Language Is Democratic; Not Much Else Is

Language is democratic, but our social space is not.  Trivia requires no regulation.

Democratic means rule by the people.  Whatever the people want, the people get.  Austro/British philosopher Karl Popper has argued that a democracy is such that the government can be changed without a revolution.  If that is the determinant, it would be difficult to believe that we are a democracy today.

In the United States, congress enjoys a 10% approval rating.  In Canada, the Harper government is near 50%.  Hardly a ringing endorsement.  Most people don’t like what their government is doing, yet the government continues to rule.  I know a political operative who claims that as long as their popularity is higher than the prime rate, they are okay.

The rule of the people over the social space is tenuous at best and is a leading cause of dissatisfaction.  People no longer create or rule the space and they are beginning to notice.  All goods and all services are regulated.  Why does a barber need to be licensed?  You would think competence would be the only hurdle to entry in that trade.

All providers of labour are limited in the free use of their resource.  Unions, labour standards, and taxation limit what they can get and keep for their efforts and skill.

There are profound changes in the way society relates to the basics of our culture.  Family and religious values are becoming bent beyond recognition.

Myriad regulations limit choice and increase price.

Have you ever wondered why the price of a meal in China is an eighth of that same meal here?  Think about minimum wage, high rent because of zoning laws and construction minima, high municipal taxes, food safety rules, fire safety, fuel prices to transport the product, and a hundred more.  All regulation cost is passed to the customers.  There is no free lunch.  (The devil made me say that.)

Most would agree that some regulation is needed but it is awfully difficult to place the line between needed and extravagant.  There is an argument that claims that governments have been very good at their work.  As a result all the real problems have been solved.  For the past 30 years or so they have invented problems and perfected old ones to retain some relevance.  Probably true about unions too.

On the other hand, language is uninteresting to governments so things change to suit the people who use the words and the construction.  I am old enough to remember when sick, bad, gay and hot meant something different than what they do today.  It was once unacceptable to have a sentence end in a preposition.  People used commas correctly.  People were much less creative then; they knew how to spell a given word in just one way.  No longer the case and if anything, language is easier to use.

Is it reasonable to believe that a government agency of language integrity could create a better result?  Yeah! Right!  It used to be that a double positive was not negative.

So why do politicians act to change our social space?  Because it gives them advantage at election time.  In reality though, society is beyond direct management because it is complex, even chaotic.  Things change by the instant not over years.  Then they change again.  You could not keep track of how changes affect the different elements. Every change affects everything else in some way.  Did people really believe that using corn to make fuel would have no impact on food prices?

We hear fatuous ideas like “fine tuning the economy.” The human body is less complex than the market, but we would be astounded if politicians thought they could rearrange the internal parts to make it more efficient.

It does not look like the politicians are going to act in our interests.  It is time we acted in our own interests.

Complain about unreasonable regulation, unfair taxation, wasted resources, useless programs and above all, shop selectively.  And don’t stop.  Governments have two ways to deal with complaints.  Fix the problem or make the complainant go away.  The latter is their preferred course.

In the old marketplace our money and our time was our vote.  Use them more wisely than we use our ballots.

Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international accounting firm and is presently with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario. don.s@protectorsgroup.com

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