Monday, January 07, 2008


In the paper the other day I saw a picture of Barak Obama with his campaign slogan on the podium in front of him. It was also plastered all over supporter's signs behind him. It said:

Change We Can Believe In
I hate to state the obvious, but that doesn't mean anything. Worse, it means nothing on purpose.

The candidates and pudits alike are all talking about "change" as if it means something. Something even semi-specific.

It means whatever the listener wants it to mean. That's why they use it. It's calculated ambiguity. Triangulation. Whatever you want to call it.

I'll throw out a simple example. Suppose a gun-banner hears the word "Change" and thinks there ought to be no guns in the hands of private citizens. There are guns in the hands of private citizens. So further restriction of the right to bear arms would be "Change". And suppose your average NRA member who is for less restrictive laws hears the word "Change". There are some very restrictive laws on the books about how and where you can buy a gun and where you can carry one and where you can't, and what you have to do to carry one where it can't be seen even if you're carrying one where you're allowed to carry one. Relaxation or repeal of some of these laws would be "Change" to the NRA member.

In this case, the politician asks "Do you want 'Change'? Are you for 'Change'?". And both people say "yes!". But they want opposite things. There is no better example of a meaningless question than one in which the same answer can have directly opposing meanings. Any answer to a meaningless question is likewise meaningless.

It's like the question "Do you think the country is headed in the right direction?" The question means nothing. It's far too vague. The same gun-control example I used above applies, and it can apply to almost any issue. More than that, neither one talks about any specific issue, so any answer could apply to anything. One person might think the question refers to culture. Say I don't like the trend toward shock celebrities and reality TV, but I'm supportive of the Iraq war. So I say, "No, the country is not headed in the right direction." And someone else who likes Brittany Spears and whatever that horrible new game/reality show ... "Nothing But the Truth" -- but is also strongly anti-war might say "No, the country is not headed in the right direction."

Protectionism, social policy, fiscal policy... there's something for anyone to answer that they don't like and want changed. A campaign slogan of "Change" allows anyone to hang their aspirations on that candidate.

Anyone who votes for a candidate based on the fact that he/she promises "Change" ... shouldn't be voting. Make 'em say where they stand on the important issues and decide whether or not you agree with their philosophy.

"Change" isn't a philosophy. It's certainly not something to govern by.

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