Can Anyone Understand Megan McArdle?

Ben Cohen
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by Ben Cohen

Every now and then, I check in at Megan McArdle's blog at the Atlantic. As far as I can gather, McArdle is some sort of Libertarian slightly disillusioned with conservative rule, but desperately clinging on to the business school philosophy she was reared in.

I'm not sure whether it is me, but I'm finding it harder and harder to figure out what on earth she is on about. Her blog seems to be a collection of her latest musings on highly abstract political concepts that have very little to do with real life. She writes in long, meandering sentences, littered with random thoughts, questions to herself and inane answers that have no factual basis. Check out these two paragraphs on a recent blog post about market rationing (whatever that means):

Holbo and a number of his commenters are spending a lot of time arguing
about whether it's rationing if some number of people can leave the
system, which is to me not the relevant or interesting question about
rationing, though I quite understand why people are worried about the
moral philosophy of the thing. I'm sheerly worried about the fact that
rationed markets function badly on all levels, including providing for
the needy......

Economists worry about the market screw ups. Ordinary people worry
that they won't be able to get their hands on the rationed goods.
Neither of these are in any way affected by a moral philosophy argument
about whether it is somehow morally problematic to provide basic
service which the rich can opt out of. In the relevant sense for
economists, the opt out is rarely large enough to overcome the market
distortions, and in the case of the ordinary people, the crowding out
effects of a government program for which substantial taxes must be
paid has for them all the negative features of rationing, whether or
not we call it "rationing".

If anyone can understand what she is talking about, please send me an email to explain. I've tried for about 30 mins, and am still utterly confused.

McArdle is like so many of the students I met in college, perfectly adapted to an environment where long words and multiple sources warrant good grades, but ill equipped to survive in the real world where people actually have to understand what you are talking about. McArdle has a rather nice gig at the Atlantic and its clear she puts in a lot of work (her posts are epic in their length). But the fact that her writing is completely unreadable should warrant some real attention from her editors. Every now and then, McArdle states a clear and well reasoned argument (although I mostly disagree with her conclusions), but her elitist intellectualization of topics that desperately need to be simplified for regular people cast an ugly shadow over her work.