Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Meaningless words, empty rhetoric

It seems to me that there has been a steady resurgence of poor grammar and politicised language used by a range of groups who have political ambitions. The main offenders against the English language include politicians, journalists, unions, farmers, environmentalists and lobbyists.

Way below is a list of terms used in political circles that have a very vague meaning, and really are intended to mean whatever the person wants it to mean and add a positive spin to their suggestions. The reason that I find this so alarming is that not only are these phrases being used increasingly, but because they are empty and deliberately employed to mislead and confuse the audience.

George Orwell has famously and powerfully described how language can be politicised, and by reading Animal Farm or 1984, its plainly obvious that this is not a new or original phenomenon, but something that Orwell identified many decades ago, within communist regimes across the world.

In Animal Farm, the ruling elites (the pigs) invented slogans and party ideology, such as their supreme slogan"4 legs good, 2 legs bad" .... which was shortly replaced as the Dear Leader became the supreme ruler who walked on 2 legs and imitated humans, and then became "4 legs good, 2 legs better!".

The most devastating piece of literature condemning the misuse of language was 1984, where the dictatorship was completely intrusive and all powerful, outlawed certain phrases, invented its own new phrases (such as doublethink) manipulated language and wrote its own dictionary, and then invented the concept of thought-crimes, all to stifle opposition and debate.

Back to the present .... If you keep the following phrases in mind over the coming months, no doubt you will notice them being used by a whole array of idiots and power hungry lobbyists, especially those on the left side of politics.

"National interest"
This one really boils my blood. Kim Beazley of the ALP loved using it to suit his own agenda.. i.e "My opponents policy is not in the national interest" followed by "whatever I say IS in the national interest". Recently, the media and politicians have used it to describe the much hyped sale of Qantas to a foreign consortium. Peter Costello proclaimed that selling Qantas "passed the national interest test", whilst chief opponents of the sale of Qantas, ranging from the unions and ALP right through to the Greens, who hate free trade and commerce, proclaim that it is not "in the national interest".

So .. what precisely is the "national interest" ? Its intended to mean "its good for Australia" - I'm pretty sure about that. Kind of like, "a good amount of rainfall over dams and catchments is in the national interest" is fairly uncontroversial and obvious.

But then .. what really boils my blood is the fact that it is never used in such a context. Its only ever used to describe a proposed or existing government regulation. There are currently government regulations covering vast industries such as media, farming and airlines regarding foreign ownership rules, so there is a governmental review process before the sale of a private enterprise can be approved. In a free society, a private enterprise should be free to form voluntary agreements and contracts with other parties, which could involve the sale and transfer of ownership. There should be no role for government to intervene, but it has given itself the power to stick its nose in every transaction and see if it passes "the national interest test".

What is the nation ? Does this piece of land have an opinion on all contemporary issues ? Do rivers and canyons and beaches have a certain say on whether it is in their interest ? Clearly not. So the national interest is a phrase used by collectivists. Collectivism is essentially socialism.

Instead of using a thought process which places as its highest priority, the welfare and rights of individuals, focusing on people and families who interact and form relationships and carry out trade, instead socialism (ALP, Greens) and often patriotic nationalism (Liberals, National party) creates a "we" or a "society" who has the highest priority and the most important say. Because the piece of land called Australia does not have the ability of speech, and because the population is diverse and don't agree on all issues, many politicians are self-proclaimed defenders of the national interest, who can speak on behalf of society and judge what is good for the nation. Even if every individual is worse off, even if an individuals rights are violated, even if massive sections of the population are harmed by a policy, it can still be said that the regulation or laws are in the national interest.

We see this occurring in water and utilities. We've been told by Greens and the ALP that it is not in the national interest to allow nuclear power plants, or that it is in the national interest for government bureaus to own, operate and regulate energy and water industries.

"Workers rights"
Heres a euphemism if I ever saw one. This is an expression that has been invented by unions and socialists. You see "rights" have a very positive connotation to them, they add a wonderful spin on a proposed idea. But rights have a traditional definition, they are usually restricted to a person's life and property and liberty and freedom of speech. I have the right to my life, and ownership of my body (hence murder and assault and rape are crimes). I have the right to be free from violence and theft.

You can't just invent rights and extrapolate to all areas of life. Whilst its pure common sense to define my right to freedom from violence, so nobody else can assault me, its quite a silly idea to invent a new right and say that I have the right to use violence on others or take what I want from anyone. That would violate somebody else's rights and create mayhem and unimaginable human suffering.

So the original classic set of rights, which relate to being free "from" certain harmful things (violence, theft, assault) and being free "to" do certain things which don't harm others and take away their rights (speech, movement, trade, associate with whom you please). Now what if I tried to apply rights to regular everyday transactions ?

