Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Fractured Fairy Tales: Ross Douthat And The Seventh Divorce From Reality



Bless me, Father Teddy, for I have sinned....




Ross Douthat is curled up in bed, sucking his thumb and casting his mind to his happy place. It's much better than the real one.

Once upon a time, Ross tells himself, Candidate Trump promised to think real hard about jobs, giving the common clay much pleasure and winning their votes. He was faking, as the Carrier non-deal shows, but the thought was nice. However, despite their benevolent thoughts,  the Trump Administration immediately began losing hugely. But fear not!-the Republicans' historic fuck-up makes them just like liberals.
As a result, right now his presidency is in danger of being very swiftly Carterized — ending up so unpopular, ineffectual and fractious that even with Congress controlled by its own party, it can’t get anything of substance done. The war with liberals and the media may keep his base loyal and his approval ratings from bottoming out. But it does nothing to drive any kind of agenda, or pressure Congress to enact one. And the more the Trump White House remains mired in its own melodramas, the more plausible it becomes that the Trump-era House and Senate set a record for risk avoidance and legislative inactivity.
Republicans spent the last eight years calling and fighting for, and achieving, avoidance and inactivity. They were spectacularly successful at being unsuccessful at governance.
Obviously, the absence of agenda-setting starts with the compulsively tweeting president. But the role of Bannon in these first few chaotic weeks also distills the White House’s problem.
One agenda was enacted, to world-wide fury and alarm. Theocratic Ross ignores Trump's Muslim ban because he believes in white Christian supremacy and because it's as embarrassing as hell.
The former Breitbart impresario has a clearer-than-your-average-Republican grasp of the political promise of Trumpism — the power of a right-leaning populism to speak to voters weary of cultural liberalism and libertarian economics.
Republicans are noticeably absent from the finger-pointing, as Ross both punches a few hippies and throws his libertarian buddies under the bus.
But instead of spearheading a domestic agenda oriented around these insights, instead of demanding (or making sure his boss demands) an infrastructure bill and a working-class tax cut from Congress the day before yesterday, Bannon has seemingly set out to consolidate power over national security policy — an arena where his ideas are undercooked and his lack of expertise is conspicuous.
Republicans have always wanted to starve the government into dysfunction, privatize the now-crippled agencies and services, and cut taxes for the rich. None of that has changed. The right is panicking because they thought they could avoid any repercussions for their actions and Trump destroyed their plausible deniability.
In effect, Bannon is trying to be both Dick Cheney and Karl Rove — the Darth Vader of counterterrorism and the architect of a domestic realignment, except with less experience, subtlety and political support than either.
This is not going to work. (In the end, it didn’t work out that well for Cheney and Rove, either.) Liberals can scare themselves about Bannon’s supposed plan for a slow-motion coup and Trumpistas can tell themselves that “disruption” is just what the ossified establishment needs. But a White House run this way will be politically impotent long before it reaches its first midterm.
Republicans are getting everything they wanted. More military, less foreign aid, entitlements cut and eliminated, minority rights eliminated or under fire, deportations and internal terror campaigns against those who are not white male Christians.
Is a different scenario possible?
No. You fought for it and won. This is your reward.
Of course, because the president still has free will. (We can talk about total depravity later, Calvinists.) He has, to his credit, assembled a reasonably competent cabinet.
Ben "Back up or I'll gut you, Mom" Carson.
Betsy "Wetsy" DeVos
Michael "Dasvidaniya" Flynn
He campaigned, again to his credit, on a reasonably popular policy agenda.
Racism, sexism, fascism, and jobs.
He faces no immediate foreign policy or economic crises, no threat that requires him to act sweepingly and instantly.
Just wait.
So there is no necessary reason he could not wake up tomorrow and decide to show a broad deference to Rex Tillerson and Jim Mattis on foreign policy, while letting Jeff Sessions and John Kelly between them hash out an immigration enforcement agenda.
So if Sock Puppet Trump on Ross's left hand can work with Sock Puppets Tillerson and Mattis on his right hand, surely dreams can come true and peace and plenty will shower the land.
There will be time to reshape the world order if his approval ratings ever edge back over 45 percent; for now, he could shelve plans for big-league disruptions and Nixon-to-China strokes of genius and simply take crises as they come.
Yes, Ross wants to let Trump reshape the world order, a phrase that has no negative connotations whatsoever.
Which in turn would free him — and, yes, Steve Bannon, too — to pick a few policy themes and hammer them.
Let's not forget Bannon's priorities; one must be generous to the help. Cleansing the US of non-whites and non-Christians isn't done in a day, you know. And we all know that there's no chance of Ross ever being cool until the women, minorities, and non-Christians are all put in their place.

