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) â€œMegan Mcardle [sic] should tell him that libertarian cost/benefit analysis proves his friend’s death is totally worth it.â€ Since the original Tweet didnâ€™t link to anything McArdle had written, it looked as if Heer had simply picked her at random as his target.
But that wasnâ€™t in fact the case. The Tweet was an allusion to a McArdle essay on Bloomberg NewsÂ headlined â€œBeware of Blaming Government for London Tower Fire.â€ And while that piece does not in fact say that the deaths in Grenfell Towers were â€œtotally worth it,â€ it really is just about as unfeeling as Heer makes it out to be. Worse (from my somewhat unusual perspective), itâ€™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 Meganâ€™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”