Monday, February 22, 2010

"Guvmint" and the Bogeyman

A quick thought:

As I've noted before, the big problem for voters these days is manipulation by metonymy - that is substituting a term for that which it is closely associated. For example, "Bush invaded Iraq" or "The White House said .."

The biggest metonymic bogey-man is "the government." That is an abstraction. People can't or shouldn't complain about or be mad at or blame "the government." They can criticize a law or a congressman or a president or even a ruling and action by an agency. "The guvmint" can't and doesn't do anything. People do.

But, as I've noted with the budget initiatives in Colorado, interest groups have manipulated voters into enigmatic criticism of "the government." That is integral to the problems we have in American society. Voters in Colorado vote to restrict taxes and spending based on some "ambiguous" ideal that "government is too big" and government spends too much" when the voters are unaware of congressman granting the very expectations of their constituents.

"Government" didn't do it. Voters and their elected representatives did. Don't criticize "too much spending" - pick a specific expenditure. Don't criticize the "government" - pick a specific agency or act or bill or congressman.

Just saying.