(Joking! He still won't be cool.)
And not the hardest policies, either: Let Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell figure out how to get an Obamacare replacement through Congress and tell Tom Price to prop the system up if they can’t. From the White House, the message should be simple, boring, popular.
The popularity of repeal and don't replace must explain all of those noisy town halls calling for the careers of anti-ACA Congressmen. And it's nice to see that Ross feels comfortable being so cavalier with my family's healthcare. We wouldn't want the wealthy to worry their little heads about the other 90% of us.
We want a big infrastructure bill. A middle-class tax cut. Corporate tax reform.
Liar.
Infrastructure. Tax cuts for workers and parents. A better tax code for business.
Liar. He want tax cuts for himself and a cut of any privatized business.
Not a war with the judiciary. Tax cuts.  
Not CNN or Nordstrom’s perfidy. Jobs. Not Bannon’s theories about Islam or the crisis of the West. (And you know I like theories about the crisis of the West!) Bridges and roads and tunnels.
This isn’t complicated. In fact, it’s kind of easy.
Liar. He loves culture war crap because it gives him a chance to scold the girls who turned him down (not that he wanted them anyway) and the boys who turned him down (to the right clubs, get your mind out of the gutter).
Which is good advice for anyone in crisis, new presidents included. If you can’t figure out how to handle the hardest stuff, try something simple for a while.
Quitting is simple. Ask Sarah Palin.

So endeth another insincere missive from Ross Douthat, another flight into fantasy-land, in which conservatives are cool and good at their jobs and liberals are invisible unless they are creating art, developing science, and cleaning up after conservative failures.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Love And Money: Marriage The McArdle Way



It's Valentine's Day and Megan McArdle's thoughts naturally turn to love, which means money. Join me as I mock the woman whose rat-fucking is screwing with my life. Remember, as we rummage through the crystal ball of her head, that McArdle's interests, experiences, and speculations begin and end with herself.
This Valentine’s Day, if you’re in a long-term relationship, resolve to do something really romantic: talk about money.
Megan McArdle, M.A., MBA, FU, ignores the fact that outside of the top 10% or so, most couples discuss money every time they go out. Can we afford to go out, where can we afford to go out, what can we afford to eat or drink, what about a babysitter, is there gas in the car, and so on.
In the interests of full disclosure, I should note that my husband spontaneously proposed in the middle of a household budget meeting. You may therefore conclude that the McSuderman household has somewhat … unusual … ideas about what constitutes romance.
So what you're saying is that P. Suderman saw your income, bank balance, expenses, and assets and proposed on the spot.
But what’s more romantic than “until death do us part”? And substantial research shows that fights about money are one of the most common stressors on couples, and a very good predictor of divorce. One recent study found that it’s not having money troubles that send couples to divorce court, but the inability to agree on what to do about them.
Then that study ignores the stress of poverty and is useless, which is why McArdle later points out that lack of money creates stress.
In a consumer society such as ours, money is fundamental.
Yes. Yes, that's very true. We are in a "consumer society." Money is fundamental to consumerism. McArdle has a fine grasp of the obvious. It's not "Consumerism, according to Webster's Dictionary, is-" but it's very close.
Our purchases aren’t just about stuff we’d like to have; they’re about signaling who we are, to ourselves and other people. Money is one of the most important ways we shape choices about our lives. Naturally, when someone else gets involved in those choices, there’s going to be conflict.
Not so fast, missy. If your sense of yourself depends on the amount of money you have, you are very confused about both money and identity. When people base their identity on their wealth, they must convince themselves that wealth confers an abundance of positive characteristics on them, even when this is obviously untrue. If your self-esteem depends on your wealth, you are really in trouble. Such people could become greedy beyond words, because adults with no self-esteem almost never are satisfied. Nothing material can feel such a void, although not for lack of trying.

