Charlatans Redefine Words For Personal Advantage

Machiavelli proposed many steps after conquering an adversary. One of them was to change the language. Expressing old ideas might not work out if people were less fluent in the new language. Only the new thoughts would seem ordinary.

Machiavelli lives on.

The newspeak version of recession. In the old way (that would be anytime before 1 July 2022), recession meant any period in which two or more consecutive quarters of economic contraction occurred. Negative growth. That definition has served for decades and can be found in any introductory macroeconomics text.

I think anyone who thought about recession in the past recognized that the economy is not binary. Up and down meant different things at different times. We should all acknowledge that recessions come in different flavours. Some are due to a single factor, others to many. We can easily learn that some recessions are structural, connected to past policy mistakes, and others are transient. The economy gets tired and needs to rest sometimes.

The point is that recessions are objective, and a deeper look is in order. The two-quarter rule is a labelling convenience.


The President and his staff have decided that the two-quarter rule no longer applies, and many officials have been addressing the new idea. In short, “this is not a recession.” There are many other factors other than the relative change in GDP. That is the idea of analyzing in depth. They only talk about unemployment, labour market participation, inflation, tax policy, and expectations for the future. No verifiable facts. Essentially it is the familiar, “Nothing to see here, move along” approach.

The government’s significant problem is that if you analyze in depth, you will find many factors can be tracked to earlier errors. That is the traditional problem of overpromising and underdelivering. Usually followed by distraction, misdirection, and obfuscation. They are at the obfuscation stage. We would be naive to believe they don’t know what is really happening. The only question we should ask ourselves is, “How do they intend to hide their complicity?”

The first place they have begun is by denying the two-quarter rule. Recession is now a completely undefined term.

I suppose, like three-year-olds playing hide-and-seek (If I can’t see you, you can’t see me), they think if there is no label, there is no recession.

I expect that behaviour from them, so it is no great surprise.

The surpriseĀ 

There are many signalling their fealty to the regime. Among those is Wikipedia. They have purged the two-quarter idea in their recession page and have locked it to prevent “sabotage.” How cute. Wikipedia, a purported source of information, has decided that if you are powerful enough, words mean whatever you want them to mean.

That puts them into the celebrity crowd and other commentators who are a mile wide and a millimetre deep.

Accepting the redefinition idea is now a way to show allegiance. It has little to do with reality.

Where it leads

I might have been able to forgive Wikipedia had they explained both sides and how the two-quarter label is misleading. But it’s easier to hide it. Now every entry on their site must be assessed as if it is mere propaganda. So be it. The fruits of their labour are near.

How easy does it get when you change the meaning of words? Suppose my top loading washing machine breaks down and is beyond economical repair, so I redefine it as a flower pot. As a test, explain how that redefinition makes my life better. Difficult to imagine.

Objectively, I should take it to a metal recycling center and buy a new one. But, that would require that I admit the old one is broken. If it became that way because I made a poor purchase decision, I could learn nothing by defining the error away.

The bit to take away

Mistakes are your friends, but only if you learn from them.

Hiding your mistakes makes new and bigger mistakes easier to make.

Richard Feynman was an objective thinker and brilliant scientist. His approach, “If you don’t make mistakes, you’re doing it wrong. If you don’t correct those mistakes, you’re doing it really wrong. If you can’t accept that you’re mistaken, you’re not doing it at all.” A pretty good summary of how politics are conducted today.

Refuse to be taken in by redefinition of labels.

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