" are sick of the middle class "being disadvantaged by a focus on both the rich and the poor." Atkins writes:
    I particularly remember a series of focus groups I conducted among undecided, infrequent minority voters who were almost universally angry with food stamp and welfare programs because they worked full-time jobs and made just a little too much to qualify for them. They were angry that friends and neighbors of theirs were able to get assistance from the government, and they themselves were being “punished” for working. These were still liberal-leaning voters who were not going to vote for Republicans anytime soon because of their racism and because they wanted those welfare programs to continue to exist in case they themselves lost their job—but it didn’t change their angry perception that American government, in their eyes, seemed to advantage both the rich and the poor at the expense of the middle class.  
    And, predictably, the effect tends to be even greater among more comfortable white voters, who often have an unrealistically romantic idea of what being unemployed and on welfare is really like.
    If white voters need any primer on that, Rolling Stone provided an invaluable look at that in 2012. But they also have an unrealistically romantic idea of how politics works. 
    Atkins observes:
    It’s an artifact of America’s peculiar winner-take-all political system that we only have two functional parties.
    One functional party.
    Economically, this means that the conservative party works to align the middle class with the wealthy against the poor, while the liberal party works to align the poor and the middle class against the rich. But the middle class ideally wants to promote its own interests above all, and all too often it seems to them like no one is doing that.
     Actually, the rich do what they want and the rest of us beg for scraps. The more money you have the more scraps you get because you have more money to give to the rich.
    Dissatisfaction with the political parties and the economic system form common ground. Sanders' disaffected masses and Trump's share many of the same complaints, just different subsets of scapegoats. The problem is, both groups of voters are still shopping for a new boss that won't be the same as the old boss.
    Yes, authoritarianism is a major problem but not the only one. Nobody has any power but the rich. That is why it is very unwise to vote for people who are economic conservatives.
    Obama was supposed to fill that role for Democrats when he took office in 2009. But when Obama effectively told supporters, "I got this," they let him. They left the political battlefield and went back to trying to get by. The lesson still hasn't sunk in. Unless it does, they'll do the same again with whomever the Democrats elect.  
    They had no power. There was nothing they could do. They are starting to realize this now.
    Sanders says we need a political revolution. He's right. It's not just an electoral revolution. It has to be a revolution in thinking about politics.
    NO NO NO. That is what everyone says during every election. Political and electoral revolutions get you nowhere. Thinking gets you nowhere. We have enough deep thinkers. They get nothing done.

    There has to be a revolution.

    Conservatives know this. The tea parties, the Brooks Brothers riot, the gun obsessions: violence and shows of force to keep the undesirables in check. The toleration for mass murder to keep guns in conservative hands. The left's attempt to have a show of force, the Occupy movement, was quickly and fiercely squashed. Why do  you think conservatives keep telling liberals over and over that they are weak and effeminate? Why the concern trolling over violent rhetoric?

     There has to be a revolution. And there will be. The only question is how long it will be until liberals are desperate enough to physically fight for one. We're not there yet.

    This is not new. American laborers physically fought in the past for economic freedom and they can do it again. The rich know this; that is why they don't want the poor to watch their children starve. Nothing will start a revolution faster. As long as we are not starving we will not revolt and the rich can keep us dissatisfied but quiescent for a very long time. We can have a dangerous, deadly but relatively peaceful revolution now or a very bloody and deadly one later.

    By the time we are ready it might be too late.

    Friday, October 2, 2015

    A Real Piece Of Work

    Megan McArdle wants you to do piecework because she hopes to benefit from your desperation.

    Imagine that I am sitting at home one night, and I would love to go meet some friends for a drink. Unfortunately, it’s hard to get cabs to come to my neighborhood, it’s not quite safe to walk alone at night, and driving to the outing would defeat the purpose, since I couldn’t drink once I got there. So instead, I sit at home and watch reruns.

    Lowering the transaction costs makes it easier for me to find someone who is willing to drive me over to the bar. This hasn’t displaced someone else’s job; it’s an entirely new piece of economic activity that simply wouldn’t have happened if the transaction costs had remained high. We get additional employment, additional consumption and additional happy hours with our friends, drinking margaritas and arguing about "Game of Thrones."

    Kevin Drum does not.

