Tuesday, February 13, 2018


The New York Times has hired conservative (but anti-Trump) ex-Wall Street Journal opinion writers Bret Stephens and Bari Weiss in the past year, and now The Washington Post has responded in kind:
The Washington Post today announced Megan McArdle will be a columnist for the Opinions section starting March 1. In this role, McArdle will write columns with a focus on the intersection of economics, business and public policy.

“Megan offers one of the liveliest, smartest, least predictable takes on policy, politics and everything else, from the history of washing machines to essential rules for living,” said Fred Hiatt, Editorial Page editor for The Post. “We’re excited to share her perspective and her distinctive voice with our readers and to deepen our coverage of economic and financial topics.”
What do we regard as McArdle's most appalling hot take? Perhaps your choice would be the column in which she recommended training children to rush mass murderers:
I'd also like us to encourage people to gang rush shooters, rather than following their instincts to hide; if we drilled it into young people that the correct thing to do is for everyone to instantly run at the guy with the gun, these sorts of mass shootings would be less deadly, because even a guy with a very powerful weapon can be brought down by 8-12 unarmed bodies piling on him at once. Would it work? Would people do it? I have no idea; all I can say is that both these things would be more effective than banning rifles with pistol grips.
My pick would be the column in which, after a horrendous fire in England, she argued that not installing sprinkler systems in public housing might be justified on cost-benefit grounds:
Maybe sprinkler systems should be required in multifamily dwellings. It’s completely possible that the former housing minister made the wrong call. But ... safety regulations come at a cost, which may exceed their benefit. Such calculations have to be made, no matter how horrified the tut-tutting after the fact.

... When it comes to many regulations, it is best to leave such calculations of benefit and cost to the market, rather than the government. People can make their own assessments of the risks, and the price they’re willing to pay to allay them, rather than substituting the judgment of some politician or bureaucrat who will not receive the benefit or pay the cost.

Grenfell Tower, of course, was public housing, which changes the calculation somewhat. And yet, even there, trade-offs have to be made. The government spends money on a great number of things, many of which save lives. Every dollar it spends on installing sprinkler systems cannot be spent on the health service, or national defense, or pollution control. Would more lives be saved by those measures or by sprinkler systems in public housing? It’s hard to say.
The New Republic's Jeet Heer writes:

The press is the child who finds a pile of manure under the Christmas tree and optimistically says, "There must be a pony somewhere!" The manure pile is the contemporary Republican Party; the pony being sought is a future post-Trump party that's hawkish and fiscally conservative but is house-trained and able to maintain good manners in the presence of decent, well-bred people. The editors of the Times and Post opinion sections don't seem to care that every Republican in government is either a Trumper or a soon-to-be-retiree, and that the GOP voter base is besotted with Trump -- there simply is no #NeverTrump GOP anymore. The editors also seem to have overlooked the fact that a significant percentage of what's awful about the GOP predates Trump: its choice of Ayn Rand as a guiding spirit, its undying faith in plutocrats and deregulation, and its reliance on Fox News to generate both publicity and ideas. No matter -- opinion writers will be hired as if the party will someday be a good-faith participant in the process of governing. Our top editors don't understand that that won't be the case at any time in the foreseeable future.

As I've said many times, when 2020 comes around the media's distaste for Trump won't necessarily result in positive coverage for his Democratic opponent. I expect the press to all but beg John Kasich to run, or Mitt Romney (who'll be a Utah senator by then). If either of these guys runs third-party, the media's energy will be directed to the "insurgent" campaign, not to the Democrat's. Trust me.

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