Which brings us back to Megan McArdle.
Those conflicts are obviously made easier when you have more money. There’s margin for error and disagreement without catastrophe or stress. But as financial advisers can attest, a dedicated spender can easily find ways to run through 20 percent more than he or she earns, regardless of how much that is. That spending isn’t necessarily on flat-panel televisions and speedboats; it may be on a house in a good school district. But no matter where the money goes, if you strap two spenders together, they’re both apt to end up in financial disaster. And if you strap one of those spenders to a saver, you end up with years’ worth of fiery arguments.
I think we can conclude that P. Suderman, spender, is strapped to M. McArdle, saver. Forever.
I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that that budget meeting has been the foundation of my marriage in more ways than one.
I believe you. 100%.
We do not agree on all money matters. There is considerable divergence in household views, for example, on the relative merits of high-end stereo equipment and expensive kitchen appliances.
I'm not a expert on technological matters but I think "guys spending money on expensive stereos" is passé, although it probably sounds a lot better in her head than "guys spending a lot of money on video cards, speakers, microphones, games, virtual reality equipment, and combustible 'snacks.'"
But we did agree that we had to agree on how the money would be spent. And having already had those discussions, through some hard times (Peter was laid off a few weeks after we moved in together) we knew even before we tied the knot that we could come to such agreement.
Two libertarians, self-selected for selfishness and mistrust, with the tendency to see those with less wealth as looters and moochers. They can exist both in perfect agreement and inevitable conflict.
Too many courting couples have a delicate reluctance to get down into the nitty-gritty of how they’re going to arrange their money: how much to pool, and how to spend those collective funds. Like a Victorian bride picturing her wedding night, they have only the vaguest notion of what is supposed to happen, but they imagine that money matters will sort themselves out easily as they drift along on a cloud of ecstatic love.
To make her unnecessary advice seem more urgent, McArdle invents a narrative of virginal, naïve Mid-Century teenage spouses, shyly opening their purse and wallet to each other for the first time.
What they often get instead is glorious fights when one party wants to put aside 15 percent of their salary for retirement and another 5 percent for emergencies, while the other wants to live for the day and let the future take care of itself.
I TOLD YOU SO.
My sympathies are naturally with the careful saver. But we’re not talking about retirement planning today; we’re talking about love. And if you want that love to last, what you do with the money is less important than being on the same page about it.
And that page says that they'll save for a rainy day and pay off the mortgage early and put away a lot away for retirement, when the spender is far too old to enjoy it.
Which means that if you’re considering marriage (or a functionally equivalent long-term partnership), you should have that conversation as soon as possible.
That conversation should include near-term budgeting. But it also needs to lay out the long-term goals that you both want, whatever they are: a big wedding, nicer cars, education for the kids, travel, a cushy retirement. You need to try setting a plan.
And since the saver has more money than the spender and has already drawn up the budget and spreadsheets and has the MBA while the spender has a kick-ass stereo and an English degree with a concentration in movie reviews, the saver usually gets her way.
And then you need to see if your partner can keep to it, or if they do as so many people end up doing when these plans are attempted: sheepishly confessing that they stopped trying to keep to the budget four days into the month, making secret purchases, blowing through the money that was supposed to go into the car fund on a spontaneous night out with the boys.
Oh, P. Suderman. You shouldn't have. That must have been a very awkward budget meeting after your The Hangover weekend.
Someone who repeatedly cheats on you with money can reform, to be sure -- but you should see strong signs of that reformation before you tie the knot, rather than hoping that marriage will somehow change them into someone they haven’t been.
He learned to be a good boy.
And what if you’ve already married that special darling who can’t seem to stick to a financial plan? What if you’re already having those fights?
Well, that’s an even better time to have that conversation. If you’re already fighting constantly about money, you need to stop blowing up over individual purchases and crises, and start hammering out a long-term plan that both of you can live with. The more distance there is between you two in how to handle money, the more detailed that planning needs to be, because you can’t rely on inertia to do any of the work for you. It is not the naturally thrifty who need a microscopically attentive monthly budget; it is those who look up at the end of the month and wonder where all the money went.
"How much do you need for coffee?
"I don't know, $6 a day?"
"Can you get by on $5 a day? Now let's talk about your cab fare."

