If the Government Does X, It Is Called Y

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Recently by Robert Higgs: Notes
on Bernanke's Apologia for QE2



Young people
and foreigners who are unfamiliar with the conduct of public affairs
in the United States sometimes have difficulty in decoding the
rhetoric used to describe government actions in this country.
As a public service to such political novices, I have drawn up
a brief guide whose entries match a particular government action,
objective, or condition with the terms commonly used to describe
it in the news media and in polite conversation. Simply apply
the rule: If the government does X, it is called Y.

X = extortion;
Y = taxation

X = robbery;
Y = taxation

X = unjust
(and often pointless or destructive) compulsion of innocent persons;
Y = regulation

X = kidnapping;
Y = imprisonment of persons convicted of [victimless] crimes

X = torture;
Y = enhanced interrogation techniques

X = imperialism;
Y = global peacekeeping operations

X = spying
on citizens without cause; Y = homeland security operations

X = sexually
assaulting and battering airline passengers – men, women,
and children alike; Y = airline security operations

X = herding,
stripping, and irradiating airline passengers – men, women,
and children alike; Y = airline security operations

X = accepting
bribes; Y = accepting campaign contributions

X = propagandizing
the general public; Y = holding official press conferences

X = indoctrination
in servility and loyalty to the state; Y = public education

X = savage,
pointless massacre of foreigners; Y = national defense

X = unjust
enrichment of private individuals and corporations; Y = subsidies

X = beating,
tasing, and shooting innocuous persons; Y = making arrests

X = debasement
of the currency; Y = quantitative easing

X = fostering
systemic economic booms and busts; Y = monetary policy

X = fostering
systemic economic booms and busts; Y = fiscal policy

X = wasting
and destroying natural resources; Y = implementing conservation

X = suppressing
liberties on unjust and baseless grounds; Y = implementing environmental

X = serving
the interests of the Israeli state; Y = carrying out Middle East

X = maintaining
a police state; Y = maintaining law and order, public health,
and national security

X = lying
about everything of consequence; Y = keeping the public informed

X = robbing
productive Peter to pay unproductive Paul; Y = maintaining the
safety net

X = murderous,
blundering, destructive global intervention; Y = U.S. foreign

X = suffering
blowback; Y = being attacked because foreigners hate us for our

X = unjustly
enriching Goldman Sachs et alia; Y = preventing another Great

X = deferring
and worsening the inevitable day of reckoning; Y = stabilizing
financial and housing markets

X = rigging
the game to ensue the reelection of incumbent members of Congress;
Y = democracy in action

X = bribing
or intimidating foreign governments to assist big multinational
corporations; Y = U.S. foreign policy

X = gratifying
one’s megalomania and feathering one’s nest at public
expense; Y = public service

X = war;
Y = peace

X = slavery;
Y = freedom

X = ignorance;
Y = strength

from the Independent

29, 2010

Higgs [send him mail] is
senior fellow in political economy at the Independent
and editor of The
Independent Review
. He
is also a columnist for LewRockwell.com. His
most recent book is Neither
Liberty Nor Safety: Fear, Ideology, and the Growth of Government
He is also the author of Depression,
War, and Cold War: Studies in Political Economy
, Resurgence
of the Warfare State: The Crisis Since 9/11
and Against
Leviathan: Government Power and a Free Society

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