Free Markets, Free People


Quote of the Day: Political vernacular edition

Thomas Sowell, as he has so aptly and wonderfully done for decades, distills down some of the silliness that happens with the language of politics.  He pens a short political glossary  for those who need it.  You can’t tell what a politician is saying without it.

Fairness:

One of the most versatile terms in the political vocabulary is "fairness." It has been used over a vast range of issues, from "fair trade" laws to the Fair Labor Standards Act. And recently we have heard that the rich don’t pay their "fair share" of taxes.

Some of us may want to see a definition of what is "fair." But a concrete definition would destroy the versatility of the word, which is what makes it so useful politically.

If you said, for example, that 46.7 percent of their income — or any other number — is the "fair share" of their income that the rich should have to pay in taxes, then once they paid that amount, there would be no basis for politicians to come back to them for more — and "more" is what "fair share" means in practice.

Life in general has never been even close to fair, so the pretense that the government can make it fair is a valuable and inexhaustible asset to politicians who want to expand government.

Dead on right and yes it is indeed a word that has become an “inexhaustible asset” to politicians of a certain ilk.

Racism:

"Racism" is another term we can expect to hear a lot this election year, especially if the public opinion polls are going against President Barack Obama.

Former big-time TV journalist Sam Donaldson and current fledgling CNN host Don Lemon have already proclaimed racism to be the reason for criticisms of Obama, and we can expect more and more other talking heads to say the same thing as the election campaign goes on. The word "racism" is like ketchup. It can be put on practically anything — and demanding evidence makes you a "racist."

On the positive side, sort of, “compassion”:

A more positive term that is likely to be heard a lot, during election years especially, is "compassion." But what does it mean concretely? More often than not, in practice it means a willingness to spend the taxpayers’ money in ways that will increase the spender’s chances of getting reelected.

If you are skeptical — or, worse yet, critical — of this practice, then you qualify for a different political label: "mean-spirited." A related political label is "greedy."

In the political language of today, people who want to keep what they have earned are said to be "greedy," while those who wish to take their earnings from them and give it to others (who will vote for them in return) show "compassion."

Make sure to read the rest.

Suffice it to say, Sowell nails it.  Of course there are many other words and phrases that can be included as well. Language is malleable as our politicians prove every day.  That’s why so many people listen and then point to Orwell’s “1984” after many political speeches today.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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3 Responses to Quote of the Day: Political vernacular edition

  • I would crawl over broken glass with two broken legs to vote for Dr. Sowell for President.  He is a national treasure.
    It occurs to me that a government cannot be compassionate; that that is a trait of people.  I suppose some would counter that people can express their compassion via their government, and in rare instances that is true.  Like charity, I feel like Mark Steyn’s observation is apt…that the bigger government gets, the smaller everything else becomes.

  • About two decades ago, the WSJ had a piece about the word and concept of “fair.”
    The best outtakes were:
    .. there is no equivalent word in most other languages for the word “fair.”
    .. if somebody sneaks into a parking place while you are trying to maneuver in to it, in Greece, that’s not “unfair,” that’s “cleaver”

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