Like going to the supermarket or shops. What if I defined a set of "customers rights" that ruled that all retailers must comply with a set of regulations that benefit customers and restrict the conditions that retailers can operate within. e.g

  • Retailers must be open till 10pm
  • Retailers must always accept returned products for a full cash refund, regardless of whether they were used
  • Retailers must offer the customer a minimum 3 year warranty
  • Retailers must not mark-up their products more than 12%
  • Retailers must offer an interest free period
Well, these kind of rules might look like they benefit customers, and probably restrict retailers, but hopefully most of my readers might think that the label "customers rights" is not quite accurate for such harsh regulation. This is besides the fact that the regulation is harmful and will hurt a lot of retailers badly. Thankfully, these rules do not exist, although we already do have some harsh regulation of where retailers may operate a store, opening hours, staffing etc. But generally, the current situation is one where a retailer makes an offer (advertised price, included whatever warranty they wish, with a defined return policy) and a customer can accept. In this interaction, the only traditional right that exists is the right for 2 consenting parties to create transactions and exchange things (goods for money).

So why not the same with the workforce. Why not simply allow employers to make an offer, interview candidates and let the candidates decide if they accept or reject the exchange (labor and time in exchange for a salary) ? Doing this acheives the highest order of liberty, and upholds individual's rights. But instead of doing so, the socialists who loathe free exchanges often think they know better, and they wish to ban or control what kind of exchanges are allowed. Hence we have a whole raft of workers "rights" such as:
  • The right to receive minimum 4 weeks annual leave
  • The right to receive paid public holidays
  • The right to receive award rates/penalty rates
  • The right to receive sick leave
  • The right to receive maternity leave
  • The right to receive 9% superannuation
  • The right to be protected by unfair dismissal laws
  • The right to receive 1 months notice before termination
So no employer can offer any kind of employment that does not meet these laws. Well.. if they classify an employee as "casual", they can get around a few of these regulations, so hundreds of thousands of positions are now casual instead of permanent. But the question must be asked seriously - would the employer have offered the position at all if they could only offer permanent positions ? In thousands of cases, clearly not.

These set of workers "rights" are instead a set of rules which hurt the freedom of employers, and the same policy can be reworded as a set of draconian laws, from the perspective of an employer:
  • You cannot offer a job without including 4 weeks annual leave
  • You cannot offer a job without including paid public holidays
  • You cannot offer a job that does not pay the defined award rates/penalty rates
  • You cannot offer a job without offering sick leave
  • You cannot offer a job without offering maternity leave
  • You cannot offer a job without offering 9% superannuation
  • You cannot offer a job without complying with unfair dismissal laws. (i.e once you have offered the job, you are gonna be stuck with the employee for a long time !)
  • You cannot terminate a job without 1 months notice before termination
The above set of rules is in no way a set of workers "rights". In any terms, you cannot define a set of workers "rights" any more than you could define a set of customers "rights", nor a set of rights that protect any 1 party in a transaction between 2 parties (by restricting the freedom of the other party). So when the Liberal party attempts to deregulate the labor markets and remove some of these draconian regulations, unions and socialists march in thousands with banners proclaiming that the government is taking away workers rights, creating images of panic and alarm in the minds of millions of viewers. When really it should be greeted with a sigh of relief.

Following on from above.. exploitation is also a word that has been hijacked and moulded by the lefties to refer to any voluntary transaction between 2 consenting parties that they do not approve of. It generally refers to when a rich and a poor person perform a trade. They assume that the rich person is exploiting the poor person, and that government must intervene to put an end to the transaction.

A good example is when a multinational coffee trader (Nestle) buys cheap coffee beans off Kenyan farmers which end up being packaged, transported, processed and sold to westerners for a higher price. Socialists and leftists announce that it is a form of exploitation because one party is poor and the other is rich and somehow has a stronger amount of bargaining power. The reason behind this assault on the English language is to justify government intervention, forcing the richer party to pay more for his goods, or else not be allowed to trade at all. This entirely overlooks the fact that both parties were willing to engage in the trade, which means that both parties expected to benefit from it.

I have a simple litmus test. If one party isn't using force or violence (i.e slavery) to get the other party to agree to their terms, then no exploitation can be said to exist by any meddling 3rd party. Since slavery is illegal, there is no exploitation in the proper sense of the word.

"Fair Trade"
See above. Also refers to any trade that socialists, welfarists and leftists do not approve of.

"Level playing field"
Also relates to labor markets, and implies that even in voluntary and free exchange, one party has some kind of magic ray gun to control and pressure the other party to agree. If a big corporation wants to employ a cleaner, and offer him to work overnight but will only agree to offer him regular pay and not overtime, they say it is not a level playing field because the candidate really really needs the job, and is under pressure to accept whatever offer, so socialists think we should regulate society so only "good" offers are made. Once again, this totally disregards the inconvenient truth that if a candidate ends up accepting the offer, they do so voluntarily because they think they will profit from the exchange.

