Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Megan's Myopia

I feel inhibited about joining the affray over Megan McCardle's non-review of the Piketty sensation.  Unlike Megan (and unlike her most affectionate critic), I actually have read the book--okay, 80 percent of it.  Enough to know that, whatever one's tendency to mock, she probably has read enough (i.e., zero) to permit her to mount her soapbox and deliver her exhortation on the virtue of not giving a rat's ass about indifference to the privations of the great unwashed.  She knows, in short, that Piketty thinks there are too damn many rich people and she's willing to go to the mattresses to make sure that none of their comforts and consolations are disturbed.

She knows, in short, all she needs to know for her purpose and reading more wouldn't be likely to improve her understanding.  I'll grant her that and I'll grant her more; she actually sketches out an attractive model of the good life:

  1. Finding a job that allows them to work at least 40 hours a week on a relatively consistent schedule and will not abruptly terminate them.
  2. Finding a partner who is also able to work at least 40 hours a week on a relatively consistent schedule and will not be abruptly terminated.
  3. Maintaining a satisfying relationship with that partner over a period of years.
  4. Having children who are able to enjoy more stuff and economic security than they have.
  5. Finding a community of friends, family and activities that will provide enjoyment and support over the decades.
Yes, well put, dear heart, and thanks so much for saying so.  But it would be fine to hear you say just a word as to how we got pushed so badly off track on this one or, perhaps, just who it was that gave us all so abrupt a nudge in the direction of that particular cliff.

You there, Megan?  No: she seems to have only one positive message: pay no attention to the grinning clown behind the curtaian.   She is, put differently, right enough to say that vulgar wealth transfer is not going to solve the problems of a sick society (though I'd add that it might help a bit at the margin). Yet she seems unwilling to reflect--or to want us not to reflect--on how it is that such absurd imbalance may generate the kinds of problems she professes to abhor.

She doesn't seem to consider, for example, that a society with this (our) kind of wealth imbalance is bound to be a sick society: that the imbalance leeches away not just money but the very civility and good order for which she professes to desire.  She doesn't seem notice the erosion of trust, of civility, of common decency that she so much laments, are perhaps the product of the distortion she wants us to ignore.   We're all hurtling somewhere in this handbasket together; count Megan among those willing to tap the driver on the shoulder and say "tut tut--drive on."

Afterthought: I wonder why she focuses her laser-like attention on "the middle class."  Do we assume that the poor are those who do  not want to find a job, to find a partner, to maintain a satisfying relationship, blah blah?  Perhaps she needs to meet a better class of poor people.  

1 comment:

The New York Crank said...

Shame on her for even mentioning the Middle Class. Rick Santorum is now saying that such references are "Marxist" because in America we have no classes.

A classless society? Isn't that what that man was referring to back in the Nineteenth Century.– you know, Karl, uh, Marx.

The point is, I guess, that the right wing – Megan, Rick, Sarah and all the others – has their intellectual privates in the ringer trying to explain away the facts of life in 21st Century America.

Yours very crankily,
The New York Crank