An interesting story on a new dictionary that is a hot seller in Europe.
[quote]Defining Capitalism Up
George Orwell: Clear language leads to clear thinking.
Friday, October 28, 2005 12:01 a.m. EDT
In his 1946 essay “Politics and the English Language,” George Orwell famously lamented that our language “becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.” He was writing about his native tongue, but today a group of young free-marketeers in Central and Eastern Europe have discovered the same thing–discussions of economics in their countries are being poisoned by a vocabulary inherited from their communist past.
Ruta Vainiene, a young former central banker in Lithuania, has decided to do something about it. Last month, she published her plainly titled “Dictionary of Economics.” The response, both in Lithuania and elsewhere in Europe, has been striking. Since its release, the Dictionary has been the No. 2 nonfiction best seller in her native country. And plans are now afoot to translate the book into local-language editions in a number of other countries. Think tanks around Europe are supporting the effort, having seen the necessity of cleaning up economic language and thought that, a decade and a half after the collapse of the Soviet empire, remains infected by history.
“The dictionary was my response to the market need to educate journalists and students about economic jargon that seemed very frightening to them,” Ms. Vainiene said in a phone interview. “It explains the concepts in simple words. But also”–and this is crucial–“explains them correctly.”
The book notes, for example, that “social ‘justice’ is always related to the unjust redistribution of wealth, and ‘fair competition’ is almost always related to unfair government intervention in the economy.” In other words, Ms. Vainiene is trying to educate but also to eradicate the misleading and contradictory doublespeak that infects much economic language, especially as it is used in Europe.
Though Ms. Vainiene intended the book for her own countrymen, she has discovered a much wider interest in her project. The Dictionary is currently being translated into an English “master edition,” which will in turn be translated by think tanks in Europe into other local languages.
Krassen Stanchev, the executive director of the Institute for Market Economics in Bulgaria, is spearheading the effort in his country. “There is a need for a fresh view,” Mr. Stanchev says. “Outside of academia,” which is dominated by the old guard in Bulgaria, “there are three or four think tanks that are trying to offer basic economic information,” but they are stymied by an economic establishment that is loath to change the old ways of thinking.
The prevailing economic cant in Europe is arguably more destructive there than in the U.S. As Ann Mettler of the Lisbon Council, a Brussels-based think tank, has observed, Europe’s social “inclusion” excludes some 40 million people from the work force by driving up the cost of labor on the Continent. But here too one can see signs of the rot that Orwell warned against and Ms. Vainiene is trying to fight. Think of “affirmative action,” which attempts to correct discrimination against one group by shifting it to another. As Orwell put it 59 years ago: “To think clearly is a necessary first step toward political regeneration.”
As it is a register site, I posted the article in its entirety.