A Quicky Follow – Up to the last McArdle Post…on McArdle v. Palin

Much has been made of the bizarrely almost beautiful incomprehensibility of ex-Governor Palin’s farewell speech.  There’s something of the same — without the beauty, in Megan McArdle’s praised (by Sullivan) attempt to justify her reflexive rejection of health care sector reform.   Check out this paragraph and tell me if you can figure out what the hell she’s trying to say:

Why don’t you tell some person who has a terminal condition that sorry, we can’t afford to find a cure for their disease?  There are no particularly happy choices here.  The way I look at it, one hundred percent of the population is going to die of something that we can’t currently cure, but might in the future . . . plus the population of the rest of the world, plus every future generation.  If you worry about global warming, you should worry at least as hard about medical innovation.


I mean, what?

I can’t even be sure that this wasn’t machine generated.  Actually, that’s not a bad hypothesis; it would explain so much of the imperviousness of the Village chatterers to any real-world correction.  If McArdle, and so  many others were actually simply a piece of software churning out grammatically sound strings of characters, it would make so much of current discourse clear.

But hell, there probably is a carbon-based unit answering to McArdle behind this nonsense.  Probably even has a photocopy of a birth certificate lying around some place.  But I tell you, if this is what passes for the intellectual elite on the wrong side of this issue, we’re in more trouble than I thought — and I think we’re pretty damn deep in the big muddy as it stands.

Explore posts in the same categories: bad writing, Medicine, Stupidity

5 Comments on “A Quicky Follow – Up to the last McArdle Post…on McArdle v. Palin”

  1. Hob Says:

    I hate to imagine what the prize is for figuring it out, but I believe I do know what she’s trying to say there. She’s taking it as a given that health insurance reform will stifle medical innovation. Then, on the assumption that her readers might not understand why stifling medical innovation would be a bad thing, she’s explaining that without all the research money that flows from the current system, we won’t be able to discover cures for all the diseases we might die from. So: health reform equals taking money away from research; taking money away from research equals condemning future generations to go the way of all flesh, who might otherwise achieve market-based immortality.

  2. slag Says:

    I can’t be sure, but I think she may be asking if the Rapture’s here yet.

  3. Please consider in the abstract what you are doing.

    You are calling person X stupid even though
    1) You strongly disagree with person X’s political views,

    2) Many smart people share person X’s political views, and

    3) Many smart people think person X is smart.

    Irrationality warning gongs should be going off in your head warning you that some cognitive bias based on your disagreement with Megan’s political views might be causing you to irrationally underestimate her intelligence.

    Megan is making a very deep point. It is releated to the moral of “The Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant” by Oxford Professor Nick Bostrom which is here:


    • BCC Says:


      Speaking of fables, have you read the Emperor’s New Clothes, by any chance?

      P.S. That Dragon fable is one of the most god-awful pieces of prose I’ve tried to read in quite awhile. 5000 words and then a “Moral” section to explain it all? With a punchline of “And in the coming days… I believe we have some reorganization to do!”? Are you kidding me?

      And it boils down to “It would be really good if we figured out how to stay healthier, longer.” Except that he kind of dances around some big questions about the nature of death, etc.

      P.P.S. McArdle is not a deep thinker. Can you provide more examples re: #2 and #3? I briefly followed her blog awhile back, and gave up in disgust- not of her positions, but of her logic. The post in question is a good example- her strawman of the great divide between NIH-funded research and what can only possibly be done by Big Pharma is just plain stupid. Yes, stupid. Megan seems to imply that the NIH doesn’t run clinical trials or anything like that; they just “identif[y] targets”. Come again?

      The upstream logic isn’t particularly bulletproof, either.

  4. Spiv Says:

    James: It turns out stupid people can hold the same opinions as brilliant people. It also turns out that brilliant people can hold incredibly stupid opinions. It even turns out that two brilliant people can hold differing opinions on the very nature of what is good and bad.

    Ideas and opinions are therefore, obviously, independent of stupidity or brilliance.

    Tom appears to be pointing out the incomprehensible gibberish that is passing for ‘educated commentary.’ A theme pretty common on this blog. In her attempt to justify her potentially useful opinion toward health care reform she has instead wandered off the rails with some blisteringly stupid justification that was so scarcely assembled it sounded off a bit like “Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.”

    There in is the problem: the very few who are talking reasonable sense against reform are drown out by this kind of noise. And yes, that paragraph quoted is noise, with very little signal.

    The argument she’s terrible at making is that yes, in this process we should be mindful of the impacts we could be making to medical innovation. The reality is of course that every single day we tell people that we cannot afford to cure their illness, even when we know how. Never mind finding cures to things we do not yet understand, we’re sucking at everything. We’re sucking so badly that not paying for people to be cured from the things we know is preventing us from searching for the cures to the things we do not know.

    The dragon we’re trying to beat is the monster we hatched in 1973. What we’re trying to do here is to free up a larger portion of our GDP so that we can afford to get back in to the role of being a world leader in science innovation. If we do not do something we will quickly find ourselves on the precipice, without such discretionary things as science research. Leaving innovation up to the insurance and pharmaceutical companies alone is a bit like asking the dragon to kill itself. The reality is that the better they get, the more money they expect to make.

    So what can we do? My oh so humble suggestion would be to put serious term limits on how long you can hold on to your innovation for. 20 years is way too much. 3-5 years insures there’s good reason to keep developing the latest and greatest, but also brings decently up to date cures on to the market at 1/10th the price for the rest of us who are hopefully on a 1/10th the price insurance plan.

    We also should be looking at seriously limiting the liability of health providers. Perhaps a decent ass-covering system that insures little or no liability so long as the stated process was followed, limiting lawsuits to the .gov (presumably made up of medical science professionals) who wrote the procedure. That way the number of lawsuits are drastically reduced by having the medical knowledge centralized, the process confirmed, and the patient knowing they got the expected level of care.

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