Review of Against Thrift in Wall St Journal

Highly suspicious, since the editors there asked me to write an 1800 word op-ed (you read the number right) on October 27th.  I gave it to them on deadline, November 7th, for publication on Black Friday, November 25th.  I didn’t hear a word from them for 12 days, and then it was, well, gee, we want 900 words, and the economic argument is, uh, disturbing.  I was pissed, and let the person I was dealing with know it–his name is Ryan Sager–much to the dismay of all concerned, including myself.

I met the next deadline, November 21st, with a 900-word version, and he rejected it the next day.  Actually, he told the publicity manager at the press that  it wasn’t suitable–he never got around to telling me.

Now what makes this review so interesting is the zeroing in on the question of investment.  If my answer to the question is right, everything the WSJ stands for, a least on the editorial pages, becomes stand-up material, as in “What, you think these capitalists are necessary, you think an unequal distribution of income is an incentive to investment–you still think private investment drives growth?  What, are you crazy?”

But notice, again, that this emphasis on investment is not a right-wing phenomenon.  This reviewer is the economics editor at The Atlantic, not exactly the harbor for all those ex-Trots once built by neo-conservatism.

Anyway, here’s the link:



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5 responses to “Review of Against Thrift in Wall St Journal

  1. Jim B.

    “Yet Mr. Livingston places far more weight on his favorite statistic about net private investment than it will bear, reaching the ludicrous conclusion that “economic growth since the 1920s did not require net private investment or net capital formation.” Since 1947, the real value of businesses’ tangible assets (everything from machine tools to the buildings they’re housed in) has roughly doubled. Would we really be just as well off if it hadn’t?”

    I think she has missed the point and befuddled her conclusion. Damn the non sequiturs, full steam ahead! Moreover, she struggles with understanding what constitutes net investment, but then reading the appendix with all them tables and graphs can over-tax some readers..

    Furthermore ….

    “Mr. Livingston doesn’t address this. He also attributes the “global savings glut” of the past decade to excessive wealth even though Asian central banks probably played a larger role than rich Americans ….”

    Of course, the “Asian central banks” are not part of this globe as we know it …. and, Americans don’t invest in overseas banks, but I did notice that the folks who manage my little pea-whistle IRA put some of it in CD’s issued by the Bank of China. I guess that I am the only American contributing to that glut.

  2. Ian MacDonald

    What a smug little twit this reviewer is. After lecturing, first, Roberts by suggesting that “[all the] academics I know can rank-order everyone in the room at a professional conference with the speed and precision of a courtier at Versailles” she goes on to scold you for missing the fact that, allegedly, 3/4 of the lost Bush tax cut revenues stayed in the hands of the middle class (Versailles–that’s a nice touch: yes, those over-privileged university professors. If they reach the peak of their careers, they can almost earn as much as a lawyer one year out of law school. True royalty), she goes on to wax elegiac about a food processor she owns that costs more than my monthly rent. Man, I wish I could be as class-conscious as her and not think of purchases over 1000$ as massive outlays that disrupt my annual spending ability. But then again, I’m in the academe, so I’m maneuvering for my big bucks in the future. The unbelievable hypocrisy of these WSJ newspeak drones is really appalling. But hey, the most recent editorials don’t even understand that Zuccotti park is technically public property, so I suppose their capacity for understanding their own ludicrous self-deconstructing self-satisfaction knows no bounds.

  3. Mike

    McMegan is an idiot. Her status anxieties and inferiority complex are her stock in trade. The cooking/appliance videos she made in her kitchen are tragicomedy gold. And she holds the David Brooks Chair at the Atlantic – so there’s that. Enjoy and then click the tag: I COME FROM A FAMILY OF ACADEMICS WHO ARE ACTUALLY INTELLECTUALLY INTIMIDATING.
    Be forewarned however: Reading T-Boggs McMegan posts will take up the rest of your day, and there will be pissing!

    Your suspicions are correct. I guess the WSJ editor sent your 1800 words to McMegan and it took her ten days to read. That draft and your bibliography are what she reviewed here. I mean c’mon, if this was a book report she would fail for cribbing it. She can’t imagine what Freud, Marx and Herbert Marcuse are doing in a book about consumer culture? Really?
    This was a set up. I’m glad the piece got into the LA Times so all of your time and effort were not wasted, but there is no way your Op-Ed and this review were going to run on the same weekend.

  4. Mark

    Mr. Livingston,
    I am not certain which is worse:
    The Journal employing a writer, Ms. McArdle, who paid $1,500 to acquire a food processor to assess the merits of your arguments about deregulated free market capitalism in 21st century America; or,
    The Journal employing a writer, Ms. McArdle, who openly admitted that she paid $1,500 to acquire a food processor – and used this apparent fact as the “hook” for her column – to assess the merits of your arguments about deregulated free market capitalism in 21st century America.
    Ms. McArdle’s apparent purchasing wisdom seems to this reader to rival the Merrill bankers who packed their balance sheet with collateralized debt obligations in the months before the entire economy plummeted.

  5. luap silipek

    The truly depressing — though, honestly, unsurprising — aspect of this review is the readers’ comments. They simply reinforce the evidence that the McMental Midgets who read the WSJ are incapable of seeing the world from any perspective other than the singularity of “what’s best for me?” community be damned. Their knee-jerk anti-intellectualism is as frightening as it is risible.

    I haven’t read your book, Jim, but is seems to me that a footnote of your whole argument is that we have to – collectively – spend our way out of our current economic despondency in order to stimulate the economy into providing surplus earnings – fodder for savings. This is not to discredit the necessity in today’s world of Darwinian capitalism of saving to address the vicissitudes of life and ever-encroaching retirement – hell, even the smart commie has an investment portfolio – but to drive home the point that one needs to consume fuel in order to stoke the fire.

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