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Eurospeak – when words are abused and meanings are distorted

In News on March 8, 2012 at 5:52 pm

For the past two years, the overwhelming majority of the Greek politicians have been using a list of expressions to describe the Greek debt crisis and to support their proposed solutions, i.e. austerity measures and neoliberal policies in exchange for European bail-outs. The new language “Eurospeak” has been promoted by the Greek media and enjoys the support of European institutions and politicians.

This is a dictionary to help us understand the new language:

Euro

Former meaning: a common currency adopted by European countries first as an accounting currency in 1999, then in physical form in 2002. Its inception can be traced back to other forms of currency cooperation in the 1970s between members of the then European Community. Its rebirth in the beginning of the 1990s was partly triggered by a fear of a strong Germany, which was unified in 1990. The euro was a political project, dressed in economic terms and many economists at the time argued that it may not be a good idea for two reasons: First, because the European economies were too divergent and in different phases in the economic cycle to be synchronized (with the euro, a common monetary policy is to be followed for all countries). Second, because a common European currency cannot be sustained for long if there is not a common fiscal policy to complement the common monetary policy.

New meaning: Financial stability and social justice

(Remaining in the) Eurozone

Old meaning: DATA NOT FOUND

The issue was never examined. When placed on the agenda, it is recommended that a sober discussion take place on the advantages and disadvantages for a country with an unsustainable debt to remain in a currency union. Proposed outline: costs and benefits of devaluation versus remaining in the currency union, including growth path, social and economic benefits, and timeline, terms of bail-out agreements etc.

New meaning: the only option available

Monetary stability

Former meaning: One of the macroeconomic goals for sound economic government in a country/ region. Also known as low inflation, typically between 0-2% and sometimes meaning currency stability as well. Other macroeconomic goals include economic growth (% increase of GDP year after year), employment levels, balance of payments (balancing exports and imports)

New meaning: Full employment

Stability in the banking sector

Former meaning: Banking sector is an industry which among other things mediates for lending and borrowing in the economy, following interest rate setting by a central bank. It is considered to have a pivotal role in an economy as a market for credit, which potentially could drive growth (when economic outlook is positive, banks tend to lend) and as a place for people’s saving. Hence, government provided financial support to banks following the 2008 global financial crisis to have stability in the banking sector. Critics say that the banking sector should be allowed to fail (i.e. go bankrupt) just like companies in other sectors of the economy. More so, since it appears many banks were engaging in “gambling” investments, following a wave of bank deregulation in the early 1990s in the US and Europe.

New meaning: Growth

Austerity measures

Old meaning: Measures usually promoted by the IMF as part of its lending agreement with emphasis on trade liberalization, reducing government budget deficits, reducing wages, keeping inflation low, abolishing minimal wages, privatization, exchange rate fluctuation. Imposed as conditions of the IMF lending agreements to developing countries in the 1970s and 1980s.

New meaning: support and solidarity from European partners to Greece

Economic Crisis

Old meaning: High unemployment, slow economic growth or negative economic growth, lowering standards of living, uncertainty in economic expectations.

New meaning: Opportunity

Decreasing wages

Old meaning: Decreasing wages. At an individual level, it is usually followed with falling disposable income and deterioration in the standard of living. At an aggregate level, it is followed by lower consumer demand in the economy, which leads to lower economic growth or even recession.

New meaning: Flexibility in the labour market

Reducing the national minimum wage

Old meaning: Reducing the national minimum wage which ensures a level of income for the least qualified workers. At an individual level, it is usually followed with falling disposable income and deterioration in the standard of living. As an economic measure, it has the effect of “pulling” wages downwards, thus reducing wages. Then follows lower consumer demand in the economy, which leads to lower economic growth or even recession

New meaning: Flexibility in the labour market

Abolishing collective labour law

Old meaning: Collective labour law – Tripartite relationship between employer, employee and trade union. Among other things, it allowed trade unions to negotiate on behalf of workers for better working conditions, fewer working hours, better wages, increasing their collective bargaining power. It is considered more beneficial to employees as they don’t have to negotiate individual contracts for work. Abolishing collective labour legislation means employers have more bargaining power in imposing their own terms, including unjustified firing.

New meaning: Flexibility in the labour market

 

“Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought?… Has it ever occurred to your, Winston, that by the year 2050, at the very latest, not a single human being will be alive who could understand such a conversation as we are having now?…The whole climate of thought will be different. In fact, there will be no thought, as we understand it now.Orthodoxy means not thinking—not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.” – Syme

George Orwell, 1984, chapter 5

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