It might not seem like the most idyllic way to spend your Valentine’s Day. On the other hand, it might ensure that you have plenty of happy Valentine’s Days to come.
And if not, DC is a not a community property "state." McArdle wins either way.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Pointing And Laughing At Megan McArdle



As we all know, there is nothing I can do to stop well-paid propaganda. Megan McArdle will continue to earn a small fortune by rat-fucking her country to screw the looter and moochers and get lower taxes. But I can do one thing.

Laugh my ass off.




As much as I would enjoy taking credit for the cocktail party meme, McArdle's readers, many of whom are Trump supporters, are perfectly eager to call her an effete liberal snob without any help from me. She is on the east coast, went to an Ivy League school, and is in the media, therefore she is assumed to be a liberal cocktail chatterer.

Maybe the constant criticism over her anti-Trump views is getting on her nerves. Maybe her hit count is going down as Trumpers gain ascendancy and #NeverTrumpers lose it. Maybe she's just a liiiiitle less useful to her backers as she once was. She was hired to be honey for the wingnut bees, and the bees are beginning to give their Queen the stink-eyes.



McArdle has about half a dozen posts that she recycles endlessly in her blog, radio and tv appearances, her book, and speeches. As her commenters have noticed in the past.



At this point the fun tirade ends, but I want to add one comment from a reader to demonstrate the kind of person she is attracting and chooses not to reprimand. I have a feeling we are going to hear this kind of argument again.




I don't think Bannon will stop with Muslims. I don't think any of the Trumpers will either.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

McArdle Knows Best



Megan McArdle has written multiple posts saying the Democrats should quit fighting and give up because they'll never win. Like the poisonous witch in Tangled, she attempts to undermine liberals to exploit them for her own gain while telling them that it's for their own good. She is so very concerned about their well-doing, you see, and wants to help them because Mother Knows Best.


Mother McArdle:  
You want to go outside? Why, liberals...!  
Look at you, as fragile as a flower  
Still a little sapling, just a sprout  
You should stay up in your ivory tower

Liberals: I know but-

Mother McArdle:  
That's right, to keep you safe and sound, dear  
You were so sure this day was coming  
Knew that soon you'd lord over all the rest  
Soon, but not yet

Liberals: But--

Mother McArdle:  
Shh! Trust me, pet  
Mother knows best  
Mother knows best  
Listen to your mother 
It's a scary world out there  
Mother knows best  
One way or another  
Something will go wrong, I swear  
Filibuster,  
Escalation, blowback  
From vituperation  
And Trump

Liberals: No!

Mother McArdle: Yes!

Liberals: But--

Mother McArdle:  
Also many  
White Working Class Men, and  
Stop, no more, you'll just upset me  
Mother's right here  
Mother will protect you  
Darling, here's what I suggest  
Snub the commie  
Stay with Mommy  
Mama knows best

Mother knows best  
Take it from your mumsy  
On your own, you won't survive  
Knee-jerk peaceniks,  
Elite mandarins,  
Please, they'll eat you up alive  
Half-baked ideas,  
Positively Marxist  
And a bit, well, hmm fascist 
Plus, I believe  
Gettin' kinda slutty  
I'm just saying 'cause I wuv you  
Mother understands  
Mother's here to help you  
All I have is one request, liberals?

Liberals: Yes?

Mother McArdle: Don't ever ask to win an election again.

Liberals: Yes, Mother McArdle.

Mother McArdle: I love you very much, dear.

Liberals: I love you more.

Mother McArdle:  
I love you most  
Don't forget it  
You'll regret it  
Mother knows best

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Normalizing Trump The Douthat Way




A long time ago our favorite pundits chose a side and sold themselves to the 1%. Since then they have steadily and publicly debased and humiliated themselves in the name of passing on their masters' propaganda. These pundits demonstrated that they hoped to keep on grifting the public under Trump. They could bide their time, pin every disaster on liberals or Trump, and benefit from the tax windfall that Paul Ryan was about to grant them. Even now, Ross Douthat is still trying to benefit from the disasters Trump will inflict.

