Tuesday, October 11, 2011

On Naming and Truth

There's a great fable about a Chinese Emperor who was having problems with a particular river that kept flooding. The river was named "The Wild One." In order to combat the flooding problem, the Emperor had a most novel idea: he would rename the river "The Quiet One."

In the traditions of Chinese philosophy, this technique is a perversion of the Confucian doctrine, the Rectification of Names. Essentially, Confucius argued that it was of vital importance that names were "correct," that they carried the truth of what something was, when they were descriptive in any way (proper names obviously do not fit this bill). Thus, of a mountain were to be named "Long Mountain," it really should be long. And if an office were to be called "the office of bridge building," the office-holder really should be concerned with building bridges. Simply stuff, right?

The name-changing Chinese Emperor sought to "rectify" the thing, itself, by changing its name (instead of the other way around), a name that was properly descriptive.

Did it work? Of course not. The river's flooding was as bad as ever. Of course, we might speculate that travelers--looking at a map with a river called "the Quiet One" on it--felt more at ease during their journey...right up until the point that they drowned in a flash flood.

This evening, the US Senate is poised to consider The American Jobs Act, Obama's much-ballyhooed piece of legislation that will supposedly "fix" the unemployment problem, via some taxes on the rich, some tax breaks on companies, some government spending, and some more extensions of unemployment benefits.

Obama says "it's gut check time" for the Senate. Mitch McConnell responds with the obvious rejoinder:
The President’s been calling for this vote for weeks; and in my view, we can’t have it soon enough. By proposing a second stimulus, Democrats are showing the American people that they have no new ideas for dealing with our jobs crisis. Today’s vote is conclusive proof that Democrats’ sole proposal is to keep doing what hasn’t worked — along with a massive tax hike that we know won’t create jobs.
And that's exactly right, in my opinion. It's the same old song and dance. Last time, it was a near-trillion dollar spending spree that didn't solve anything, other than the dearth of public Frisbee golf courses in some parts of the country. This time, it's only half that much, plus a special tax on "millionaires," apparently.

Calling the bill the "American Jobs Act" doesn't mean it will create jobs. Every Chinese schoolboy knows that.

Cheers, all.

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