Failing to Respond to Megan McArdle

I normally don’t go to Megan McArdle’s site regularly, but getting attacked by someone makes you pay attention. So I noted this on her site:

A conservative publication, which I will not name, just spiked a book review because I said that the Laffer Curve didn’t apply at American levels of taxation, even while otherwise expressing my vast displeasure with the (liberal) economic notions of the book I was reviewing. This isn’t me looking for an alternative explanation for the spiking of a bad review: the literary editor accepted it, edited it, and then three hours later told me it couldn’t be published because it violated their editorial line on taxation.

Which of course, is their right. The owner or editors have the right to print what they want. Here at Angry Bear, for instance, we often put up posts by people with whom we disagree, but not all of them (and even not all the posts by people with whom we agree) go up. We also don’t prevent people from posting comments that are personal attacks. I believe (if memory serves this is true while I’ve been one of the writers here, and I believe this policy predates my joining) the only comments that have ever been deleted from this site have been pornographic ads put up by spambots, plus, one time, comments by a spoofer were removed. However, if you read the comments, you know PGL and I and the rest of the Angry Bears are often treated as fair game.

Which gets me to this… This morning, Ms. McArdle had a post that said this:

Thanks to George Bush’s amazing deficit reduction plan, the budget deficit is now only 1.2% of GDP. If this trend continues, by the time George Bush leaves office, the budget will be within a hair’s breath of being balanced. I can only hope that Democrats don’t squander this precious legacy of fiscal responsibility.

Just kidding! Not about the budget deficit, I mean, but about the reason for it. The reason the budget deficit has closed is a combination of economic growth and increasing inequality, which has allowed the government to collect more revenue on a smaller base. The rich really are different–they pay higher tax rates.

These are the perils of attributing economic activity to presidential will. Democrats who got angry when they read the first paragraph should note that the budget deficit is closing whether or not George Bush wants it to; broad trends in the economy dominate even large changes in tax rates. Likewise, the fact that Bill Clinton wanted to close the budget deficit doesn’t mean he did; in fact, broad changes in the economy were a much more important driver of change.

(Emphasis added by me.)

Anyway, at the risk of acting like its all about me, I imagine based on our recent exchange that the part I highlighted was at least in part, directed at me. After all, Megan McArdle’s criticism of my series on the Presidents is precisely what she wrote in that sentence I emphasized.

So… I wrote a response in the comments section. When I clicked on publish, a message came up indicating that my comment was being held pending the OK of the site owner (or something along those lines). It hasn’t come up, and there have been literally tens of comments posted since. Anyway – her site – or the Atlantic’s, they have the right to whatever policy they want. I imagine that I’ve been flagged as some sort of agent provocateur and comments that come from my computer or address require approval. (I haven’t experimented, nor am I interested enough. I’m probably about done going to Megan McArdle’s site for a while.)

Anyway, I wish I had saved my response – if I had, I’d post it below. I think it would have made a pretty good stand-alone post. I made some points about how the Presidential will is irrelevant… this was the Presidential will on February 28, 2001:

Indeed, the President’s Budget pays down the debt so aggressively that it runs into an unusual problem—its annual surpluses begin to outstrip the amount of maturing debt starting in 2007. This means that the United States will be effectively unable to retire any more debt than what is assumed in the Administration’s Budget over the next 10 years—the President achieves “maximum possible debt retirement” in his budget.

What matters is the Presidential actions, and how much work, effort, thought and logic went into those actions. And with some Presidents… folks who spend their time on vacation, their non-vacation time mountain biking, and who generally talk about how useless the government is… one shouldn’t be surprised if they produce mediocre results and are left with nothing to brag about except that they managed to alleviate some of the problems they themselves created. I also noted that given Megan McArdle’s libertarian philosophy, it would be hard for her to accept that the mere fact that this President is someone who puts in little time or effort into the job and doesn’t think much of the government is enough to conclude that the economy will probably underperform during his tenure.

Anyway, I don’t remember everything I wrote. But there was nothing offensive or rude or crude in what I wrote. Certainly, if there was anything disparaging in it, it was less so then her language toward me in her posts last week.

But in the end, its not important. Here’s what I think is important. Megan McArdle won’t name the publication that turned down her piece. Perhaps she thinks they were in the wrong – or at least their reasons for turning down the piece weren’t the best. But she won’t name them because she hopes to do business with them again. She hopes to write more pieces for them. She moves in circles with people who brook no deviation form a party line, and clearly wants to remain in those circles.

I also disagree with the, um, rejection of my little piece. And I don’t think the reason for turning it down was such a good one. But as you can see from this post, I’m perfectly happy to name the editor/publisher I believe turned me down. And while I’m nobody special – just one of the writers in a highly specialized amateur blog that has a fraction of the readers that Megan McArdle’s blog no doubt has, I don’t have much of an interest in associating myself with that person going forward.


Megan McArdle responds in comments:

Cactus, I have no idea where your post went, but it’s not anywhere in our system. In fact, I haven’t checked the junk mail filter all day, but I just went through it with a fine tooth comb, and there’s nothing in it by you. If you want to resubmit, please do, and if it fails again, send it to me and I’ll post it.

I censor very, very, lightly, and when I do, it’s for profanity, commercial links, or attempts to start flame wars. And when I do–again, unless it’s spam–I always leave a note, precisely to avoid the temptation to disappear critics in the way that some notable blogs do. We may disagree, but I’d never ding your comments. If you have trouble with the spam filter–which I don’t control, other than to fish stuff out–just let me know so I can approve you. We’ve had four hundred spams today, so unfortunately, it’s a necessary evil.

I’m going to chalk this one up to a misunderstanding and assume I stand corrected. Given that assumption, I apologize for jumping to conclusions.