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Response to Andrews-McArdle

Question: How do you react to the unseasonal blizzard of emails in response to the Megan McArdle post/the Ed Andrews parry/the McArdle riposte?

Paul Solman: Fascinating to see the strength of sentiment — on both sides. Enough of the facts are out there for viewers and readers to form their own conclusions, I think. Personally, I should recuse myself in that I really liked Ed and wife Patty and was especially taken with the two children I met: a young adult son of his and her 11-year-old daughter. So I was quite sympathetic, I guess, to an answer of his that didn’t make it into our NewsHour story. It came when I pressed the question, “How could you have fallen for it?”

“I didn’t fall for it. I knew this was a huge gamble from the moment I took it on, but a house is the kind of thing that grabs a hold of you in so many different ways. It was absolutely the critical link for my kids to have the stability and continuity as I tried to start the second chapter of my life. It was crucial to having our families be able to come together, and we had a lot of children between the two of us. If it was just Patty and me we wouldn’t have gone down this road. We had a boatload, a Brady-bunch load of kids between us and so you know this was the part that could make the dream come true and I had my own dream here.”

This hardly gets him off the hook. But then, he said he was guilty as sin, only no more so than many people around him. In that regard, I do wonder at some of the vituperation.

Of course, I especially wonder when the vituperation is directed against me. We were doing a book interview, not an investigative report or expose, so the expectation that we check court records about bankruptcies we didn’t even know of is — well, how to put this? — somewhat extravagant. That said, had I known about the bankruptcies, I certainly would have asked about them. I sure was surprised to read about them in McArdle’s columns.

As to identifying Ms. McArdle as “a free-market enthusiast,” I meant only to compress, without prejudice, some sense of her economic bent. Regular readers of this page know that “free-market enthusiast” Adam Smith is perhaps my favorite economist.

This makes me suspect many of the commenters below were NOT regular readers of this page, to which they are herewith warmly welcomed. They should also be advised that I was trying to be careful. I had not wanted to shorthand Ms. McArdle simply, as she is often identified, as “libertarian,” since she herself has modified the term in writing of her “libertarian-ish perch.” As to her writing under the pen name “Jane Galt” for more than a decade, an apparent kindred-spirit allusion to the steely free-market hero of Objectivist Ayn Rand’s libertarian scripture, “The Fountainhead Atlas Shrugged” McArdle has written that she assumed the nom de blog to provoke someone (presumably on the left) who referred to those with whom he disagreed as “Randroids.” I omitted any mention of her well-known pen name so as not to pigeon-hole her. I did include McArdle’s own amusing self description: “the world’s tallest female econoblogger.” (She’s 6’2”, it seems.) I thought that would show her self-deprecating sense of humor.

But you see how long all this is taking. And the post was about Ed Andrews, not McArdle. As to his poltical persuasion, I haven’t a clue.

Update: On Sunday, liberal Democrat economist Brad DeLong published a long and thoughtful comment on the Andrews/McArdle affair on his blog.

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