OFF LINE. Instaputz deftly sketches the progress of the Atlantic Monthly from Julia Ward Howe and Nathaniel Hawthorne to Megan McArdle reporting on her iPhone campout ("I imagine this is what it feels like to be a refugee"). Worse is yet to come, though, when the Apple Store people ask McArdle for her papers:
While I was buying the iPhone, they pulled me aside for a credit review. Since I have good credit, this was shocking--and humiliating. For a middle class American, telling your two friends in the store that the AT&T folks are having second thoughts about giving you credit feels a little like confessing that you're a criminal.
McArdle shows some sympathy toward some people with bad credit -- she's known journalists and folks just out of grad school, apparently, who have had such problems -- but she ends with this:
Of course there are irresponsible profligates who borrow money they've no intention of repaying...
The worst part is that the profligates are immune to the shame (or seem to be). It's the decent people, the ones who were overtaken by events, who cringe when the store clerks motion them aside.
This puts me in mind of characters from Nelson Algren, Charles Bukowski, and The Life of Oharu; also, of real people who passed in despair from caring anymore whether they were playing by rules that, experience seemed to show, never gave them a chance to succeed on even the simplest terms, and who stood in line not for iPhones but for food and shelter.
It may seem in bad taste to mention such people in a blogosphere largely devoted to middle-class problems. Still, it's worth considering that they exist, and in greater numbers than a romp through these precincts would suggest. If your frame of reference consists entirely of the relatively fortunate, then you may naturally consider all credit problems to be the result of wickedness or, at best, poor choices to which you owe no sympathy. From a libertarian perspective, certainly, there's no reason to feel any differently. Which is one good reason why, even in a country that loves liberty, libertarianism hasn't caught on, and won't until citizens outside the citadels of privilege wholly lose their acquaintance with misfortune. And though most of our public discourse since the Age of Reagan suggests otherwise, that is not even close to happening.
I'm glad the Village Voice took note and gave him his own regular feature The Voice Explores the Right-Wing Blogosphere.