     All this has Kevin Drum concerned: “It now seems as though the 'sharing economy' is any job that's somehow related to a scheduling app and provides workers only with odd bits and pieces of work at the employer's whim. In other words, sort of like manual laborers in the Victorian era, but with smartphones and better pay.”

     McArdle hears his concern but is not convinced. Lots of people would love to have two or three or four jobs.
    Of course, some workers would rather be [fully employed]. But what about people who use these jobs to “moonlight” around other obligations, like day jobs, school or child care? Worker supply, as well as consumer demand, seems likely to fall.
    The real concern, I think, is that these jobs will become substitutes for better jobs: more stable, better paid. This is obviously going to concern left-wing commentators, many of whom have already expressed worry that the “gig economy” is bad for American workers. 
    That may be.
    However, just because workers would suffer doesn't mean workers would suffer.

    But proving that someone got hurt is not the same as proving a net decline in the position of workers.

    But so what? It's not like they can get a good job anymore anyway.

    But that rests on the hidden, and so far unproven, assumption that the gig economy is in fact displacing workers by driving down the value of the work they do, rather than creating new economic activity that simply wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for these apps -- and possibly in the process providing work for workers displaced from other industries, for reasons that have nothing to do with Uber or Instacart.

    I think there are real concerns about what has happened to the wages of American workers. But so far, I don’t see much evidence that Uber or Airbnb is the cause. Most of it seems to come from automation of low- to medium-skilled work in the manufacturing and clerical sectors, or the outsourcing of those jobs abroad. Trying to fix those problems by destroying Uber’s business model is like trying to cure your headache by taking a hammer to the bottle of aspirin.

    Just as McArdle thought that Africans would be lucky to "slave" for $21 a month in a sweatshop, her fellow Americans would be lucky to get whatever work they could scrape up in their spare time, if there is any work.

    Kevin is, of course, right that these apps somewhat mimic the casual labor market of the 19th century. But there’s a difference beyond the labor conditions: The apps radically drive down the transaction costs to providing these sorts of services. A Victorian laborer might have had to tromp from house to house looking for work, or stand outside for hours waiting for someone to come by looking for workers. No longer.

    Just think about how much easier your life of poverty would be if you could wait to be contacted via app instead of waiting in the parking lot of Home Depot in the hopes of getting a painting or construction job.

    Besides, those full-time jobs with benefits were problematic to begin with. Your company is bound to screw you over anyway.

    But doing those things internally, rather than buying services in the market, is expensive. It makes the employer less flexible, and raises its fixed costs. It has to recover those costs somehow, which can happen in one of three ways:
    1. Charge customers more, which will reduce demand and result in fewer hours of labor being consumed
    2. Lower the wage paid to the workers
    3. Exert a lot more control over worker schedules and conditions to maximize the ratio of work to overhead. Workers will probably not be allowed to show up whenever they feel like and work as long as they want. They will, for example, probably have their hours capped to prevent them from qualifying for health insurance.

    If employers have to pay you steady wages and benefits you'd never get a job.

    How much better it would be to just accept your impoverished and precarious situation. And let's face it, how much better it would be for Megan McArdle if you were powerless, and forced to ferry her from her $300,000 gentrified Victorian rowhouse to her favorite bars and back again for the lowest fees the market could provide.

    The Age Of Lies

    It's no longer the Information Age, it's the Age of Lies. Lies are bought and sold; there is an enormous, lucrative market for them. That has always been true but now they are respected, repeated, emulated. We are nostalgic for eras in which lies were never or seldom challenged; the Confederate lies, the Madison Avenue lies. People who lie are hot commodities and seem to vastly outnumber people who are paid to tell the truth.

    Did yesterday's mass murderer actually target Christians? Nobody knows yet but the story is being passed around as truth because it's such a desirable lie. Did Carly Fiorina see an aborted baby kicking? No, but it doesn't matter because if it isn't true it ought to be. Rod Dreher's book on his sister is filled with lies, stuffed like a Thanksgiving turkey with self-deception and thin but boldly stated lies meant to make him look like a much better person than he actually is. Donald Trump lies about everything for the same reason, and because it makes him money.

    Does controlling drug prices destroy innovation? It did as long as you never admit it's a lie. Bloomberg publishes McArdle because there is a market for lies and McArdle always comes through with the goods. Demand, meet supply. She will take that lie to her grave because it sells.