Megan McArdle, Lawyer, Ethicist, Historian.

She’s not even trying anymore. (And thankfully that means I don’t need to haul out my 5,000 word howitzer to shoot this bit of ephemera down.)

Here’s Ms. McArdle  on the Goldman hearings — uncut, not cherry-picked:

Now Levin is grilling a Goldman employee as to why they continued to sell a deal that the head of the division had described as “a shitty deal”.  The banker is trying to explain that he’s a salesman, not a fiduciary, with little success.  What I want to know is–didn’t these guys learn a damn thing from the show trials of the last decade?  These are the kinds of things that should never, ever be committed to any form that can be subpoena’d by a committee.

So the key issues in this incident in our public life  are  (a) that Goldman too fully documented its business practices (that’s the legal eagle McArdle at work); (b) that the key wrong here is being called to account for those business practices, not any acts by the witness or his employer (here’s McArdle’s keenly honed sense of right and wrong firing); and (c) that the injustice of asking for justification for said business practices, and the implication that these might have been less than savory, is of the same rank odor as these.  (And here we see the fine McArdle understanding of the lessons of the past in all its glory.)

Update: Per Downpuppy’s comments below — yes, McArdle qualifies the phrase “show trial” with “of the last decade,” meaning, I guess, something to do with Enron or the like.  But the

This is, of course, standard operating procedure for the Big Lie right.  In case you hadn’t noticed, there is a systematic rhetorical trope of delegitimizing the acts of the Obama administration and the current Democratic Party -led Congress in particular, and the idea of government action in general.  To McArdle, the notion that any Congress should interrogate the “free” market is a travesty; and though McArdle masks some of her partisanship under a veneer of the faux libertarian’s “pox on both their houses” rhetoric, she and her many fellow travelers frame the acts of this particular administration as being distinctively odious, specially intrusive and in violation of ideas of liberty to a degree unprecedented in American politics.

Nonsense of course — see, e.g. Hendrik Hertzberg’s depressingly mild rebuke of that similarly glib and much more overtly genial partisan propaganda monger/would-be public intellectual, David Brooks.

And really — even for the relentlessly sloppy and supericial McArdle, this is a terribly weak effort.  Questioning by a Senator with full advice of counsel and a few billion dollars behind you is of the same order as one of Stalin’s court cases, from which the only exit could be a bullet to the brain?  The moral midgetry required to make the comparison is breath taking —  and illustrative.

Update: Per Downpuppy’s comments below — yes, McArdle qualifies the phrase “show trial” with “of the last decade,” meaning, I guess, something to do with Enron or the like.

But the point I’m trying to get across here, expressed perhaps a little too elliptically above, is that the use of an term like “show trial,” even qualified, is of a piece with a broader rhetorical move on the seditious right to conflate, say, a mild, originally conservative-supported health care reform with a vast government overreach of a scale Stalin or Hitler would recognize.  There is a kind of dual outrage inflation/sense or judgment dulling that comes with  the use of words like statism, or over reach, or socialism or fascism — or show trials, with all the 20th century baggage that such an epithet evokes.

In this context, besides being incoherent (what does she have in mind as a show trial of  2001-2010 decade?  I really got nuthin, unless she truly does believe that Ken Lay and Andy Fastow are martyrs on the altar of Ms.Rand) McArdle’s attempt to qualify her use of the loaded “show trial” is merely a fig leaf, really a tell:  that she has to modify her rhetoric here strongly suggest that she knows just how noxious it really is.

Image:  Édouard Manet, The Execution of Emperor Maximilian, 1867

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8 Comments on “Megan McArdle, Lawyer, Ethicist, Historian.”

  1. Downpuppy Says:

    I suspect that “trials of the last decade” refers to something other than the Soviets.

    I’m totally sure that I have no clue what it does refer to, & don’t expect a coherent answer over there where I left the question.


    • She might not be thinking about Stalin since she seldom bothers to think while writing, but she definitely thinks the government is oppressing our capitalist heroes. Like Jonah Goldberg, she knows what she’s doing and gives no thought whatsoever to the effect of her words. Goldberg will minimize Hitler’s doings to try to make liberals seem fascist and if Neo-Nazis are encouraged and inflamed by his words Goldberg will be astonishment.

  2. Downpuppy Says:

    This is the woman who invented “the infamous “jobless recovery” under Clinton”.

    Never assume that something she writes is connected to reality. Even when reading a press release, she can make 2 mistakes in an 11 word sentence:

    “The unemployment rate dropped 200 basis points, from 9.6% to 9.4%”.

    (It was 9.5 to 9.4, 10bp.)

    http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2009/08/jobless-figures-good-bad-or-indifferent/22938/

    & thanks for the double shoutout in the post!

  3. shava Says:

    My comment on her page:

    Um. These are the kinds of things that should never, ever be committed. Isn’t that where this sentence should end?

    These people are not accused of being rude. They are being investigated for corruption and market manipulation. (your vaunted “free market” at its finest!)

    Maybe you should go talk to some unemployed, middle class people with their houses under water (in the case of MA, sometimes literally this spring…) and see what they think of high finance such as this.

    I’m not familiar with your writing but you are the favorite troll of a blogger friend of mine. Do you do this for “ratings” and sensation or are you really this reprogrammed by your work in the financial sector that email disclosure is a greater risk to you than the social impacts of unregulated, unchecked rampant corruption?

  4. wds Says:

    There’s a leftover “update” where you started typing it (right above the image).

    Anyway, as to the main point. Where I think the MSM really fails in all this is in recognizing that these practices are not what’s illegal. Despicable, yes, of course, but not illegal. Paul Krugman already pointed out what is illegal, namely that Goldman Sachs employees apparently colluded with analysts at the rating agencies to get their toxic crap rated AAA+. This is the real story, that should get heads rolling, but those US senators seem to have zero interest in pursuing it. Instead, they rather look tough on finance by cussing out some lowlife traders on TV, instead of going after their bosses.

    So, I guess it fits the literal definition of a show trial: A trial without consequences, put up for the benefit of the fickle public, who may now believe justic was served. I don’t think that’s what ms. McArdle was going for though.

  5. Andrew Curry Says:

    The ‘trial’ metaphor is fundamentally offbase here – after all, all the Congressmen and women can do at the end of their hearings if they don’t like what they hear is to express public disapproval. No-one’s gpoing to get jailed or shot; more’s the pity, some would say, given that plenty of people have died as a result of the effects of financial speculation (for example, in the poorer world, as the effects of oil and food hedging affected the cost of food in local markets).

  6. Andy Says:

    Hi! I totally agree with you on this post, but I was wondering if you could bring yourself to review Ms. McArdle’s site again. Her recent posts on the drug war and on the Arizona immigration statute would seem to belie your characterization of her as “right wing” and “faux libertarian”.


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