I also have a simple analogy to discard the usefulness of this phrase. Lets say I am really hungry late at night, and there is only one pizza parlor open but it wants $20 for a small pizza. You could just as easily say that the pizza parlor is in an unfair and strong bargaining position, and there is too much pressure and exploitation on me because I am hungry. Socialists would want to write laws so that the pizza parlor to only charge a maximum of $13 for a small pizza. Once again, this overlooks 2 key facts.
  • I am free to reject the offer, despite my hunger. I might be able to find another kind of food or substitute elsewhere. If I am willing to pay as much as $20 for the pizza, why should anybody block the exchange between 2 willing parties ?
  • From the pizza parlor owner's perspective, if you banned his freedom to set whatever price he wishes, then he may lose his incentive to remain open late at night. Perhaps the very reason he was open late at night in the first place, was because he correctly assessed that there was a demand in the market for pizza in his area, at unusual times. He thought he/she could satisfy the demand of many hungry customers who are out late at night in the area, and although he/she doesn't love the idea of working late at night, they would be willing to do so if they could set their prices higher to compensate them.
"The environment"
Ahh.. the term that means nothing and everything all at once. So many socialists and environmentalists have used this term that is now in everyday use. It has precisely the same intention as "society". It is an invented word, to create a new kind of entity that deserves its own set of legal regulations and protections which will probably impact negatively on human individual's freedoms and rights.

Nobody stops to define "the environment" in a precise way, but it is used by millions of people to loosely refer to nature, the eco-system and all the wondrous things that weren't created by humans. The oceans, the fish, the skies, the forests, the waterways and oceans and deserts are all part of "the environment". But so are natural disasters. If a flood or earthquake wipes out thousands of humans, that was also "the environment". In fact, lots of aspects of nature are deadly to human survival, and so humans have develop their own environments to boost their chances of survival.

Farming, building up urban areas, water catchments, resources and utilities, logging and mining, they all take advantage of useful resources that help improve happiness and utility.
But since there are now billions of humans on the planet, and so many of them are starting to live at high standards previously unheard of, in terms of access to food, sanitation, water, medicine and education, and they have created massive cities (which are still tiny dots on the globe), this is somewhat distressing for many environmentalists.
Basically.. you can do whatever you want to human freedom so long as its good for "the environment". You can dictate to all retailers that they must not provide me with a plastic bag because they are harmful to "the environment'. Meanwhile, I am fuming because I find plastic bags extremely useful and I don't see how me using them is harmful in any way to some badly defined 3rd party called "the environment".

"(un)Sustainable growth"
Similar to above, it is used to describe the aspects of free human behaviour on a large scale, resulting in economic growth, that alarms and concerns environmentalists. As if free markets haven't proven themselves enough, they try to create hysterical scenarious where free economies that continue to grow and not be heavily regulated by a socialist regime, will eventually and quite suddenly, run into disaster where our living standards will plummet. These alarmist scenarios each create a disastrous scenario in any essential industry that can be thought of, including cattle, minerals, energy, oil, timber, clean air, global temperatures and water quality.

Thus they imply that unhampered and free economic growth is unsustainable, and government needs to regulate human behaviour and protect "the environment" so that it is directed in sustainable ways. But once again, this concept is based on a huge lie - that free markets cannot adjust to changing circumstances. In fact, free markets are characteristically dynamic and responsive. If oil resources become more scarce, the price rises and people become more willing to pay for other energy sources. If beef becomes scarce, the price rises which signals a lot of information to people. They consume less beef and more of other meats. It also signals to producers that they now have a bigger incentive (higher prices) to somehow find new ways to produce more beef.

All economic growth is sustainable, and there is no need or justification for harmful government regulation to prevent future doomsday scenarios.

Ahh.. perhaps the most vague word of all. Entire subjects are dedicated to this phenomenon at university, and several textbooks have been written on it, but nobody can specify a single definition of it.

In reality, as many of the words above are used, it is intended to describe one thing only -all phenomenon or aspects of free trade and global markets that socialists and leftists do not understand and do not approve of. It can refer to the fact that wages and living standards are different across different countries. The irony is that free trade is a force that serves to equalise prices, as western nations continue to hire more and more cheap labor from undeveloped economies.

All of the above words are dodgy and have been hijacked by the left and by the global socialist movement. This isn't a simple mistake or a form of laziness. It is a form of intentional deceit and trickery. Especially when having viewed the deadly results of socialism in the past century, and how socialist policies often produce results that harm and pollute "the environment" much more than free trade and property rights which result in less pollution (noise, air, water).

I will put together a single paragraph to destroy the socialist monopoly of these words and show my readers that they can have a different meaning to what is usually intended.


It is in the national interest to have unregulated free markets and for government to uphold individual rights, which will end all forms of exploitation, and result in only fair trade where 2 parties may form voluntary agreements on a level playing field.

Human suffering and poverty will diminish as globalisation spreads, and the environment will be in better shape, humans will become increasingly efficient at using resources in previously unthought of ways, as the process of
sustainable growth continues onwards.