Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Political ambiguity

According to the Associated Press, “Wall Street turmoil underscores the need to overhaul ‘the outdated and ineffective patchwork quilt of regulatory oversight in Washington,’ Republican presidential contender John McCain said Monday.”

Given McCain’s staunch support for deregulation of markets over the last decades, the question arises as to what sort of overhaul he has in mind. Those in favor of greater regulatory control can see “overhaul” or “reform” as meaning changes to bring about more and better regulation. Those opposed to any regulatory control can see “overhaul” or “reform” to mean abolition of all regulation.

On the face of it, the statement can mean either. This is certainly an efficient way to tell everyone what they want to hear. It’s a technique writers interested in clarity should not emulate.

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