O Death, Where Is Your Stimulus?

We’re hearing a lot of talk about “stimulus” these days.

The word seems to serve as a bureaucratic euphemism for “bailout” or “throwing money at the problem” based on the discredited Keynesian/Marxist theory that prosperity can flow from debt in, with, and under the “divine” word of government. This approach is to economic policy what the adage “beatings will continue until morale improves” is to corporate culture.

The word “stimulus” is itself interesting. It’s a Latin word, and it jumps out of the page in reading St. Paul’s famous passage of comfort used in Christian funerals, 1 Cor 15:55: “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The word translated “sting” in English was previously rendered “stimulus” in the older Latin Vulgate translation: “Ubi est mors victória tua? Ubi est mors stímulus tuus?”

In other words, “O death, where is your stimulus?

St. Paul continues in the next verse: “The sting (stimulus) of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.”

At least in the context of Holy Scripture, the ancient Latin word “stimulus” takes on a different context than it does for those who believe government has the power to turn water into wine, paper into gold, or debt into wealth.

Interestingly, St. Paul also uses the word “stimulus” in 2 Cor 12:7: “So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn (“stimulus”) was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.”

Obviously, these passages of Scripture have nothing to do with modern-day American economic policy. But it is interesting that the word used by the politicians in place of the more crass “bailout” or the more accurate “throwing money at the problem” is the Latin word that often, in the Biblical sense, denotes the infliction of pain associated with death, suffering, and Satan; and which according to the Lewis and Short dictionary frequently means “a goad” or “that which vexes, irritates, torments.”

Indeed, the “stimuli” will continue until the economy improves.

January 26, 2009