16 November 2007

Megan McArdle's appendix

I woke up late, today, with the remains of a clingy head cold, and lacked the energy to deal with Megan McArdle when urged to do so by Thinking Through My Fingers. For the same reason, this is a slightly spruced up copy of my resulting comment to TTMF's post. Cheating, again - I know.

Since this morning, I've been to look at McArdle's original and discover that TTMF's single sentence quotation was, in fact, the whole post:

The government can't fix society for the same reason that you can't remove your own appendix.

So ... when I wrote this comment on TTMF this morning, I was (unbeknown to me) commenting not on an extract but on the entirety.

The logic of the analogy given in that epigram is faulty because, as TTMF points out, government is not society. I am sure that McArdle, of all people, would never argue that government and society are the same thing. The analogy therefore is not a surgeon removing her own appendix but removing her employer's appendix ... or a colleague's appendix, or ... whoever's, depending on your view of the relation between government and society.

Or perhaps, if we see government as existing within society, the surgeon is extracting the appendices of every member of her hospital organisation. Which would make her either a hero or a psychopath - in either case, the feat would be exhausting but not in principle impossible.

None of this means that I necessarily disagree with McArdle's point. I do agree with her about some things, and this may well be one of them. I'm just saying that her analogy doesn't make sense.

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