Words have consequences

Theodore Dalrymple on an unfamiliar topic for him, how the meaning of words applies to “austerity”:

I was irritated rather by the fact that the author of the article accepted that the policy of the present British government can properly be described as one of austerity. What the alleged austerity amounts to is this: that in the current year the government will borrow only one in six of the pounds it spends instead of one in five, as it did last year. As to the reasons for this less than startling decline in its borrowing requirements, it was not because the government was spending less but because it was receiving more taxes, from the speculative housing bubble which it has done much to fuel. . . .

One would not say of a man who passed from smoking sixty cigarettes a day to fifty that he had given up smoking, or that he had exercised great self-denial. And one would not, or rather should not, say of an organization that had balanced its budget once in fifty years (the British government) that it was practicing austerity merely because it had to borrow a slightly lower percentage of what it spent than it did the year before. This is to deprive words of their meaning.

But the word “austerity” is not used by those who support balanced budgets but by its enemies. Why anyone still believes high levels of public spending can do anything but harm for the nation overall remains a mystery.

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19 Responses to Words have consequences

  1. Ant

    Not when you consider that harm is their objective.

  2. Driftforge

    It will be interesting how the Tasmanian budget plays out over the next three years. It’s basically been a soft budget this year, focussing on ticking off all the election promises. Next year is scheduled in as the hard year, cutting some 60% of the over spend (oh the ‘austerity’), before a taper leads into the election. The ‘plan’ is to repeat the cycle after the election, leading, 5 years down the track, to a budget surplus.

    It’s not the most aggressive budget going, but at least it didn’t fall into the same trap as the federal government did of both doing nothing constructive and breaking their promises. Make or break is now next years budget; if the scheduled cuts actually flow through at that point, all well and good.

  3. at least it didn’t fall into the same trap as the federal government did of both doing nothing constructive and breaking their promises

    Beautiful summary.

  4. H B Bear

    Just another bastardisation of the language.

    Remember the Goose, K D Wong and the Budget “saves”?

  5. Leo G

    Why is it that the left suffers so from anticipation of public spending withdrawal, such that the more the spending is supported by borrowing, the greater the affected suffering?
    Is it the manifestation of a masked public borrowing addiction combined with an inability to understand what suffering obligate austerity might involve?

  6. I am the Walrus, Koo Koo K'choo

    Beautiful summary.

    Seconded.

    You could also add ‘but being blamed for implementing austerity anyway’ !

  7. manalive

    Just the Left fiddling with the language yet again.
    Austerity in the context of government policy used to mean ‘reduced availability [or supply] of luxuries and consumer goods, esp when brought about by government policy’ as in wartime austerity.
    Last time I looked there was no shortage of luxury and consumer goods available in London — I dare say that’s still the case.
    The ’newspeak’ definition promotes the idea that government is, or ought to be, the Big Daddy (or Mummy) — the natural provider.

  8. Myrddin Seren

    What Ant said first up.

    The Krugmans ( for a writing duo they are under his byline ) come in for an occasional roasting on The Cat for policy prescriptions that would not return the system to the status quo ante.

    What makes anyone think the Krugradicals have the slightest interest in restoring the functioning market economy ?

    Let’s start with the assumption that the Left all want the market economy to collapse and be replaced with a command-and-control system under the benevolent control of wise technocrats – and you are getting a lot closer to where they are coming from.

  9. John Comnenus

    Daniel Hannan writing about Rotherham posed the question is there nothing Labour can do to get the voters of Rotherham to stop voting for Labour?

    The simple answer is that the people of Rotherham love their welfare more than they love their children. This is the end game in depravity that the welfare state is heading to. The most important thing in many people’s lives is their welfare payment. Dalrymple has written extensively on how these welfare dependants view these hand outs as pay, as if they earned the money honestly.

    If money is the root of all evil, unrestrained welfare is the route to total social collapse. Even the most modest reductions attract a level of vitriol that is completely over the top.

  10. Myrddin Seren

    Let’s not forget the revealing words of one of the most high-profile Common Purpose exports from the UK, parachuted in here via the Labor/Labour Mates refugee category – doubtless like the Rotherham child endangerment woman in Victoria:

    Hamish McSporran aka John McTernan aka Gillard’s Muse:

    @johnmcternan: Not bizarre. Perfectly progressive to oppose a bourgeois institution like marraiage (sic).

    NB note, he did not say – ‘not for me thanks, but okay for thee’.

    The progressive position is to oppose marriage as an institution. Which might as well say ‘oppose the family as a bourgeois institution’

    Rotherham and the destruction of the likely future of literally hundreds of girls is thus not a bug but a feature of the progressive system.

  11. Gab

    The progressive position is to oppose marriage as an institution.

    Except when it comes to garriage.

  12. Eyrie

    Anyone see the program on the ABC last night where quite a few welfare bogans were interviewed complaining about the Basics card? All whinging about how they were being told how they could spend “their” money.
    Talk about the entitlement society! Yep, they’ll do anything to keep the welfare flowing. We’re fucked.

  13. goatjam

    “Except when it comes to garriage.”

    The push for “garriage” is merely a Trojan horse that can be used to destroy the institution of traditional marriage.

    Leftists (and gays) couldn’t care less about “gay marriage” outside of that aim.

  14. manalive

    Since the tread has already been sidetracked I may as well put in my two cents worth.
    The ‘gay marriage’ debate is about what the state recognises as a union of two people, call that union whatever you like.
    It’s not about the literal meaning of the word “marriage”, it’s about equity before the law.
    I think, for what it’s worth, that the state should butt out of the “marriage” business altogether.
    The Catholic Church, for instance, can refuse to marry homosexuals just as it refuses to marry divorce people.
    The notion of ‘Julian and Sandy’ as part of a sinister Leftist plot is ridiculous.

  15. Squirrel

    “….in the current year the government will borrow only one in six of the pounds it spends instead of one in five, as it did last year…. ” That is truly awful. It makes our problems look modest, by comparison, but also underlines the need to act before we go too far down the same path.

  16. JohnA

    John Comnenus #1435735, posted on September 1, 2014 at 5:30 pm

    If money is the root of all evil, unrestrained welfare is the route to total social collapse.

    If the love of money is the root of all evil, unrestrained welfare is the route to total social collapse.

    FTFY – now it’s a logical argument

  17. JohnA

    manalive #1435860, posted on September 1, 2014 at 7:33 pm

    Since the tread has already been sidetracked I may as well put in my two cents worth.
    The ‘gay marriage’ debate is about what the state recognises as a union of two people, call that union whatever you like.
    It’s not about the literal meaning of the word “marriage”, it’s about equity before the law.
    I think, for what it’s worth, that the state should butt out of the “marriage” business altogether.

    Now that’s the problem: equity before the law is gay activist code for pulling down the special reserved word “marriage” and unravelling the actual institution, not merely debating the legal structure of the family.

    Equity before the law is already in place.

    You may argue that repealing the Marriage Act would be akin to repealing the law of gravity – a useless gesture without any effect. But I would suggest that the consequence of actually undoing the law of gravity (as opposed to merely debating it in a theoretical way) is exceedingly grave…it would be the end of the world as we know it.

    Analagously, abandoning “marraiage” as an institution would be the end of civilization as we know it. The gay activist lobby is hell-bent on implementing its agenda, but does not know that it is playing with fire.

  18. .

    How in christ’s name do some people bring up gay marriage and Rotherham in this instance?

    Please stop injecting your own monomaniacal agendas into any debate that pops up.

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