Code Words and Dog Whistle Economics

Here are a few code words that you will often see in economic writing followed by their true meaning. The code word is a dog whistle. It acts like an emotional marker only for those attuned to the underlying ‘moral’ issues inferred by the code. While you may agree with the logical framework behind the code word, the purpose in using the code is to influence emotion instead of logic. When I talk about ‘economics as a morality play’ this is what I am referring to.

Politics is not the only place where you will hear dog whistles.

The code is in parentheses.

  • PIGS/PIIGS = the eurozone periphery aka Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain and sometimes including Ireland (who are shameful debtors too lazy to work hard to actually pay for the things they buy, looking to free-ride on the euro zone)
  • Technocrat = unelected (and therefore illegitimate) policy maker (from elite institutions isolated from the mainstream and middle classes)
  • Big Government = activist government policy (used to increase the size and scope of government to redistribute wealth illegitimately by government confiscation)
  • Bankster = high level financial services executive (who acts like a mob-boss Gangster in ripping off ordinary folks as used by libertarian Murray Rothbard in Right Wing Populism in 1992 but now used more widely)
  • Anschluss economics = economic power play (usually by Germany, harkening back to the Third Reich and the German attempt to dominate Europe militarily)
  • Hippie = (unreasonable and dangerous) Occupy Wall Street protester
  • Deficit terrorist = someone who sees fiscal deficit as a negative aka a deficit hawk (who acts like a terrorist in forcing pro-cyclical cuts that disproportionately affect the poor, middle and working classes)
  • Trickle down economics = supply-side economics that reduces regulation and lowers income taxes and capital gains taxes (in order to give kleptocrats a free hand in stealing legally)
  • Oligarchs = Bankers and corporations (who act as unelected policy makers, pushing policies that favour themselves through their lobbying of government)

All of these terms are morality plays used to influence emotion rather than speak from a voice of reason. Whenever you see them, you should ALWAYS be suspicious regardless of context or source.

I will update this list over time as I think of more words. So refer back to it.

P.S. – I try to avoid these words. But they are insidious. Sometimes they creep in.

This post originally appeared at Credit Writedowns and is posted with permission.