Douthat wrote a hasty-produced-looking post today that attempts to normalize the abnormal so Trump can continue to wreak havoc and Paul Ryan et al can continue to pillage and punish--and so Ross can continue to live in luxury. Let's take a look at the language he employs in his efforts.
Normally at the end of a new administration’s tumultuous first week, it’s the pundit’s job to sit back and chin-stroke and explain everything that the president and his aides are doing right or wrong. In the Donald Trump era, though, there’s a distinctive problem: Before he can be defended or criticized, we have to figure out what’s actually happening. And for several reasons, that’s going to be harder in this presidency than ever before.
Douthat presents the Trump Administration as eccentric but essentially normal. His policies should be analyzed and supported/criticized just like every other president's policies. By refusing to acknowledge the seriousness of our situation and Trump's actions, Douthat normalizes them.
First: This is clearly going to be an administration with multiple centers of gravity, with more fractiousness and freelancing than in the relatively-tight ships that Barack Obama and George W. Bush ran. The Trump White House has a weak chief of staff surrounded by rivalrous advisers. The Trump cabinet is not necessarily on the same ideological page as the president’s inner circle. Trump himself is famous for agreeing with the last person who bent his ear. So there is no trustworthy voice providing public clarity — least of all poor Sean Spicer — in cases where multiple balls and trial balloons are airborne.
Douthat immediately jumps to lying in support of Trump.  The Chief of Staff is a white supremacist and he seems to be running the show, rather than being a weak man surrounded by rivals. [Error: correction in comments.] The Cabinet is run by people chosen specifically for their desires to destroy their departments and the inner circle is Trump's children. "Poor" Sean Spicer is a despicable toady. The "balls" are unconstitutional orders and the "trial balloons" are executive orders.
Second: The establishment press, as I warned last week, is being pressured to lead the resistance to Trumpism, which makes it more likely to run with the most shocking interpretations (muzzled bureaucrats! mass resignations!) of whatever the White House happens to be doing. At the same time, the Trump inner circle clearly intends to lean into this phenomenon, to encourage the press-as-opposition narrative, seeing mainstream-media mistakes as a way of shoring up its own base’s loyalty. And then the technological forces shaping media coverage also encourage errors and overreach — a dubious story or even a misleading live-tweet of a press conference can go around the online world long before the more prosaic truth has reached your Facebook feed. (A self-serving suggestion: In such a climate, the discerning citizen may come to appreciate anew the tortoise-like pace of print journalism.)
Douthat is nothing if not self-serving, as well as Trump-serving. He is trying to accuse the press of hysterical over-reaction to Trump to intimidate them into silence and persuade people to ignore them. He treats Trump's trampling of the press as typical beltway give-and-take and calls the facts "a narrative." Douthat drops little hints such as "mistakes," "error," "overreach," "dubious," "misleading," and over-interpretation. Like every conservative ever, no matter how young, he blames advances in technology for whatever he seeks to excuse. Finally he attempts to flatter the vanity of supposedly ego-centric New York Times readers. Douthat is an incredibly clumsy propagandist and also greatly admired for his supposed skill and nuanced intellectual superiority, which is yet another reason why we have Trump.
Third: Trumpism is an ideological cocktail that doesn’t fit the patterns we’re used to in American politics, and Trump has arrayed himself against bipartisan habits of mind on all sorts of issues. This means, as The Week columnist Damon Linker notes perceptively, that he’s guaranteed to do things that seem “abnormal” and that take both the press corps and D.C. mandarins aback —– like, say, actually enforcing already on-the-books immigration laws. The trick for the public will be figuring where what’s “abnormal” is obviously “alarming” and where it makes more sense to wait and see. Which will be hard for reasons one and two, and also because …
It's not that Trump is abnormal, it's just that the DC liberal mandarins, with their effete long fingernails and robes, are taken aback by someone who actually follows the law--Trump. Therefore we should do nothing.
… Trump himself is a loose cannon whose public interventions tend to make his own policies harder to interpret. Is his administration planning a trade war with Mexico, as his tweets suggest, or just pushing a wonky border-adjustment tax that’s been part of G.O.P. proposals for a while? Are we actually considering reviving waterboarding, or is that just an empty executive order left over from the Romney transition that James Mattis and Mike Pompeo have no intention of operationalizing? Is the administration about to embark on a racially-coded war against phantom voter fraud based on random anecdotes and conspiracy theories … or is this just a “Twitter promise,” not a real one? Of course time will bring a certain clarity. We’ll find out whether Trump’s refugee and visa freezes from Muslim countries are actually temporary, a means to stricter screening, or whether they become permanent. We’ll move from speculation to reality on Russia policy. We’ll find out how far the president intends to run with the voter-fraud nonsense. We’ll see how often his angry tweets and behind-the-scenes obsessions cash out, and how often they’re just a way of venting.
Trump's erratic behavior is "venting." Trump's hints of purging voter rolls are "nonsense." He's not playing chicken with Mexico, he's a wonk pushing an old tax. He says he's in favor of torture and that torture works, but that's just empty words. Ignore the Muslim ban-which Ross cleans up to be no big deal. Time will tell. Don't do anything hasty, like have a spontaneous demonstration at a dozen airports, converge dozens of lawyers, and have the ACLU sue Trump to stop him. That would be silly and useless.
But if the fog lifts in some cases, it’s likely to chronically shroud the policy-making process on issues (health care, taxes, infrastructure, more) where Trump needs his congressional allies to have certainty about their shared objectives. And it threatens to descend more dramatically — with Stephen King-style monsters screaming in the mist — with every unexpected event, every unlooked-for crisis, in which what the White House says in real time will matter much more than it does right now.
We must work together to achieve Trump's objectives. We must not shriek hysterically at fictional monsters, like racist travel bans or Nazi-era laws. We must let the good, misunderstood people working for Trump and Bannon achieve their goals unimpeded.
I ended last week’s column with a warning for the press corps, about their potential contribution to a climate of political hysteria. But this column’s warning is for the president and his advisers, some of whom clearly like the fog and seem to imagine that it will help them govern just as it probably helped them win.
They shouldn’t be so confident. For legislators, too much fog is paralyzing. For voters, it’s a recipe for nervous exhaustion. For allies, it’s confusing; for enemies, it looks like an opportunity.
Trump is not a popular president, he has not actually built an electoral majority, his team is not particularly experienced. If he can’t provide clarity and reassurance and a little light around his agenda, it will be very easy for a fog-bound presidency to simply run aground.
He is perfect clear. We know what he wants. And we know what Douthat wants: a Republican party that can run rampant, committing as much destruction to human life as it desires, as long as Ross Douthat can imagine himself rising up in the party with it. He's a Good German.

