Terminology matters


A few weeks ago I was discussing about how Frank Luntz, the well-known wordsmith, wants us to change the use of “Capitalist” to “Free marketeers” and I expressed my opinion that I would much prefer to continue to use the original and that we should not conform to these changes simply because the political left which used to be known as liberals changed theirs to progressives.

I have my own preference to continue with the old term since it has to do with the accumulation of private capital at the core of the system and to make that capital grow in a free market. Naturally this growth can occur only if conditions are favorable for this to happen in a system where markets are free to flourish.

Under a communist or socialist system where the basic philosophy is anti-capitalist, private capital accumulation is frowned upon and every effort is expended by the governing body to assure that, that does not happen. Actually the government either seizes the property by unlawful means or imposes confiscatory taxes for redistribution.

In a country like China where a communist government has ruled since they seized power by revolution in 1949, capitalism has been practically abolished during the earlier years. The various classes of human strata has been reduced to basically just two–the governing and the governed. The former is generally well-to-do and had sufficient food and accommodations with full political rights and power with absence or limitations for the latter group in all categories.

Only in recent years since the advent of Deng Xiaoping that a form of capitalism has re-emerged with the state participating in a heavy way. This new found capitalism albeit  ‘state capitalism’ has lifted China from its communist party imposed poverty and backwardness and today boasts the second largest GDP in the world. It is predicted that perhaps China’s GDP will be surpassing the USA’s within the next ten years.

Of course, China’s  population is four times larger in spite of their government’s attempts to control it through the one child policy. Mathematically therefore their per capita wealth and productivity is necessarily lower than that of ours for the foreseeable future and may never really catch up to ours.

However they have legally allowed the accumulation of private capital and a massive stockpiling of state capital with a relaxation from a strict command economy to a relatively market oriented one.  But it just goes to show that capitalism works even when it is applied in the Marxist socialist-communist world of China.

We  therefore do not have to apologize for capitalism because we have prospered under capitalism and have reached an unprecedented prosperity in the history of the world. If one compares capitalism against socialism or communism the world recently has had a few controlled laboratories.

The first one is Germany when it was divided between the capitalist Western Germany and the communist-controlled Eastern counterpart after the Second World War. These are the same people ethnically, culturally and geographically divided only by a political map and a physical wall in Berlin to keep  the citizens within the Eastern sector, because the prosperity of the West continually lured the Easterners to risk life and limb to escape to the West. The difference in living standards and productivity were legendary and a perfect contrasting example is between the Mercedes Benz and the Trabant, the best automobiles of each side of the border.

The other is the vast difference between the North and South Korean Republics; the communist North and a capitalist South. Again the ethnic, culture and geography are practically the same, divided by a political map and barbed wired minefields. Most of us are aware of the contrasting economies.

Yet we are embarrassed about our own system and our wealth and since class warfare was ignited by President Obama. We had begun to be apologetic and feel uncomfortable with our own system.This anti-capitalist chorus was joined by so-called conservatives like Gingrich and Perry who wanted to shame the capitalist Romney who is beginning to appear uncomfortable with his wealth: this is so evident in his body language during the recent debates.

These changes are so unfortunate because I personally never felt envy towards the wealthy and I am so inured by socialist class warfare rhetoric during my early life that it does not stir primeval jealousy within me as current events unfold. I did not have the wonderful opportunity to be like Romney but I would not want to pull him down for reasons based only on his wealth.

On the other hand I notice a loathing to call or use the term ‘socialist’ by media people even by those who are professed conservatives, to apply the term to those people who are practicing socialism–those who consider capitalists as enemies by virtue of class or wealth and redistribution of wealth is their prime cause. This is truly sad because they seem to fear the use of that term.

On Friday night I was watching the O’Reilly Factor and he said something which astounded me. He said that Bernie Sanders the senator from Vermont is an extremely liberal person. No, Bill Sanders is a self-avowed socialist, he is proud to be called a socialist. Why are you afraid to call him a socialist? Is it a dirty word amongst the broadcasting elite? Sanders wants to be  called a socialist, he said so himself and O’Reilly  would not use the “S” word on the air: My question is why? Is it political correctness or just a phobia to that word.

I guess then that O’Reilly will never call Obama a socialist even though he (Obama) believes and practices socialism. Who will it demean more, the caller or the called, to utter the “S” word? I think it must bother the caller more than the called. Terminology matters and we have to get into the habit of using it to give meaning to what we say. The society from where I came, those guys are not embarrassed to be called socialists, they are actually proud just like Bernie Sanders.

Maybe Obama will be also, just try it.


One response »

  1. Pingback: language is the root of legal claims such as property rights « power of language blog: partnering with reality by JR Fibonacci

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