The Groupthink of Megan McArdle

A Homegrown Solution to Partisanship – Bloomberg View

Whenever congressional gridlock is discussed, you’re likely to hear complaints about gerrymandering. And to be sure, that is a problem. But there’s reason to believe that self-gerrymandering — sorting ourselves into geographic locations filled with like-minded individuals — is becoming a much bigger problem than artful line-drawing. When a whole community shares the same ideological priors, you’re going to end up with some epic groupthink. And when two groupthinks collide with each other on the national stage … well, have you watched cable news recently?


If we’re going to have a more partisan geography — and it does seem as if we are — then what we also need is more federalism. Push as many decisions as possible down to the local level — not whether Colorado can pollute rivers that run through California, but decisions about taxes, social spending, health care and regulation.

Unfortunately, the very process of sorting seems to make federalism less, not more, likely. Once you’ve got a good, strong, group consensus on health-care spending or abortion, then allowing those cretins over there to force their horrible views on the people of their benighted states seems completely intolerable. Nothing will suffice but to use federal power to keep their morally obtuse desires from ever being made into law.

Thus babbles Megan McArdle, who spuriously makes claims to a weak-tea libertarianism, while committing the gaffe of revealing her own form of groupthink, red of tooth and claw, as espoused by the Ruling Class in which she so desperately seeks acceptance and approval.

Break it down:

Liberalism is “groupthink.”

Conservatism is “groupthink.”

The problem with regarding these as “ideological priors” (and that alone is a peculiarly post-modern exercise, one that refuses to examine either on their own terms), is that it removes them from the realm of the real and relegates them to the amorphous world of the intellect, which, to the post-modern mind, shapes and creates all reality.  Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:  Liberal statists think that taxes as a whole are good for the people as a whole, and have very few bad effects on the communal health.  Conservatives believe, in a nutshell, that anything you tax you will get less of.

Which way does a couple of thousand years or so of history and reality point?  But to McArdle, ideology trumps reality, and claiming that taxation is, in general, more damaging than otherwise is merely “groupthink.”  It is an “ideological prior.”

And, of course, both characterizations are classic ad hominem designed to avoid examining the government propositions of either liberalism or conservatism in terms of experience, history…reality.

And then there is McArdle’s own ideologically prior groupthink:  Left to themselves, these groupthinkers will try to impose their preferred ideological priors on everybody else via the power of the state.  Implicit in this assumption is the notion that this is inevitable, and must be restrained by a higher, more pure, less ideological, less “group-thinking” class of folks – a Ruling Class, in fact, a class in which McArdle herself wishes to claim membership.

Her real problem is that her premise fails the reality test:  Liberal statists like her current boss, Gun-Grabber Bloomberg, do try to impose their parochial group-think on everybody else, via naked money and power.  Conseveratives, much less statist in their outlook, do not tend to do this.  Oh, sure, there are die-hard anti-abortion folks who continue to try, futilely, for some sort of national ban, but this desire is by no means absolute to conservatism, only a small part of it.

Conservatives – and libertarians, which McArdle is not – do not have the over-riding desire to impose their “ideological priors” on the rest of the world.  The would like to be left alone to gather together, freely, and practice them – in other words, they would like to be left alone.

Liberals, on the other hand, feel a religious need to impose their ideological priors on all – for their own good, of course.  At least they are honest about their desires.

Then there is the third group, the one that possesses the ideological prior of believing they, and only they, are fit to rule these unruly groupthinkers.  As bottom, though, all they lust for is power.  This is where McArdle resides.

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About Bill Quick

I am a small-l libertarian. My primary concern is to increase individual liberty as much as possible in the face of statist efforts to restrict it from both the right and the left. If I had to sum up my beliefs as concisely as possible, I would say, "Stay out of my wallet and my bedroom," "your liberty stops at my nose," and "don't tread on me." I will believe that things are taking a turn for the better in America when married gays are able to, and do, maintain large arsenals of automatic weapons, and tax collectors are, and do, not.


The Groupthink of Megan McArdle — 1 Comment

  1. I’ve been done with Megan for years, except to mock her, using her own words. For some reason, that’s a “bad thing”, pointing the two faces she has shown in her writing.

    Then there is the third group, the one that possesses the ideological prior of believing they, and only they, are fit to rule these unruly groupthinkers.

    See also McArdle, Megan.

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