I’ve been privately, consistently, annoyed with one of our main-stream news outlets for their section on ‘economics’. My reason? They don’t call the section ‘economics‘, they call it ‘business‘. Readers may believe there’s no real difference between the two. But there is, and it matters – a lot.
Take ‘trees’ as example. If you want to share questions, ideas, and information on all trees (of a region, of the world), you mislead if you speak only of conifers. You guide, restrict, “funnel” all thoughts to only one tree ‘set’ out of a wide range of possible trees. If you mean to write or talk about all trees rather than only one type, your language must match your intent.
If you want to share questions, ideas, and information on the economy generally, (of any locale, or global), you ‘funnel’, restrict, all thoughts if you describe your topic as ‘business”’.
In fact, use of ‘business’ when the topic is ‘economy’ is worse than ‘mistaken misleading. Our speech reveals our ‘paradigm’. That ‘business’ has such common and wide-spread use, by major news outlets, on issues in the economy, is a quiet, but somewhat stunning, clue of what we believe true of ‘the economy’. Our language suggests our overwhelming ‘belief’ about ‘the economy”. We appear to believe economic health is entirely a function of running companies and watching bottom lines.
Our informal and widely accepted meaning of ‘business’ causes focus on bottom line, cost/profit, planning and management. Employee realities, concerns, and personal work-satisfaction are seldom included. Also excluded are household realities and concerns. (See notes on include/exclude near end of this piece.)
It appears perspectives and experience of employees and households are practically never reported or reviewed because these elements of a successful economy are ‘second level’ in ‘business’. As second-level, they are thought to benefit from ‘trickle-down business success’. If employees are mentioned in relation to ‘business’, they have the status of ‘non-persons’. They are treated as objects of manipulation. The perspective and interest is of management. (“How do we keep them content?”, “How do we sell them more?”) Ignoring employees and household concerns – because our paradigm is restricted to business concerns, can scarcely be considered an overview of society’s economic realities.
I’ve broadened my perusal of news outlets on this matter. I’ve discovered the use of ‘business’, as if it represents qualities of ‘economy’, is wide-spread!
Word choice is either habitual or intentional. I suspect our lazy use of ‘business’ to mean ‘economy’ is habitual*. It’s also an example of complete lack of critical thinking – a skill that includes awareness of words, concepts, and categories. Critical, systematic, thinking includes noticing what does/does not belong within a group. It includes ‘structuring’ information – recognizing the more particular (‘business’ in this case) and the more general (‘economy’).
No wonder our President primarily seeks ‘instructive input’ on ‘economic’ issues, from ‘corporate and business leaders’! So does everyone else who’s presumably got lots of academic training, skill, and ‘leadership’!!
‘Economy’ opens discussion possibilities to include workers, household conditions, and much more. It’s INclusive.
Inclusion is another word that genuinely matters. If we’re to give intelligent, creative, problem-solving thought to the many issues facing all humanity and all life, inclusion is a vital guiding concept. If we exclude ‘earth-care’ we lose; if we leave out ‘compassion’ we lose. The list continues: If we exclude ‘equitable distribution of resources’, and ‘equitable access to affordable housing, food, water education and health care, we lose. (You and I may not have time to experience how deep these losses might be – our proverbial ‘grandchildren’ certainly will!)
This list of considerations we exclude at our peril belongs in, should be included in, any broad discussion of ‘economy’. When we restrict our ‘problem solving’ to ‘business’, we exclude practically all serious consideration of real life experience. (Except, as said, we show willingness to include if we can think of a way to manage, manipulate, for dollar profit.)
One final mention of ‘inclusion’ – Find a people’s demonstration of rejecting ‘exclusion’, in favor of including ‘realities of all humanity’, linked here.
I confess to language use inadequacies myself – as said above, habits develop, and become our practice. I know better than to claim perfection as ‘proof’ of my ‘authority’. Because structuring our economy in such a way that real humans are served in real ways – in terms of needs met, and in terms of opportunities to develop skills and talents – I think use of ‘business’ to mean ‘economy’ is a pretty serious mistake.
*(‘Habitual‘ : Keep in mind – repetition of words and phrases feeds ‘habit’, and words and phrases shape thought. Habitual word use shapes habitual, uncritical, thinking. “You think what you speak/hear and vice-versa.”)