Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Citechecking Silliness

It's one thing to be liberal. It's another thing to be an uptight liberal. It's a whole 'nother thing to be forced to read one uptight liberal after another for a citecheck. The article I'm handling has the intellectual diversity of a Chinese election. For example, this cite to Elizabeth Warren and her daughter Amelia Warren Tyagi's The Two-Income Trap was just too much for me:

"Conservative columnist William F. Buckley Jr. describes the bankruptcy process as follows: 'What has caused the acceleration of bankruptcies is the painlessness of the operation plus little avenues of abuse attractive to high-class bankrupts. . . . You come back one day from the corner lawyer and say, Whee! I don't owe anybody anything!"

Cute. What's so awful about that statement? One of bankruptcy's primary purposes (when dealing with individuals) is to give debtors a fresh start, and to do so as quickly and seemlessly as possible while paying off your creditors. This is generally a positive thing for people. But don't tell Warren and Warren that:

"We are not sure who was on Mr. Buckley's interview list as he developed his insights into how families respond to financial failure. We are pretty sure it was not one of the thousands of children who have just lost the home they grew up in. We also suspect it was not one of the millions of devastated parents who are watching the symbols and security associated with their children's place in the middle class crumble away. But we know that every person who read that column and who did not call Mr. Buckley to task for his cheap cynicism helped make life a little harder for a whole lot of children and their parents."

Hey, some people like cheap cynicism! One can only imagine what Warren and Warren would say about Mel Brooks. He's probably "made life a little harder" for everyone. Goodness knows Springtime for Hitler has done the world nothing but evil. Laughter related to serious matters must not be tolerated.

But the larger problem with Warren and Warren is obvious: these middle-class people were going to lose their stuff anyway! Bankruptcy isn't some evil device that causes kids to lose the shirt off their backs (in fact, 11 USC § 522 essentially forbids it). Filing for bankruptcy is a humbling act, no doubt, but generally a positive thing for individuals financially. After all, the bankruptcy code's exemptions allow individual debtors to keep property they would otherwise lose to creditors (even the "home they grew up in" is saved in many instances). Thus, even if bankruptcy doesn't always have the "Whee!" factor Buckley describes, it's certainly not the apocalyptical event the Warrens make it out to be. If anything, bankruptcy helps avoid the "crumbling away" of middle-classness a heavy debt-load is sure to cause. What the Warrens really care about are the effects of economic distress generally, not what happens to families when they petition for bankruptcy.

Nothing is worse than being uptight and wrong (I should know!).

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