Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Verbally Challenged

Steven Hayward offers some much needed advice in A Note on Political Rhetoric:

I have two grumps of my own about two specific tropes of current political rhetoric that show up in the speeches both political parties.

The first is “we created jobs.” Most of the Republican governors who spoke yesterday—McDonnell, Kasich, and Haley—used this formula. The problem with “we created jobs” is that jobs are not “created” ex nihilo like God in Genesis, nor are they created by government. More precisely, we should say that jobs are generated—but they are generated overwhelmingly by private sector investment. To be sure, government policy helps create (a proper use of the term) a favorably investment climate for investment that produces new jobs, and that includes infrastructure rightly understood.

In other words, the “created” language subtly abets Obama’s “you didn’t build that” argument. Better to convey the idea that government improves the conditions of freedom (that term again) that enables Americans to generate growth and employment, rather than making it seem like government is the entity “creating” the jobs.

The second fingernails-on-blackboard trope is “grow the economy.” Never mind the dubious grammar of using “grow” as a transitive verb. This sounds like the economy is a plant, and if we just pour on some government water it will grow. Let us not forget that Bill Clinton was the originator of this phrase, and like “create jobs,” it abets the view that government is the prime mover of the economy.

I say let us retire these two clich├ęs of political rhetoric, and come up with more precise formulas that better convey a substantive conservative understanding of the primacy of the private sector over the public sector.

I imagine that the horticultural invoking phrase “grow the economy” is an off-shoot (no pun intended) from the equally insipid and overused expression “grow the business.” The latter has been a staple of corporate speak for years and I am still given to cringe when I occasionally here it employed today. So I would expand Mr. Hayward’s call to do away with “creating jobs” and “growing the economy” in the political arena and also ask that “grow the business” be permanently retired from usage in the private sector.