Thursday, November 27, 2014

Political Platitudes

Platitude: Noun . 1. a flat, dull, or trite remark, especially one uttered as if it were fresh or profound. 2. the quality or state of being flat, dull, or trite: the platitude of most political oratory. (1)

When listening to rhetoric of politicos of all stripes and their ilk, bureaucrats, and special interest groups one needs to be aware of and identify platitudes within the rhetoric. Platitudes are the tools of the political class and its associates.

“A good way to test if someone is speaking in platitudes is to ask yourself if you can imagine a normal human adult believing the opposite.

Suppose someone informs you that he favors policies that promote human happiness. Can you imagine, say, your neighbor responding, “I disagree. I favor policies that promote human misery”? Probably not.

If you cannot imagine any normal person disagreeing with some proclamation, then that proclamation is a platitude. It tells you nothing of substance.

Consider today's fashionable calls for “sustainability.” The academy, media, cyberspace are full of people proclaiming support for policies that promote economic and environmental “sustainability.” So whenever you hear such proclamations, ask if you can envision a sane adult sincerely disagreeing.

You'll discover, of course, that you can't imagine anyone seriously supporting “unsustainability.” Therefore, you should conclude that mere expressions of support for “sustainability” are empty. And they can be downright harmful if they mislead people into supporting counterproductive government policies.” (2)

Some oft used platitudes favored by politicos and there associates are: favoring the creation of jobs, favoring a strong middle class, favoring less crime, favoring more education, add your favorite political platitude here à _________ .

Moreover, the deployment of political platitudes is not without stratagem. One might identify the stratagem as political slight of hand. How so?

The politico begins with the political platitude knowing the audience is in agreement with such platitude as disagreement is nearly impossible. Hence the politico has one’s agreement e.g. more jobs. Now comes “how”.

Yes, now comes the particular notional proposition of creating “more jobs”. As poorly thought out as the notional proposition might be, how can one be against such proposition as one agrees with “more jobs” i.e. the platitude.

Therefore, if one disagrees with the “how” (particular notional proposition) then one is attacked based on the platitude: “So you are against more jobs.”

The politico, bureaucrat, and special interest group will deflect opposition to the platitude, rather than an examination of the “how”.

Which then brings us to the public choice theory observation: platitudes are a poor basis for public policy.



(2) Unsustainable platitudes, D.J. Boudreaux, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 08/12/2014