Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

Is Megan McArdle Right About Everything?

As of late, I think my credentials on the subject of "thinking Megan McArdle is wrong about things" are pretty ironclad. But Mark Ames's approach deserves a bit of pushback: It relies on what appears to be a Nexis search for mentions of McArdle's dad, who works in construction and made a fair amount of money off of government contracts. Even if Ames's various allegations are accurate, it would hardly be the first time a child's ideological path diverged from that of her parent. In that sense, it's not an effort to show that Megan is wrong. It's an effort to discredit her. And it doesn't make any sense. If anything, it makes me wonder whether Megan McArdle is right about everything.

Ames's argument backs up Megan's points, not his own. Ames asserts that Megan's father lobbied for bad contracts and persuaded agencies to waste taxpayer money. This makes Megan's later career hypocritical: She was raised on an excess of public funds and now seeks to shrink the size of government. But Megan is a public choice libertarian who thinks that the problem with government is that it is completely incapable of resisting the entreaties of special interests. If you take all of Ames's assertions at face value -- and reading that piece, I don't advise that you do -- then the story you get isn't that Megan's conclusions are hypocritical. It's that they're completely justified, and uncommonly clear-eyed given her proximity to the subject.

Do I believe that? Nope. The contracts McArdle pere won as managing director for the General Contractor's Association have no bearing on Megan McArdle's argument that health-care reform will reduce private-sector profits and suppress drug innovation over the long term. Megan is either wrong about that or she's right about it. As I've argued at length, I think she's wrong. But I don't need to drag her family into that argument. And nor should I.

By Ezra Klein  |  August 6, 2009; 9:15 AM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Tab Dump
Next: Post Chat Today


In my experience with government contractors, Ezra, they are *more* likely to be libertarian, not less. This goes double for the middle-managers of those contracting firms.

Posted by: tyromania | August 6, 2009 9:32 AM | Report abuse

"But I don't need to drag her family into that argument. And nor should I."

Right. But at least that background information makes us better understand McMegan's often ridiculous libertarian stances. Well, I can't stand her, but I almost feel pity for her now...

Posted by: Gray62 | August 6, 2009 9:55 AM | Report abuse

Arguments are right or wrong based on their merits, not their source.

I'm quite tired of hearing that a drug study can't be trusted because it was funded by a drug company. Skepticism? Sure. But the study is valid or it's flawed. The source of the funding doesn't change whether the study is in fact valid. Find a problem with the study, or accept that its conclusions may be valid.

Same with political commentary. Newt Gingrich may be right or wrong about something, but it's not automatically wrong just because it comes from Newt. Clarence Thomas may be right or wrong about affirmative action, but his views are no less right or wrong because he may have been a past beneficiary of affirmative action.

People have the ability, and the right, to make analyses and change their minds regardless of their personal histories. People who benefited from government safety net programs can decide that those programs are in general helpful or a hindrance. People who became wealthy in a radical free market can decide that more regulation might be a good thing or a bad thing.

Ideas rise and fall on their own merits. Since all arguments should be approcached with a healthy skepticism, it shouldn't matter who is making the argument or what that person's background is.

Posted by: dasimon | August 6, 2009 10:05 AM | Report abuse

Is it really necessary to even link to or defend that type of nasty attack.

Posted by: laser83 | August 6, 2009 10:09 AM | Report abuse


Do you have a crush on McMegan? If you keep it up you'll have to add a category to your archive called "Megan"


Your argument has some truth to it but it misses the larger point. Research done by drug companies lack credibility not because it comes from drug companies. It lacks credibility because the drug companies always come to the same results which coincidentally happen to benefit the drug company.

It isn't an isolate incident that raises doubts, its the complete body of work.

Posted by: TheChairman66 | August 6, 2009 10:13 AM | Report abuse

On the other hand, I think it is completely valid to question whether her boyfriend who worked for the corporate slavering tea-bagging firm Freedomworks is feeding her dubious info.

Posted by: flounder2 | August 6, 2009 10:15 AM | Report abuse

Less Megan, please.

Posted by: SteveCA1 | August 6, 2009 10:22 AM | Report abuse

it depends -- is her father tall too? Of course Ames' line of attack is flawed and embarassing. His having tried this nasty approach will sully the careers of his children, sad to say.

I could do with less Megan too, but who cares.

Posted by: bdballard | August 6, 2009 10:37 AM | Report abuse


Just read the article. A couple of points

1. You do know that by blogging about this, on the Washington post website of all places, you're probably doing more to promote the Ames article than you are to dispute it. I didn't even know who Ames was before this.

2. Your response about McMegan seeing "the ills of government" first hand is an interesting point but it doesn't disprove anything Ames said.

Here's the thing, if McMegan took a principled stance against the government because of her first hand experience, why did she continue to happily accept the misbegotten benefits from government excess?

That would be like a strong principled vegan, accepting money and resources from her father, a cattle rancher.

If you accept the money you legitimize the source.

Posted by: TheChairman66 | August 6, 2009 10:38 AM | Report abuse

You're right, she has a right to her opinions and it would be nice if disagreements focused on issues and facts rather than the people making the arguments. However, in order to intellectually honest, doesn't she need to wrestle with the role of privilege when we're talking about something like universal access to health care? Is the context of her privileged position in the argument really irrelevant? If there's a discrepancy between her life experience and her ideas about how the world should work, is that off limits?

She often seems like someone who wants to win an argument rather than wrestle with serious questions in a serious way. Unfortunately, this invites a certain nastiness.

Posted by: jason734 | August 6, 2009 11:33 AM | Report abuse

"Do you have a crush on McMegan?"
That was my impression, too, until I noticed that he is much younger than her...

Posted by: Gray62 | August 6, 2009 12:09 PM | Report abuse

Ames is basically arguing that McArdle should have been born to different parents. Red meat for his base, I guess, but it's notgoing to persuade anyone to change their mind about McArdle's arguments.

Posted by: tomtildrum | August 6, 2009 12:19 PM | Report abuse

I'm rather stunned that Ezra would think that Megan would be hypocritical. Isn't what we've learned over the last three decades is that the Conservative (as well as Libertarian) movements are wildly hypocritical?

That's not to say that we don't have plenty of it in the Left and Progressive movements. Far too much for most of us to stomach. But it is a hallmark of the modern Conservative and Libertarian movements.


Posted by: toshiaki | August 6, 2009 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Wow that article is such a low blow regardless of what you think about McArdle.

Posted by: jgoldberg3 | August 6, 2009 4:06 PM | Report abuse

Oh come on, you can do a better hatchet job than that-- even if Megan McCardle's father had been a Brezhnev apparatchik it would mean absolutely nothing as far as her personal, political and economic opinions.

Posted by: beckychr007 | August 7, 2009 5:39 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company