SHORTER MEGAN McARDLE: I know this person who actually became poor and I don't feel a bit sorry for her, because then I would be dehumanizing her by denying her agency -- just as you would be doing if you felt sorry for other poor people and tried to give them advantages they wouldn't know what to do with, like jobs at a living wage.
UPDATE. Some commenters get out of the boat ("I almost left behind Lance and that puppy," shudders dex) and have the same awestruck, silent-upon-a-peak-in-Darien reaction I had to McArdle's show-stopper, "It's all too common for well-meaning middle-class people to think that if the poor just had the same stuff we do, they wouldn't be poor any more..." Not wishing to imply racism, which of course would be the worst crime one could commit against a conservative, I will suppose her insight is based on the continued uncouth behavior after their ascension to great wealth of the Beverly Hillbillies.
UPDATE 2. "The weird feeling that I get from the post is that Megan seems to think that she's being genuinely empathetic there," says Halloween Jack. "It's like an alien who is trying to explain to a mob of panicked and furious humans that the title of How To Serve Man works both ways." Well, I wouldn't go that far; McArdle probably thinks the sort of empathy normal humans feel is bathetic and gross, like the totally over-the-top wailing of mothers over their dead children that she saw in a movie once. Still, I guess even libertarians need something in their lives to take the place of empathy, and contorted rationalizations like I'm not condescending, you're condescending are it. Call them shoulder pads for the soul.