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.

Monday, December 26, 2016

In Which Megan McArdle Explains Altruism To The Masses

My dear readers,

Many of you have notified me that you are concerned about the economic injustices inherent in gift-giving. Every year, like a communist clockwork, we are expected to give up our hard-earned money to buy presents for others, presents that they probably don't even want. The "holiday season" demands that we rack our brains thinking of something to give a "loved one" that one barely knows. You end up giving them something useless and they end up giving you something you already have, which is a tremendous waste of money that you could have spent on yourself.

Call me Scrooge if you must! But also admit that you don't know your own mother's likes and dislikes enough to think of something to buy her, and after "long thought" you usually resort to the first thing you see when you walk into Macy's: those discount packaged bath salt or perfume sets. Now, now! Don't bother to deny it! People only say that their children share experiences with them, or discuss their likes and dislikes. Actually, they maintain a comfortable silence and simply grab something handy at gift-giving times.

Why do they force themselves to let the moocher and looters drag them down to their levels? We think of interactions between people as a single economic action, where the rich are aristocrats and the poor are sheep to be shorn, but in fact every American also lives in the "gift economy," where people give you things for nothing, with the expectation of you returning the favor in the future. You can keep down expenses on cab rides and improve the consumer experience by asking your sister to take you to the airport and she'll do it because she expects you to return a favor at a later time.

Now, don't try this economic model if you are running a government! Communism failed because Stalingrad refused to feed and walk the dogs when Leningrad went out of town with Moscow! And the reverse is also true: alas, spouses fail to understand why you expect to be remunerated for your time and effort in the bedroom.

Reciprocal altruism is inefficient compared to cash, but exchanging equal amounts of cash would be silly. However, if one person gives more cash than the other, the former is obviously more committed to the relationship and the other side is being cheated, eroding their relationship. This is why we don't let cash intrude in intimate transactions, such as sex. Trying to figure out what to charge each other for services rendered would be a nightmare of complexity and subjectivity, not to mention hurt feelings. What if she felt that a certain activity was worth $100 and he felt her performance was worth no more than $20, the going market rate on the street? Chaos would be inevitable.

So no matter how fond you are of money, go ahead and buy that heavily discounted, unwanted gift for the woman in your life. The old dear will be happy just to have paper and ribbon to play with, an you will probably get a fat inheritance down the line.