Yesterday’s BBC World Service radio broadcast included a segment about the Cramer/Stewart exchange as perceived by Megan McArdle, commentator for The Atlantic. During the segment, McArdle declared Cramer and CNBC innocent of even something as simple as violating the advice of P.G. Wodehouse: “It is a good rule in life never to apologize. The right sort of people do not want apologies, and the wrong sort take a mean advantage of them.”
McArdle told the World (Service) to pin its blame buttons on the overalls of ordinary people, not on the designer lapels of the suits of anyone working at mortgage companies, advertising agencies, investment banks (McArdle used to work at one), the credit companies. And no one should be looking suspiciously at McArdle and others who work at the magazines, newspapers, and media conglomerates who were the hand puppets for the ventriloquists on Wall Street, Fleet Street, and Easy Street. McArdle says: “I think the biggest part of the blame does have to go, not to people like Jim Cramer, but to the vast swamp of ordinary Americans who thought that they had found a way to get something for free.” Rather than to declare McArdle incompetent as an etiologist — after all, she is someone who defines herself through upscale coffee –, we might benefit from attending to the evolutionary picture she offers, a picture that starts off in the “swamp of ordinary people” and progresses to Cramer and Stewart, whom she, by the end of her cameo on the BBC World Service, compares to a pig and a pig wrestler. This seems to be an evolutionary picture McArdle endorses, if we are to trust her comments at the end of her BBC cameo. From the swamp, I can see that she could make as good a pig as those she described on the BBC.
Traditionally, pigs have been associated with the rich, those not in the swamp. Pigs do not want to be like ordinary people in the McArdle-O’Rourke hypothesis. According to an O’Rourke article from 1997, pigs have at least two main fears, one of which is becoming like everyone else, one of us ordinary people, and the other of being eaten, a version of phagophobia (pronounce it without a long vowel in the first syllable, and enjoy the added meaning). O’Rourke displays his worship of capitalism and of the rich in his article, while also foregrounding the fear the pigs have of those who support heinous, un-American notions like equality (note that McArdle did not include herself in her judgment about the “vast swamp of ordinary Americans”):
Wealth brings great benefits to the world. Rich people are heroes. They don’t usually mean to be but that’s their moral problem, not ours. Most of the world now admits that free enterprise works. Economic liberty makes people rich. But in our residual collectivism and our infatuation with equality we keep trying to get rid of rich people.
There’s a joke President Reagan told about the way collectivist politicians treat rich people: A traveling salesman stays overnight with a farm family. When the family gathers to eat there’s a pig seated at the table. And the pig has three medals hanging around his neck and a peg leg. The salesman says, “Um, I see you have a pig having dinner with you.”
“Yes,” says the farmer. “That’s because he’s a very special pig. You see those medals around his neck? Well, the first medal is from when our youngest son fell in the pond, and he was drowning, and that pig swam out and saved his life. The second medal, that’s from when the barn caught fire and our little daughter was trapped in there and the pig ran inside, carried her out and saved her life. And the third medal, that’s from when our oldest boy was cornered in the stock yard by a mean bull, and that pig ran under the fence and bit the bull on the tail and saved the boy’s life.”
“Yes,” says the salesman, “I can see why you let that pig sit right at the table and have dinner with you. And I can see why you awarded him the medals. But how did he get the peg leg?”
“Well,” says, the farmer, “a pig like that–you don’t eat him all at once.”