Words that replace thought

If there is ever a contest for words that substitute for thought, “diversity” should be recognized as the undisputed world champion.
You don’t need a speck of evidence, or a single step of logic, when you rhapsodize about the supposed benefits of diversity. The very idea of testing this wonderful, magical word against something as ugly as reality seems almost sordid.

To ask whether institutions that promote diversity 24/7 end up with better or worse relations between the races than institutions that pay no attention to it is only to get yourself regarded as a bad person. To cite hard evidence that places obsessed with diversity have worse race relations is to risk getting yourself labeled an incorrigible racist. Free thinking is not free.

The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that the government has a “compelling interest” in promoting diversity — apparently more compelling than the 14th Amendment’s requirement of “equal protection” of the law for everybody.

Among the candidates for runner-up to “diversity” as the top word for making thought obsolete is “fair.”
Apparently everyone is entitled to a “fair share” of a society’s prosperity, whether they worked 16-hour days to help create that prosperity or did nothing more than live off the taxpayers or depend on begging or crime to bring in a few bucks.

At the other end of the income scale, the rich are supposed to pay their “fair share” of taxes. But at neither end of the income scale is a “fair share” defined as a particular number or proportion, or in any other concrete way. It is just a political synonym for “more,” dressed up in moralistic-sounding rhetoric. What “fair” really means is more arbitrary power for government.

Another word that shuts down thought is “access.” People who fail to meet the standards for anything from college admission to a mortgage loan are often said to have been denied “access” or opportunity.

But equal access or equal opportunity is not the same as equal probability of success.

Republicans are not denied an equal opportunity to vote in California, even though the chances of a Republican candidate actually getting elected in California are far less than the chances of a Democrat getting elected.

“Affordable” is another popular word that serves as a substitute for thought. To say that everyone is entitled to “affordable housing” is very different from saying that everyone should decide what kind of housing he or she can afford.

Words that stop people from thinking reduce even smart people to the same level as morons.

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.


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