Monday, March 16, 2009

Bullshit baffles brains

In an article bemoaning the inability of British politicians to express themselves clearly in understandable English, Catherine Bennett gives Harriet Harman a partial pass for her feats of clarity over the draft Coroner Reform Bill, although she then goes on to criticise her for this less than clear expostulation on the efficacy of quantitative easing:

"In respect of quantitative easing, the monetary policy committee has introduced up to £75bn extra that will be put in the economy"

Catherine Bennett is unhappy with this:

Given Harriet's commitment to simple speech, as well as the airy way in which she made this incomprehensible announcement, it's possible she thinks quantitative easing is so commonplace an expression that any explanation would be an insult to the intelligence of ordinary people. Unlike the legal language in her coroners bill, whose translation, unfortunately, almost no ordinary people ever appreciated because the bill was all about tinkering with the legal system and therefore of interest only to lawyers.

I have a rather simpler explanation.  For all that it becomes ever harder to believe, Harriet Harman was a solicitor – that is a qualified legal professional.  The rather peculiar nature of legal language is something she jolly well ought to understand – and even know how to translate for the laity.  She is not, however, an economist.  Her failure to explain quantitative easing in simple language stems from her failure to understand quantitative easing.  Jargon is almost always used as a shield to prevent the listener from realising that you’re talking rubbish.  Nowhere is this more true than among politicians.

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