English is an oddball language (as if they all aren’t, in their own ways) which is, as one of my favorite writers put it, “The result of Norman men-at-arms making dates with Anglo-Saxon barmaids.” Whatever its faults, though, it shines in being one of the more flexible languages in the world (look up “intercontinental ballistic missile” in German sometime), though some may argue that its very flexibility is part of its problem. It is a difficult language to use properly, though, and any doubters need only look at a crop of high school and college essays for affirmation of that theory. If you see nothing wrong with the majority of high school and college essays these days, then you’re probably not reading this blog either and thus I’m not talking to you. Writing to you. Whatever.
One of English’s flexible aspects is the way its speakers can come up with new words and phrases to describe something more accurately. I love a well crafted neologism that perfectly defines an issue.
What generates this particular bit of ruminationing is this article from one of my favorite daily stops, Naked Capitalism. When one looks at the economic structure of America today, the best short description I can arrive at is “crony capitalist welfare state, with a strong side order of fascism.” But the problem with the “crony capitalist” part of the phrase is that it while it covers numerous sins committed by the dotgov to aid and abet their bankster buddies, it doesn’t really cover the “how” of the current economic mess. And Mr. Hudson fills that void with his delightful use of “casino capitalism.”
Because, really, that’s all it is at the end of the day. People buying stocks, gambling that the value would go up. People buying houses, gambling that the value would go up. People living lifestyles beyond their means, gambling that the value of their assets and income would increase to cover the difference. Unfortunately, as is always the case, the great economic roulette wheel has come to a stop on a really ugly number, and a plethora of “small” gamblers – and by “small” I means ones who cannot afford to buy a legislator or two – are left to take the hit, proof of Heinlein’s rule: “People who go broke in a big way never miss any meals. It is the poor jerk who is shy half a slug who must tighten his belt.” It does not appear that the banksters are missing any bonuses, let alone meals, and yet it seems that new Hoovervilles are one of the growth industries of the day.
Given the way the world is going, it may be that some old words return and are as new again. The apocryphal Qu’ils mangent de la brioche and the results such an attitude allegedly inspired come to mind. Whether the words were spoken or not (with “or not” now in the lead) the attitude was clearly one at the time, and has come back again. I’d prefer a dearth of tumbrils in the future, but I am quite aware that my wishes and the course of history are often at serious odds.