Monday, December 20, 2010

Economic metaphors

Economists and financial writers use a lot of metaphors. Unfortunately, these economic metaphors often make a writer’s meaning less clear.

Economist Paul Krugman (pictured), points out an even worse danger than an unclear economic metaphor: a clear but inaccurate metaphor:

“The [Obama-McConnell tax-cut] deal, we’re told, will jump-start the economy; it will give a fragile recovery time to strengthen.

“I say, block those metaphors. America’s economy isn’t a stalled car, nor is it an invalid who will soon return to health if he gets a bit more rest. Our problems are longer-term than either metaphor implies.

“And bad metaphors make for bad policy. The idea that the economic engine is going to catch or the patient rise from his sickbed any day now encourages policy makers to settle for sloppy, short-term measures when the economy really needs well-designed, sustained support.”

Well stated.

The Takeaway: There’s nothing inherently wrong with using economic metaphors (or similes). Just make sure that: (1) they make your assertions clearer, not less clear; and (2) your assertions are accurate.

See disclaimer.

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