Steve Horwitz writes in The Freeman about whether or not the term “capitalism” is outdated and should be replaced with something else. The articles are here and here. This is related to an earlier post I made on the insufficiency of our terminology when discussing economic and political issues in particular.
This is an issue that I find very fascinating because terminology can so often be misused, and often the misuse is intentional to further a political agenda (see the book 1984 for a classic example on how the government intentionally abused the language to further its goals). Take the concept of “network neutrality”. Sounds hard to oppose, right? Keep our content distribution networks “neutral” so certain content providers don’t have an unfair advantage over others. I wasn’t really sure what to think about net neutrality until I read an article (can’t remember what the source was but it was similar to this article from the Tech Liberation Front) arguing that the proposed rules for net neutrality were essentially price controls.
The price and wage controls that were imposed by Nixon in the 1970s to try to combat inflation are now widely seen as a failure, so the term “price controls” now carries a mostly negative connotation. Similar to the net neutrality proposal, the pending health care legislation that is being debated in the House and Senate contains all kinds of price controls, including (as one tiny but illustrative example) the ridiculous amendment forcing health insurance providers to make mammograms available in health insurance plans “free”. So why don’t we refer to the pending legislation as the health care “price control” bill, instead of the “health care reform” bill?