The Abuse of Language

May 11, 2010

I cannot rigorously define “the abuse of language,” but I can offer one example:

Arnold Kling recently asked his blog readers whether they belong to the Church of Unlimited Government.  Sounds pretty bad to me, I don’t think I want any part of that.  But wait, though he never defines it carefully, it seems Kling would put you in the Church of Unlimited Government unless you value limited government for its own sake.

In other words, you could favor school vouchers, privatizing the post office, and cutting the military budget in half, but if you favored those proposals because (and only because) you thought they’d have good consequences (e.g. better schools, lower taxes, better foreign relations, etc.) then you could still be accused of belonging to the Church of Unlimited Government.

It is understandable, and unavoidable, that people will frame issues to make their views sound appealing, but hopefully social scientists can enforce a norm of using more mutually acceptable language.  It is a part of debating charitably.

Anyone want to offer another example of the abuse of language?


an (un)happy medium

November 23, 2009

As seen here (via KD), a quite dramatic and clear example of when the mean isn’t sufficient for telling the whole story is arising over at Amazon in the rankings of Going Rogue. Not surprising, i know. But still.