Benefits, costs and the Grenfell Tower fire

In the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire,

Jeet Heer posted what seemed to me a thoroughly ungenerous Tweet aimed at Megan McArdle, a frequent punching-bag for the Twitter left. (Full disclosure: I regard Megan as a friend, and intensely admire her book on failure, The Upside of Down.)The Tweet has a picture of a friend of one of the victims, and reads (in full) “Megan Mcardle [sic] should tell him that libertarian cost/benefit analysis proves his friend’s death is totally worth it.” Since the original Tweet didn’t link to anything McArdle had written, it looked as if Heer had simply picked her at random as his target.

But that wasn’t in fact the case. The Tweet was an allusion to a McArdle essay on Bloomberg News headlined “Beware of Blaming Government for London Tower Fire.” And while that piece does not in fact say that the deaths in Grenfell Towers were “totally worth it,” it really is just about as unfeeling as Heer makes it out to be. Worse (from my somewhat unusual perspective), it’s also a catastrophically bad piece of policy analysis. This is a case where the self-parody is even meaner than the parody. As someone who teaches and practices benefit-cost analysis, let me say that Megan’s essay is the sort of thing that gives the rest of us cold-blooded, heartless bastards a bad name. Continue reading “Benefits, costs and the Grenfell Tower fire”

How pleasant it is when friends come from afar!

A side-benefit of the Republican primaries; I’m finding points of agreement with Red bloggers.

I regard reading most Red blogs (with such key exceptions as some of the Volokh Conspirators or Megan McArdle or Reihan Salam) as unpleasant but necessary work, like cleaning septic fields. Most of the Red bloggers I used to admire and learn from switched teams during the Reign of Error.

But right now I’m enjoying the chore, and finding much to agree with. When Riehl World View describes Romney as having “gone from unlikeable to detestable,” I can only nod, and admire the fine turn of phrase. And when he threatens that he and his fellow wing-nuts will take their ball and go home if Romney is nominated, I can only smile. On the other hand, could there be a more accurate description of Newt Gingrich than Peggy Noonan’s “angry little attack muffin”?

Footnote The headline is from an old translation of the Confucian Analects, Book I, section 1. It might seem to refer only to the pleasure of a visit from a friend who lives far away. But my teacher Paul Desjardins taught that it meant also the pleasure of finding agreement across intellectual distance. I don’t agree with Mr. Riehl on much, but it’s good to know that he can recognize a scoundrel when he sees one, and that he acknowledges – from across the partisan divide – Barack Obama’s personal, moral superiority to Gov. Ken-Doll.