Merriam-Webster’s List of Most Looked-up Words in 2011
- pragmatic (meaning: practical as opposed to idealistic)
- ambivalence (meaning: simultaneous and contradictory attitudes or feelings toward an object, person, or action; a continual fluctuation as between one thing and its opposite)
- insidious (meaning: awaiting a chance to entrap; harmful but enticing; having a gradual and cumulative effect)
- didactic (meaning: designed or intended to teach; intended to convey instruction and information as well as pleasure and entertainment; making moral observations
- austerity (meaning: the quality or state of being austere which means stern and cold in appearance or manner)
- diversity (meaning: the condition of having or being composed of differing elements)
- capitalism (meaning: an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods)
- socialism (meaning: any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership)
- vitriol (meaning: a sulfate of any of various metals)
- apres moi le deluge (meaning: a French phrase which is literally translated to mean “after me, the deluge”)
These words tell us a lot about the human condition in the year 2011, don’t they? We try to be pragmatic about our economic woes, but Americans are definitely ambivalent about what government programs need to be cut or reduced in order to improve the situation. While Congress does nothing, the insidious decline of the American way of life continues, with corresponding disastrous effects on the rest of the world.
Didactic speeches are given by politicians, radio talk show hosts, and anyone else who can find a soap box on which to stand. Many preach austerity, but austerity measures are highly unpopular in the world today. We don’t want to cut back on spending. We don’t want to make do with less.
Perhaps the answer to our economic distress is to diversify our economy. Instead of relying on government to solve the crisis, we can invest in small businesses and try to stimulate the economy by providing a climate in which workers and businesses can thrive. With the cultural diversity in the United States, there are many people who “think outside the box.” We need them to be creative and innovative.
The United States was founded on the principles of capitalism. It was thought that anyone who worked hard could be financially successful here. Entrepreneurs found businesses that provide jobs and improve our way of life. Where would we be today without Henry Ford, Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, and Bill Gates? It was the importance placed on capitalism by our founding fathers that has allowed the United States to build the number one economy in the world.
Socialism, however, relies heavily on government ownership of businesses. Many countries around the world rely solely on their governments for such things as health care, transportation, and education. The United States unhappily appears to be moving in this direction. I’ll spare you a vitriolic rant on the subject; my blood pressure doesn’t need to be any higher. I suppose I would feel better if I just said après moi le deluge and dismissed the whole topic. My children and grandchildren can clean up the mess.