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The Recovering Economy: Euphemism for Depression

Looking at the New York Times headlines this morning, Recovery Slows With Weak Job Creation in June and Recovery is Losing Steam, I’m finally beginning to understand the strange change of language that has occurred in the last 18 months or so. The word recovery is a euphemism of some sort. It actually means a depression.

This is not difficult to understand actually. Think of how we label poor countries. They used to be part of the “Third World.” Now that term is considered impolite or something. Then it was the “less developed” countries. Then one day that was no longer suitable. They were renamed “developing countries.” Soon someone will realize that this is patronizing too because it implies that the only hope is for “them” to be like “us.”

Something similar has happened to the way we refer to the downturn after the boom. It used to be a “panic” (19th century). Then, as Rothbard noted, the term changed to “depression” since that sounds less alarming. But after the New Deal failed to fix that problem and actually prolonged it for 10 years, the word depression had to go. After WW2, it was changed to become a mere “recession.” Now it seems that this term is no longer suitable. We must call the economy in downturn a “recovering economy” or simply “the recovery” for short.

Think of it this way and the business page headlines for the last 18 months begin to make some sense. In this way, we can abolish the business cycle merely by changing the words we use. Macroeconomic planning then becomes very easy. Instead of seeking results, we need merely to change our language.


Contact Jeffrey A. Tucker

Jeffrey A. Tucker is the founder of the Brownstone Institute and an independent editorial consultant.

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