Language is the most powerful tool we have to expose and undermine Big Government. It is also the most powerful tool Big Government has to crush Small Business.
Over the last few weeks Congress and the Administration have been trying to call government takeover of health insurance and health care “competition”. They have hijacked words and are using them in completely new ways to try and trick people into believing they are selling something they’re not.
The expansionist and interventionist nature of Big Government means that it always has as its goal to set up Monopsonies (single payer systems in which they control the production of goods and services) or Monopolies (single provider systems in which they control the provision of goods and services). They try to do it in the name of “competition” as if they actually plan on competing fairly (if at all) with the private businesses and charities they’re trying to muscle out of a market.
Battles against Big Government are often won or lost over whether or not we are willing to concede the actual terms of the argument to Big Government, or whether we’ll refuse to conduct the argument with Big Government’s terms. Below are a few examples of how we can change the terms and, therefore, how people feel about Big Government’s activities.
“Revenue” vs. “Confiscation”
Here’s a glaring example. Big Government calls taxation by the name of “Revenue”. The agency in charge of collecting taxes is even called the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
Set aside whether or not it’s technically correct or not or has become such through use of the word for a long time, “revenue” is a business word. That’s our word. That’s the word for sales – the free market exchange of goods and services between voluntary parties who are both made better off by the trade. Revenue is something freely given for something of value freely received. Taxation is coercion and wealth confiscation by force.
At the very least, we should refuse to grant taxation legitimacy by calling it that. Moreover, revenue is a “positive” word that government has hijacked. When our goal is to reduce the size and intervention of Big Government, why would we ever concede to use words that might grant Big Government any semblance of legitimacy?
While taxation is an OK word to use when talking about the means through which Big Government finances itself, it is one that has become desensitized and still does not make strongly enough the central point that it is coercive.
So we propose to use the word “confiscation” instead. When discussing our opinions with friends, family, employees and co-workers, we would say, “I think government confiscates too much,” or “Government confiscated 10% more of our private property this year than they did last year.”
“Earnings” vs. “Private Property”
Notice that in the statement above we used the word “private property” instead of “earnings.”
“Earnings” actually should be a pretty good word to use because it implies that what is taken from people is something they’ve earned, or labored for, but this word has also been used for so long that people have become desensitized to it.
How about talking about confiscation in terms of “private property“?
Also, how about talking about the confiscation of private property in terms of “productive people” or the “productive sector” funding the “unproductive people” or “unproductive sector”? Big Government, after all, merely redistributes the confiscated property of productive people, so let’s call it what it is.
“Welfare” vs. “Dependency Programs”
We talk about Government “Welfare” programs in language that implies they help others “fare” more “well”. We even use terms such as “Charity” or “Entitlement” to talk about these Big Government Programs. While it is true that some of these programs can provide temporary relief to those in need, the full truth is that they often create permanent dependencies and reward dependents for inactivity and bad behavior.
Furthermore, private charities (which have to compete for donations) are far more efficient at helping those in need and suffer when Big Government confiscates more private property to itself, rather than allowing those resources to be employed by the more efficient and accountable charitable organizations.
So, instead of calling these programs “welfare programs,” we can call them by the more accurate terms, “Government dependency programs” or “Government handout programs.”
Then we could say things like, “Government dependency programs confiscated 10% more private property from the productive sector” or “Government handout programs saw their rolls grow by 5% in the last quarter.”
That helps others see the truth about Big Government.
Big Government not only uses words to justify its big programs, but it also selects words that can be used to silence dissent and opposition to the programs. Think about the “Patriot Act.” It has nothing to do with being a patriot, but by using that name anyone who opposes the act it can be labeled “not a patriot.” Cunning. If you oppose “No Child Left Behind” you can be labeled as someone who does not support helping children succeed. Think about the Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement and Modernization Act. Nothing was improved or modernized so much as spending was drastically increased – the biggest Government Dependency Program expansion in decades. But if you didn’t support it you were labeled as one who didn’t want to improve and modernize Medicare, and therefore were against the well-being of the elderly.
And that’s why it’s important to do our best to not conduct the debate in the terms Big Government tries to force upon us.
Our movement must use the terms we choose, words that expose Big Government for what is really is, helping others to see clearly the forces that impinge upon their freedoms. As we do so, we’ll help undermine the legitimacy of Big Government and we’ll counteract its efforts to hijack and change the plain meaning of our language and then use it against us.
We would love to hear your thoughts about what to call various government agencies and practices in order to more accurately show what they really are. For example, IRS “audits” are really . . . what?
In the comments below, please provide your ideas for how we can use language to expose Big Government for what it really is. Also, if you’re aware of other resources on the web that have attempted or are working on this project, please provide links to them below.